Sunday, October 17, 2010

Training Responsibilities

Training mirrors life. When we begin training, our responsibilities are few.  Show up, follow directions, practice on your own.  As you advance in training, your responsibilities grow.  You may be asked to greet new students or assure that the facility is cleaned and prepared for class.  You might be asked to instruct new students or lead warm ups.  One day, you may find yourself responsible for a class or club.  Seems like it's a simple idea.  The teacher teaches, the student learns.  But there's more to it than that.

Let's start by looking more closely at a student's responsibilities.  To simply say show up and train is to almost trivialize it.  Students have the responsibility to show up in class.  To focus on class, and listen to the instructor and participate with integrity.  Why do I use integrity?  Because it means wholeness, not just honestly.  When you're in class, BE in class.  Bring the required equipment.  Pay attention; leave outside matters outside.  Don't chat about unrelated matters, don't disrupt class by being a what-if monkey..  Give an honest and intent effort to the exercises and drills.  If you've been training for months, and still can't do any more pushups than your first night... something's wrong.  You may be asked to assume other responsibilities, like unlocking the training facility, greeting or teaching new students.  You should be trying to bring a few new faces around... how else are you going to be sure to have playmates?!  If you're not specifically assigned something, and it needs doing -- step up and do it!  Unless it's something you don't know how to do or shouldn't do for some reason.  A visitor should never feel ignored or unwelcome, for example.  Every student can at least say "Hi, let me get the teacher for you."

But the responsibilities don't stop and start at the training hall door.  In my classes, we don't spend huge amounts of class time on pure fitness type exercises.  We don't have that much time, and I'd rather spend it focused on improving your skill, not your endurance.  So you have to spend some time outside the training hall to develop your phsyical fitness.  And you have to practice outside of class -- so that we don't have to spend class after class after class on the same material.  My teacher used to tell us how he'd go to see his teacher, and they'd work on the same move, again and again, from one session to the next.  My teacher finally realized that the reason they kept covering the same thing was because they didn't have it right yet! 

A teacher has responsibilities, too.  The teacher has to attend class, too!  There's no class if there's no teacher, just as there's no class if there's no student.  The instructor's primary responsibility is to be ready; have a plan, both for a particular class and for several months down the road, and to see that the training is accomplished safely.  The teacher should have some idea and plan to help each student reach their personal best.  The teacher also has to practice -- or the students will surpass the teacher!  That doesn't mean that a teacher's time is spent repeating the same basic drills or that a teacher who can't recall a particular form or kata on the spur of the moment is irresponsible.  Nor does it mean that the teacher should be bringing huge stacks of detailed lesson plans, or notes handouts.  But a teacher who consistently spends no time on training or preparation until they walk in the door...  They're probably being rather irresponsible.  There's plenty more here (like being able to be humble enough to recognize when you're not helping a particular student by your teaching)... but I'm going to move on.

There's another type of responsibility to consider:  Who is responsible for your training?  One of the hardest lessons, but biggest keys to growth is accepting that ultimately, YOU and YOU ALONE are responsible for your training.  Your teachers can put the information out -- but it's up to you to actually work with it and make it yours.  And -- eventually, it becomes your responsibility to seek out the training you need.  You might identify these needs through your own practice and even get guidance from your teachers -- but at some point, the spoon feeding has to stop, and you have to seek out what you need.  And you have to be responsible for your own development within the martial sciences.


  1. Glad you put that in there about taking responsibility for your own development, and seeking out the training that you need -the process of questioning things and actually coming to your own realizations has been the most rewarding part of all this training stuff...for me at least :)

  2. That's one of the biggest things -- but one of the hardest to get people to understand. Ultimately, YOU are responsible for YOUR training, and for your training meeting your needs. And that isn't limited to the martial arts.

  3. One of the other things that is not always explicit, but still important, is to recognize in your training that there are ebbs and flows. There may be a period of months where, frankly, training has to take a back seat. Alternately, there may be times when one is really committed to forward progress.
    Students need to communicate this to teachers as well. We understand when there are temporary (and I mean months, vs years) times when training is less intense. Discussing the need to step back helps both teacher and student set expectations, but also to be ready for resuming regular training. Without this, a student can sometimes step back, and never find the way to get back to full training.
    Conversely, there is nothing that I love more than a student hungry for training, who trains on their own, and who wants to work with me more to improve.

  4. Absolutely! -and being understanding about the need to step back while keeping the door open definitely makes it easier for them to come back

  5. wow...this is something i have never ever read.very detailed analysis.
    This is indeed a great post, I would surely love to know more about it. I will look forward to see more