#25 in a continuing series— 84 days in the teaching life of an
American sensei in 1999
are small today due to the accumulating snow.
ask Dharman, my young apprentice, to teach the first class. I want to give him
the opportunity to develop his teaching skills. Far more energy is required to
teach a class than to assist in one, even though the primary instructor is just
standing there talking. A passenger in a car never works as hard as the driver,
even though both are sitting.
I have a fascination with teaching, regardless of the subject, I enjoy watching
Dharman teach on several levels. Besides, he’s one of my own
strutting his stuff.
has logged in about one thousand hours of teaching. I listen to
his choice of vocabulary. I get a kick out of his word selection when he tells
the children to ‘recoup’ their energy.
“Ahem! Can you stop for a moment,” I
interrupt him, speaking softly. “Daniella, “Do you know what the word ‘recoup’
means?” I ask the precocious seven-year old.
shakes her head, hasn’t a clue. Dharman gets my point. He makes simpler word
working with kids for the first time, it is also essential to make strong eye
contact, to let them know that you are with them in this new venture and assure
them that you will guide them with care to logical conclusions. The tools you
use to convey these ideas must be clear and present.
the next two classes I end up working with single students. Private instruction
is intensely intimate and it is as much revealing about oneself as about the
performing student. It also requires an eagle eye for slight shifts of
awareness if you want them to accelerate or succeed.
work with Jullian Q., Daniella’s older brother. Jullian, a large boy for his
age, and an orange belt. He has trained with me on and off and with my ex-partner,
Phil. Today, I found his motivational pedal. We gained a lot of headway.
the final class, I work with a woman named Kim on Chinto kata. She’s the
youngest of two teen sisters and excited to do more form work. She and her sister,
Erin, are green belts. Both are solid students, though I am competing for time
with their soccer coaches. Nevertheless, I am encouraged by the girl’s class
participation. Women are making great gains in the martial arts, and it’s a
pleasure to see this happening.
message light is blinking on my studio/office phone. It’s Joe canceling his 7:00
p.m. private. Joe N. is my oldest and most advanced student. He holds a third
degree black belt. We have trained for the last seventeen years once a week
every Thursday. Our joint training is the most exciting area of karate study of
my entire career. We are plunging into the internal side of karate, into an art
within an art, karate’s hidden structure. Whenever I drop hints about this
aspect of study into my group classes, the brown belts can’t lean in far enough
to listen. Tom M. has mentioned more than once that he sees the black belts are
enthusiastically sticking around these days. Very few contemporary students
ever make it to black belt. Even fewer move into post shodan study. If Tom M. only knew, he’d
probably clean up his form and claim his black belt to see why!
I retire for the night I go through a Tibetan energy exercise called the Five
Tibetans, followed by a stretching routine, then off to sleep.