The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Book Review: The Martial Arts Instructor: A Practical Guide to a Noble Way

Jonathan Bluestein is a frequent contributor to Cook Ding's Kitchen. He recently published a new book entitled "The Martial Arts Instructor: A Practical Guide to a Noble Way."

I am no martial arts instructor and have to aspirations in that direction. However, if that was something that I was seriously thinking of doing, or if I already was an instructor and wanted to see someone else's point of view to see if there is something I might be overlooking or could do better, this would certainly be the book I would be looking at.

There are three themes running concurrently through this book: the nuts and bolts of running a successful martial arts school, building the school into a community and taking teaching as a sort of "higher" Way to study and practice.

The nuts and bolts of running a school. Recruiting students, scheduling classes, setting tuition policies, testing, ranks, teaching children, teaching people of the opposite sex, managing a class and  developing a curriculum. It's all in there. There's a ton of stuff to consider and Jonathon discusses all of it. A would be teacher, having read this book, would have a much better idea of the sorts of things; the breadth of things that he's going to be getting into.

One item that I wish that he would have discussed, and maybe in another edition are the pros and cons of being a part of a large organization.

For a school to be successful, which means that it continues to exist and torn out skillful students, it must become a community. If you leave it as a retail operation where a customer is merely exchanging money for a service, your school won't be around long.

On the contrary, a school that is successful can be marked by the number of senior students who are present. A successful school tends to become top heavy in black bels over time. The senior students tend to stick around.

There is a lot that goes into building a community where you are still clearly in charge, but the students all feel that they have a stake in the school as well. Some lines have to be drawn and it can be a tricky business. Jonathan helps make many of the issues less tricky.

Finally, there is teaching as a "higher" Way. What I mean by this is that the students are coming to see you. You have to be at your best and an example. You have to work harder and be a better you than any of your students.

There are no excuses. You can't have an off day. To take on teaching is to take on a challenge that when viewed rightly, will elevate your practice as a human being.

Even though I am not contemplating becoming a teacher, I have found this book to be most useful in my own practice; to help to open my mind.

I enjoyed it. I think that you would too.

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