Aikido Journal Home » Articles » The Proper Attitude of a Martial Art Teacher Aiki News Japan

The Proper Attitude of a Martial Art Teacher

Available Languages:

by Hogen

Published Online

In any field of human activity, including the martial art, those who teach and those who learn first of all must be strongly goal oriented. The responsibility of the martial art teacher is much heavier than that of teachers in other fields, because he teaches to defend one’s life, putting aside the spiritual aspect specific to the martial arts of the Far East. The martial art teacher will never be able to develop and constantly maintain a good teaching system unless he has a clear vision of What he teaches and What For he teaches. I’m confident that the Koryu martial art teacher must base his teaching method on the following:

The most important role of the Koryu martial art teacher is to preserve the true style he learned himself. During the past several decades we have seen countless examples of establishing one’s own new school or changing traditional schools of martial art. The motives for establishing a new school or using a famous Koryu name for teaching irrelevant thing may differ, but in most cases money making is the main reason. But let us put aside the motives - the biggest problem with those who change Koryu or establish new martial art schools is that they do not realize their product has not been tested by the history. The genuine Koryu martial arts of Japan went through hundreds of years of intestine wars and literally survived till present. It will sound cruel, but these schools are in blood of their enemies. They were able to survive only due to the effectiveness of their techniques, polished for centuries. It is possible to affirm that those schools of martial art whose techniques were not effective enough did not survive. However, in the present time if anybody tries to invent a new martial art or change the old one, the chances it will be well tested in the deadly combat are close to zero. And if even it is tested, this will be limited to the experience of the “inventor”, in other words, to the experience of only one generation, and it will not become a sophisticated product of tens of generations. Thus, to preserve the Koryu does not mean just a blind traditionalism, but, after learning those very effective techniques, devised through the sweat and blood of the ancient people, transmit them as they are to the next generation. The teacher of the Koryu martial art must guard his school very strictly, watching that his students do not fall into doing things “their own way”, and always asking himself whether he is falling into the same or not.

On the other hand, there is another problem - as a result of peace lasted for quite a long time, many traditional martial arts have become formal and isolated from the real life. Beginning from the second half of the 20th century the martial arts of the Far East started to gain more and more popularity in the West, mainly through books and movies, and nowadays the number of westerners doing some Far East martial art is very big. When I came to Japan for the first time, I also had that image of the strong Koryu schools. During my six-year long stay in Japan I had many chances to see Japanese Koryu martial arts at annual demonstrations and other events, and unfortunately I saw things that differed greatly from my image gained through books and movies. I do not know about the situation with the Koryu martial arts in other Far East countries, but as for Japan I can say that most Japanese traditional schools became extremely formal and turned into something which is too far from the reality. I believe, among all schools I have seen so far only two or three were not destined for this. Preserving the Koryu martial art also means not to let the school lose its connection with the reality and become impractical.

One of the basic and most important ways to preserve the Koryu martial art is to create in Dojo an environment where explanations by different people in the teaching position are consistent and do not differ from each other. Ideally, there must be only one source of information in Dojo, and it will be also helpful to introduce a rule strictly prohibiting to students any discussion, debating or mutual explanation of techniques, even if some of the students are members of the same family.

The Koryu martial art teacher must always observe himself what he teaches, and show to students with his own example. The deeds must correspond exactly with the words, otherwise the students will leave the Dojo.

The Koryu martial art teacher must make every possible effort to prevent injuries in the Dojo, always teaching the principle “Do not injure others! Do not injure yourself!” Of course, since it is a martial art, there is no guarantee from injuries, whatever effort is made. In case somebody is injured, besides the first aid, the martial art teacher is obliged to develop a rehabilitation system which will allow the student to recover fully after a good treatment and resume the training.

In the situation when the Koryu martial art teacher is challenged by someone to test his skills, he must not allow to make fool of himself and at the same time not to injure the challenger. There also must be no situation when the Koryu martial art teacher applies a technique to a student and his technique does not work or, even worse, he is beaten by that student. If students see even once that the techniques of their teacher do not work, they will leave the Dojo, though none of them may say anything directly to the teacher.

The Koryu martial art teacher must maintain high ethics among his students, and strive for making the society better. He must always stress that Dojo is not only the place for tempering one’s body, but it is also the place for tempering one’s character and spirit.

The Koryu martial art teacher must do every effort to guide the student to the final result. In one of his writings related to the art of sword-fencing Yamaoka Tesshu writes that entering a martial art school does not mean mere commuting to and from Dojo, but it also means that the relationship of father and son is established between the teacher and the student, and the student has an obligation to follow all rules of the Dojo. Though Yamaoka Tesshu does not write about this, speaking strictly the teacher also has an obligation toward the student. In other words, entering a school of martial art means mutual obligation between the teacher and the student. It goes without saying that the personal effort of the student is the main driving force leading him to his achievements, however if the teacher does not create a proper environment in Dojo the student’s skill will be incomplete and fragmentary. In my view, the teaching method in Dojo must have a clear direction, and the student must be directed until he is able to do what he was told to. The situation, when the student is told to try doing this, and then try doing that, and after all he cannot do anything, is not permissible. There is no other way as to direct the student persistently until he really mastered what he was told to do.

The martial art teacher must not treat any of his students with favor. As an old Japanese proverb says: “Do not refuse to the one who comes, do not pursue after the one who leaves”, the martial art teacher must treat all his students equally.

The martial art teacher must have a teaching method that satisfies not only him, but his students as well. It is very important to have several teaching methods customized for the students’ level. “It’s so good, that I came to the Dojo today!” - what is better than this thought in the minds of both junior and senior students going home after the training?

As it is seen from the name of the school “Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu”, what distinguishes the techniques of Daito-ryu from other jujutsu schools is the principle of aiki. Nowadays, most people practicing martial arts are familiar with the word “aiki”, however in most cases we hear only philosophical or abstract interpretations and theories around this principle. The teacher of Daito-ryu must always teach his students what the true aiki is. Among many kinds of aiki the way to break your opponent’s balance in the moment he touches you is the most basic one taught to the beginners, and it is necessary to make students learn this principle not only with their head, but with their body as well.

Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu
1st Dan Examination Composition
March 2004