Thursday, December 17, 2009

Your sensei is not Dr Phil

One thing that I have noticed in some martial art schools is the not-so-subtle deification of the martial arts teacher into some sort of all around guru is capable not just of teaching a front kick, but also someone who is qualified to give you advice on your love life, finances, career etc. It's as though that person by virtue of the fact that they can move their hands and feet in circular movements, suddenly gains enlightenment in counselling skills.

So my opinion is this:

Your sensei is not a superman. He is not your priest, guru or enlightened noble leader either. He can't do your taxes (or maybe he can if he has a CPA!), he shouldn't be fixing your car and he can't tell your future about who you should marry or not. He's not Dr Phil, Warren Buffet, Martha Stewart or Kobe Bryant rolled into one. He's just a man. Granted, a man with great skills but at the end of the day, he puts his pants on one leg at a time and still gets hungry, thirsty and cranky; just like you and me.

I blame Karate Kid's Mr Miyagi for this wrong impression of a sensei. Come on, one moment this kid is learning karate and suddenly, he's flying half way around the world and ends up in a castle in Okinawa fighting for his life against some guy with a spear. That's the sort of positive guidance and advice he got from his sensei?!?

You should find less of this deification in martial arts like Judo, BJJ and arts that emphasise alive sparring. That is, against a resisting opponent. In fact, I esteemed my instructors even higher when I saw them take to the mat in randori against all comers. Even when some of them were at seventy years old, they could still pull of their techniques against others. That's amazing stuff. I look up to them and use them as a example of the kind of Judoka, BJJer that I want to be when I get much older. They should be accorded much due respect..

..but I'm not gonna get them to do my tax return next year. :-)