A teacher is never a giver of truth; he is a guide, a pointer to the truth that each student must find for himself.

Bruce Lee.

A recent conversation that I had with a martial artist whom I hold in extremely high regard centered on the issue of an instructor who pushes his student to higher levels of performance. More specifically, we were talking about a martial arts master who is extremely technically proficient and comes from an impressive and long time martial arts background. My friend noted that, while this master was very good at what he did, he was not pushing his students much at all. Indeed, that was reflected in the performance level of his students. That got me thinking about this particular aspect of what makes a good instructor.

It is not enough that an instructor is talented. It is my belief that a great instructor is one who not only is good at what he does but who also produces very high quality students and creates a culture in which higher performance level is expected. It is no wonder that some of the all time great martial artists left behind high quality students. For example, Professor Remy Presas not only left behind students such as Kelly Worden, Sishir Inocalla, Tim Hartman, Dr. Schea, Ken Smith, Chuck Gauss, Brian Zawilinski, Dieter Knuttel, a good number of very high ranking arnisadors in the Phillipines (Rodel Dagooc, Bambit Dulay and scores of others) and scores of highly skilled players. This is a testament to Professor’s unrelenting push for excellence in his students. Likewise, look at the quality of students turned out by Dan Inosanto, such as the Dog Brothers, Brandon Lee (Bruce’s son), Cass Magda, Burton Richardson, Paul Vunak, and Ron Balicki, among others.

The point being that unless the instructor has taken it upon himself to push his students to a high level of performance, then he/she has to ask himself why he/she is teaching in the first place. I would rather have an instructor who pushes me to become better and to push myself beyond my limits. I would regard that type of instructor quite highly.


One thought on “More Thoughts on Good Instructors

  • November 16, 2007 at 2:07 pm

    Point well made. “Back in the day” we were expected to train hard. Nowadays with all the liability and such, it seems more difficult to push students, an opinion shared by quite a few of my peers. I think it’s a disservice to the student and the art to expect less than the best. Bringing that out of another person is a skill in itself, though. To be a good motivator one has to be able to see clearly what the other person needs at different stages of growth. That is a sign of a good teacher, IMO.


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