Posted on 15 January 2008 by chan
WHY ARE SOME TEACHERS BETTER THAN OTHERS?
This question has riddled me for many years. My perceptions have changed and matured over much thought and deliberation. The best way I can explain it is through some teachings I have had.
CAPOEIRA IN BELGIUM
I was sitting in a small cosy three storey apartment in the middle of Antwerpen, Belgium. My mestre and I were conversing into the night, with comfortable silences and treasured words. The black blanket of the night sky, refreshed me, as the cosy apartment gave me warmth. But it was deeper than that, it was my masters words, of what he said, and what he didn’t say, that kept me alive.
THE IMPORTANT QUESTION?
I asked my mestre after much deliberation and thought ‘ Mestre, sometimes when I enter into the roda, I play against someone who I know I am better than. I know that I can win against, I know that I have a greater skill than. Yet, at times, when it is the time to fight, I hesitate. It is in that moment, that my opponents ego takes over, and I can see it in their eyes, that their pride becomes greater than their skill. And, they beat me, with their ego and agressiveness. How can I learn how to not hesitate?
My mestre, who was sitting comfortably next to the window sill, stared out into the night sky. I could see the stars twinkling in his eyes. He breathed calmly, looking at me and then looking again out into the infinite sky.
And all he said was three words:
“Tem que superar”
You have to overcome.
MARTIAL ARTS WITH A DIFFERENCE
We rigourously held postures and repeated powerful techniques hundreds of times, I would sit in horse stance until my whole body hurt and sweat was dripping from every part of my body. Others would be doing their single movements they were working on, and do them repeatedly over and over, with slight re-adjustments time after time. Our instructor would now and again take his cigarette out of his mouth, and re-adjust your posture, or demonstrate how you should do a movement.
After an exhausting training session in a backyard, myself, a handful of students and our martial arts instructor went to a cafe. It was a crisp night, as we sat there in a polite awkwardness. Our instructor, was sitting there comfortably, with a glass of whiskey in one hand and a cigarette in the other. For the shear stature of the man, you wouldn’t really look at him twice, as an actual threat.
Nor would you have thought that he has more than likely killed and or maimed several people with his bear hands. It is only when you look into his eyes do you know that you are staring into a black abyss of destructive force. I gathered up all my courage, and began to ask him the question that I had asked my capoeira mestre before.
This instructor, took a sip of his whiskey, a puff on his cigarette, and looked into my soul with his dark grey eyes and without a waiver he said:
You hesitate, you die.
From both of these great men, I have learnt the most amazing lessons, from just these single conversations.
But what it made me understand most of all, was what it was that makes a good teacher.
THE REAL QUESTION
So let me now in turn ask you:
What makes a good teacher?