I have been blessed with the opportunity to teach Jiu Jitsu. She is an art of great complexity, both physically and cognitively, whose mastery eludes the practitioner in perpetuity. I understand Jiu Jitsu more than any other area of human study, and thus it has become the metaphor through which I seek to understand much of the world. In the words of Henry David Thoreau,
“I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience.”
I have witnessed first-hand the many benefits of its practice in my own life. In so doing, I feel obliged to share those benefits with our students.
The instructor-student relationship is a sacred bond whose borders are often ambiguous. As an instructor I feel I play an overtly similar role for each of my students, but the implicit complexities of each relationship vary greatly.
Nonetheless, I have found the following guideline applies equally to all mentor-mentee relationships:
The student’s growth is the responsibility of both the instructor and the student, and each should attempt to shoulder this responsibility independently.
A great instructor carries the burden of his student’s growth. I am the first line of defense against sloth, torpor and inefficiency. I remind my students that if they do not understand a technique it is my fault, not theirs. This self-generated accountability ensures the instructor’s benefit toward the student is maximized.
Conversely, I believe the student should operate within the same dictum. They must pursue learning as though they were Ronin. Echoing the words of Mark Twain,
“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
The student has the premier responsibility to themselves to seek understanding and proper implementation of the techniques.
Functioning within this paradigm, the accountability held by both the instructor and the student yields the highest quality final product. This mutual acceptance of responsibility will ensure the success of each.
Where else in life do we find others so fully committed to helping us achieve our potential? This is the sacred bond of the instructor-student relationship that breeds such meaningful relationships and personal growth.
Spark Your Growth
The students growth is simultaneously the sole responsibility of the instructor and the student. I was fortunate to have Professor Ricardo Almeida invest a great deal of time and energy into my understanding of Jiu Jitsu, and I am tasked to play the same role in the lives of others. It is an honor I welcome wholeheartedly.
In Mahayana Buddhism there exists the Bodhisattva vow. The Bodhisattva is a person who awakens, but commits to living in this world fully immersed in the service of others, and will not leave this place until all of samsara (suffering) ceases.
This is the vow and value of the instructor.
As an instructor, I serve my students by using Jiu Jitsu as the medium through which they become the highest version of themselves. Through the many great stories of the past there is often a ferryman to assist the hero in his journey. The ferryman guides the hero from one shore to another.
The instructor is the ferryman. Jiu Jitsu is the raft. The student is the hero.
The wheel rolls on through the generations. Students become teachers, and teachers retire. Ad infinitum. It is a ceaseless cycle of rebirth, with each generation better than the last. The competency of the instructor is directly proportioned to his supersession.
With such devoted students, I am thankful that I will be no exception.
Check out Chris's new book about using Jiu Jitsu as a tool for personal development.
Photo by Eric Talerico Photography