Skip to main content

A Really Nice Guy

From a conversation overheard at a recent BJJ tournament at City College:

Guy 1: I heard he is kind of a jerk to his students. Like he yells at them when they lose and stuff. And he doesn't pay much attention to lower belts during rolling, he mostly just rolls with the other black and brown belts. 

Guy 2: But I heard he is a really good teacher. 

Guy 1: Oh he is! He is really great at demonstrating technique. Really knows his stuff! I took class there once and it was awesome!

Um, guys? If he is a jerk to his students he is not a "really good teacher". He just a jerk who happens to also be pretty decent at teaching jiu jitsu moves.

I don't know who they were talking about. But I actually hear this kind of stuff in the martial arts world a lot. Apparently dojos are full of these "amazing" teachers who really "know their stuff". They have won a lot of trophies, these guys. They have important names. You go to their schools, watch them demonstrate a couple of techniques and really feel like you learned something. Except for the fact that you are not sure this teacher actually knows your name. Sometimes he walks around and gives you tips while you are drilling but mostly he is off in the corner chatting with someone and you figure the move out by asking the pair of purple belts right next to you. But it is ok, because you are a white belt so you are certainly not worthy of the master's attention.

Then you spar for awhile and the people you spar with are very helpful. Which is good, because the actual teacher is nowhere to be found. I mean, he is actually right over there, training with one of the brown belts. But he is not watching you, or offering any coaching, or pointers or anything particularly useful because again, you are just a newb.

At some point maybe you get a new belt from this guy, who must be counting your classes or something, or maybe he watches you when you aren't paying attention (some kind of secret camera system?) because now you are a yellow belt. (Or a blue belt. Or whatever.) Which is awesome except you are pretty sure that this guy still doesn't know your name and if you asked him what you were good at and what you needed to work on he would just smile and blink at you.

Also, you still really suck at karate. (Or kickboxing. Or tai chi. Or whatever.)  You think you might be better if you had an actual coach but since your karate classes don't really work that way, you watch a lot of You Tube videos and hope for the best. 

You compete once or twice. Maybe you win, maybe you lose.
You text your teacher afterwards to tell him how it all went. 

For some reason you keep training anyway. Maybe even all the way to brown belt or higher. Now the master knows your name but he still has never asked you to train with him and he still probably couldn't list all your strengths and weaknesses. (He mostly spars with guys.) At one point you hurt your rib and miss class for over a month. It would have made you feel good to get an email from your teacher asking how you were feeling but you understand that he has so many students and is very very busy. You go back to class and feel like you are still progressing awfully slowly, maybe someone, like the person in charge of the class, could offer you some tips for what you need to do more of, but no, he doesn't really do that. He does smile a lot and always says hello to you (by name!) which makes you feel good. What a nice, friendly guy!

Your payments are on autopay anyway. It is hard to cancel those.

You keep going to sparring class. Sometimes you leave feeling very frustrated. The teacher doesn't notice just like he didn't notice that all the women who used to train with you have quit. He also doesn't notice that there is this one white belt guy who keeps hurting everyone. He hits really hard. Like really, really hard. Or maybe he does notice but doesn't say anything because that is not his job. His job is to demonstrate technique. He is really good at demonstrating technique. Except that sometimes he doesn't even show the move because it is far too dangerous. He just talks about this super dangerous move. A lot. And then you practice it. In the air. 

He is a really great teacher! Everyone says so!

Eventually you quit jiu-jitsu. Or karate. Or whatever. 

You are pretty sure he does not care. Most people quit the martial arts because training is really f*$king hard. The teacher is on vacation most of the time anyway. He has opened two other schools and he has assistant instructors teaching half the classes now. You cancel your autopay (which was really complicated and took awhile), send a nice email thanking him for everything. (After all, he taught you a LOT of techniques and explained them really well.)

Maybe you join a new school. Maybe you don't.

A little while later you find yourself in a conversation with a buddy at City College and you are saying "Oh that guy? He is kind of a jerk. But he is a really great teacher. Really knows his stuff."

You realize that you should stop saying that because it is bullshit. It does not matter how well that guy "knows his stuff", if he does not actually care about the development and well being of his students he is not a "really great teacher." In fact, he is kind of a crappy teacher. No matter how many world championships he may have won or how expertly he can explain a hook kick.

You know who is a really great teacher. That guy who can demonstrate proper technique and also knows the names of all of his white belts. The guy who called his student the day after he hurt his neck to make sure everything was ok. The guy who likes all the Facebook pics of your newborn. His kata is beautiful and he also knows the names of all your kids and wonders if your grandmother is feeling better. 

 Go train with that guy.

And you can also have a beer with him. Because he is actually a really nice guy.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

November 20, 2018

This morning, while out walking my dog, I watched a mother put her young boy onto the school bus. "Have a good day," she said. "Listen to your teacher."

The boy, who was about five years old, replied that of course he would, although it was unclear which of his mom's wishes he was agreeing to.

Listening. So and so is a "good listener." We talk so much about it, but many of us have no idea how to actually do it., so caught up in the words inside our own head that it is almost impossible to hear anything else. Yeah I am listening to you, but not really, I am really thinking about the next thing I am going to say. I am listening to you, but not really, because even though you know an awful lot about this, deep down my egotistical brain still thinks I know better. I am listening, but not really because even though you just showed the technique in perfect detail three times, and I swore I was really paying attention, somehow when it was my turn to drill it…

Namaste

For the past two days I have been feeling sick; an obvious side effect of spending so much time getting breathed on by small, germy children. This morning I was feeling much better, but not well enough for BJJ, so I decided to go to a yoga class instead. Turns out I was not quite well enough because about halfway through class my body was like, "Hey you, sick girl, you are kind of tired, this feels kind of yucky actually. How about you spend some time in child's pose instead."
As a lifelong athlete I am really, really good at getting messages from my body. I am less skilled, however, at actually following them.
This was not a difficult yoga class. But for me, today, it was impossible. My brain really did not like that. As I sat there with my eyes closed, breathing, the ever helpful voice in my head was saying things like "Everyone must think I am so weak. The teacher must think there is really something wrong with me. I should push through anyway. This is pathetic.&qu…

Roller Coaster

Its the roller coaster that gets me. The fact that you are just going along, doing your work, slowly climbing up, everything is going exactly according to plan, then Zoom!, down you go, fast, maybe not all the way to the bottom again, maybe somewhere halfway, but man you got there FAST! And now here we go again, back on the slow climb.
Some days it feels like you are doing everything right, you are busting your ass to accomplish all of your goals in every way that you know how, yet things just aren't going the way you want them to. On those days it is easy to get angry at the world. Don't you see I am doing my best here? Don't you see how hard I am working? OMG just get the f&*k out of my way! Stop asking for more of me! Can't you see I don't have any more??
But the thing is, that down part, it is on the track. It is part of the ride. it has always been a part of the ride. We knew if was coming, we could see it at the top of the long climb up. We didn't know…