In Martial Arts We Are All Students, Even When We Are Teachers
One thing that I love about martial arts (and there are many!) is that much of the mindset among the best in world is one of ‘never stop learning.’ ‘You are never too old, or too good to learn.’ I like that mindset. It speaks of a willingness to always go forward with an open mind, to acknowledge that no one person (or system) has all the answers.
In early March, House of Martial Arts had a special visit from Sensei George’s instructor Professor Pat King. (He requested on the mat that we call him Pat.)
For most, if not all, of Sensei George’s current students this was our first time to meet one of his instructors to get to see that threshold between being an instructor and martial artist in his own right, but also, always a student. It was a great way to drive home that idea for us that no matter how much you know, there is always more to learn.
One of the really great things about this idea of always learning, and branching out to learn from others is that you get to see the different ways that people can approach the same martial art. I have, in my time, learned with some consistency from three different people, with three very different approaches, both to martial arts, and how to teach it. And just a Sensei Brian, despite being Sensei George’s student (though his journey started before he came to HMA), teaches very differently, so too are Sensei George and Professor Pat’s approach to BJJ and teaching different.
Sensei George tends for favor an approach of introducing a step at a time until an entire sequence or set of movements can be built up to by the end of class, allowing for each step to be taken in at a time. For example, we may start with judo rolls and break falls. Then we will work an outside footsweep with a couple of different entrances. Then we’ll explore a trip if the footsweep does not work. Then after that we will add in an inside leg hook. And by the end of class we have a whole sequence we can work together in a light sparring situation.
I observed that Pat tended to like to throw the whole thing at us at once, and then watch for where he perceived the biggest pitfalls to be, and gradually worked through the problem spots that way. Then, by the time he was done working through them, we had a full sequence that we can work together in a light sparring situation.
Both methods got us through to the end of class, and both resulted in a full sequence we were able to work with by the end of said class. Neither one is necessarily better, or worse, than the other. Each merely reflects the individual’s approach to introducing a new technique to a student. Both methods also involved frequent stops to go over things, tighten them up, and review specific maneuvers or techniques.
I think this was a great learning experience for myself and the other students at the dojo as it gave us a chance to see a very different approach to teaching a sequence and how things may be approached. At the same time, we were able to see the similarities, where the teaching methods we saw in one instructor were reflected in the other.
I also know that I, personally, look forward to the opportunity to continue to learn from as many people as I can so that I can continue to grow not only as a martial artist, but also as an individual.