INB #23: Your Biggest Critic

One of the hardest things in teaching the martial arts is to actually take on the job of teaching the martial arts. The problem? You are generally second in line.

Many students, with a strong desire to sincerely excel, put themselves first in line. If you want to correct them, their “inner teacher” has already decided that they are terrible, they look stupid and they will never get it. We understand their pushing ahead as  a willingness to get better, to improve, to show dedication.

But let me switch gears and talk straight to you, the student: putting yourself first in line does quite the opposite; it actually gets in the way and makes everything harder. Your teacher is there to be the critic, you aren’t. Let him or her take responsibility for your training; that’s why you have a teacher in the first place. There are a lot of good reasons for stepping aside but here are some you might not have thought of before…

1. The corrections you are so concerned about are probably the wrong ones, at least at this point. You are deeply involved in why you lack power, while the teacher is deeply worried about that tense shoulder which is, after all, the reason you lack power.

2.  It’s true: you, like most people, get all over yourselves because you want to be there first with the criticism. But if you let the teacher say her piece you will find that she is probably more gentle than you would have been and, who knows, might even make you feel a little better. She has the larger picture. This is why you even HAVE a teacher.

3. You are unique, but your mistakes aren’t. Let the teacher who has seen this error about a half million times and knows how to fix it, get to work. Take your head out from under the hood and let the mechanic do his job.

4.  If you are correcting yourself, you are not listening, simple as that. You were there first with the mistake but any student who continually says, “I know” generally doesn’t. You must let the teacher finish a sentence. Don’t be a “concessional student” who only listens to what’s already on his or her agenda. You want to learn martial arts, so take a chance on actually changing a little.

The funny thing is, you are probably a lot better martial student that you think. You are incredibly lucky that you are involved in an art that is still being transmitted from person to person as it has been done for centuries. (This may not last forever, the days of the indistinguishability of spa-bootcamp-video lessons are out there and waiting). Enjoy it. You are making progress, I guarantee it. Think what a relief it will be to not have to inform on yourself any more.

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