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ninjanurse
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Location: Upstate NY
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2005 12:30 pm    Post subject: Social Responsibilities of Teaching In The Martial Arts Reply with quote

INSTRUCTOR: One who instructs; one who imparts knowledge to another; a teacher. [Japanese, teacher, master. From Middle Chinese, senshiaj: sen-first + shiaj-to give birth.]

While a seemingly simple word, by definition, “instructor” carries with it a certain social responsibility and accountability that defines it as a profession. Most likely, this feeling of social responsibility is not something learned from books but rather from experience. When a new math teacher starts teaching his or her first classes, the big challenge is to feel totally confident with the content of the curriculum not the context; and it is usually only after some years of experience that they begin to fully appreciate the impact they can have on society (students) through their actions and words. But what about the martial arts instructor? Does the same theory apply? Do they develop a sense of responsibility after years of instructing or is it “birthed” in them by their very first instructor? Do martial arts instructors have the same responsibilities to their students and society as an English teacher or gym coach, and if so, given that we live in a society today where no one believes they have any responsibilities, are we as martial artists to be held to a higher degree of moral responsibility than the average person?

Historically, martial arts were passed down through families or kept within monastery walls. Both of these were internal societies with minimal integration into society as a whole and whose main emphasis was on self preservation, family honor, integrity and, in some cases, personal enlightenment. In the 6th Century C.E., during an extensive period of war on the Korean Peninsula, a group of warriors was developed from loyal noble families and trained not only in the martial arts, but also in philosophy, the fine arts, Buddhism and Ki science. They then went out into the neighboring countryside and recruited men at the village and clan level thus expanding the once family role into the community. This group of warriors, known as the Hwa Rang, developed their system around a code of ethics:

- Serve the King with loyalty
- Be obedient to your parents
- Be honorable to a friend
- Never retreat in battle
- Kill justly

Similar groups throughout history, the Samurai of Japan for instance, have also held their members to a “code of ethics” that became integrated into the martial systems they taught and imparted a certain moral responsibility on their members. Do we modern “warriors” have the same moral responsibilities to our communities as our predecessors did? Our present day realities of drugs, crime, drop out rates, world conflicts and pressures to be successful certainly justify this position and the future of our students, society and arts may be dependent upon our careful and diligent attention to passing these responsibilities on.

Just what are these responsibilities, anyway? Perhaps the most important impact an instructor can have on a student is developing an awareness to recognize the need to develop a well grounded system of ethics, not by indoctrination, but by developing within the student the recognition of right from wrong. These values are based on laws, regulations and rules that govern not only their martial arts training but their social lives as well. Careful instruction and adherence to student oaths, precepts and tenets will have affects that extend beyond the dojang and into the student's personal life.

After the student develops an acceptable values system, the next step is to apply that value system and acceptance of a code of etiquette for one’s behavior. The student must understand that although values need to govern our lives at all times, the biggest difficulty is to make sure that their behavior adheres to their system of values and ethics under two very challenging situations: the first is the situation of extreme pressure - whether it be from peers, environment, testing situations; and the second is in the situation of extreme relaxation and comfort - for example, doing what is right when no one else is looking. In other words, when the pressure is really on or when the pressure is completely off, it is easy to abandon our value systems to accomplish a personal goal thus our integrity and loyalty can suffer. Discipline in the classroom and honoring of traditions in and out of the school give visible and viable examples of acceptable behaviors and proper etiquette and a well grounded system of values and code of etiquette will bridge all of life’s challenges and keep our integrity intact.

Finally, an instructor has the social responsibility to develop in his or her students a recognition that life is more fulfilling for those who have meaningful accomplishments in their lives. Each persons definition of accomplishment differs according to their own value system but a great instructor should be able to provide meaningful and constructive criticism while at the same time provide meaningful and positive corrective actions. Thus the instructor can develop in a student the ability to recognize when he or she is performing up to his or her ability - or not. This is the biggest challenge an instructor has and the greatest opportunity he or she has to prepare a student for his or her future place in society and insure the future of their art. Only when a person can realistically recognize what he or she can truly accomplish with their given abilities can they accomplish true satisfaction and enjoyment in their life. This in turn creates a passion for their chosen path, profession and most importantly, their martial art.

We as instructors are responsible to impart these ideas of value, etiquette and accomplishment to our students from the onset of their physical training in order for them to integrate this “code” into their art and their lives so much so that it is passed on in the spirit in which it was forged those many centuries ago and with relevance to today’s societal standards. But how do we accomplish this? A common code of ethics unites most (if not all) martial arts practitioners and can serve as a guideline for instruction as they fulfill these social responsibilities to their students. School creeds, precepts and tenets can all be integrated into the physical curriculum but if instructors don’t follow an ethical standard of teaching, the means may not accomplish the ends. This code provides the framework for our (and our students) lives:

Competence
Instructors must maintain high standards of excellence and recognize their boundaries and limitations. They should be constantly improving themselves, both personally and professionally and provide instruction only in areas they are qualified in. Proficiency in curriculum and physical fitness is a must as physical examples of techniques and skills must be correct so that it is learned and passed on accurately.

Integrity
Instructors must be aware of their own belief system, values, needs and limitations and the effect of these on their work. They must not make statements that are false, misleading, deceptive or disrespectful; and should be accountable for all they do and say. “Do as I do” is a powerful method for influencing young students.

Professional Responsibility
Instructors should uphold the tenets, precepts and traditions of their art and accept responsibility for their behavior both in and out of the school. Moral standards of conduct, although personal to some degree, may compromise their responsibilities and reduce a students trust and respect. Parents and the community at large can also be affected by this, as well as the reputation of the school and Master Instructor.

Respect for Participants and Dignity
Instructors should respect the fundamental rights and dignity of all students, parent, and peers. They should be aware of cultural and individual differences including those of age, race, sex, disability, national origin and language; and eliminate any effect personal biases may have on their work. Proper and disciplined etiquette at all times sets an example to be followed.

Concern for Others Welfare
Instructors should be sensitive to differences in power between themselves and others and not exploit or mislead others. They should perform their roles in a responsible fashion and attempt to resolve conflicts with students, parents or peers fairly. Classroom safety should be stressed including proper matching of skill levels and motives and intentions should serve the student not the ego.

So, how does the instructor come by this code of ethics? Is it an “ah ha!” moment or is it “inborn” by the fact that he or she was exposed to it from the first day they stepped on the training floor? Could it be that the purpose of this ancient design was always to teach social responsibility to its warriors and assure that there would be teachers to keep the art alive? The fact that our martial art predecessors placed such emphasis on character, religion, the fine arts and honor lead me to believe that we have been and always will be held to a higher standard simply by design and our social responsibilities, while different in context, are the same and will remain relevant in the future. It is therefore our social responsibility to ensure that we pass our knowledge on in the spirit it was intended and hold ourselves and our students to the high standards that tradition demands. What then is the responsibility of our students?

References

Reference.com
The Historical Background of the Korean Martial Arts
ProKenpo Martial Arts
Hettrick, Bill - SnowPro, Volume 31, Number 1, 2004
Best Karate, 1st Edition. Nakayama, Masatoshi. Kodansha International, 1966
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Patrick
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2005 12:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for the submission.
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hajime~kyu
Yellow Belt
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Joined: 19 May 2005
Posts: 44
Location: michigan
Styles: sanchin ryu

PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2005 1:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great article!

I think it's somewhat unique to martial arts that to become an instructor one must first spend many years as a student working under the direct influence of someone else who has not only mastered the art but who has also earned the position of instructor.The requirements probably vary according to the type of martial art but are probably also very similar.

For example,in Sanchin Ryu the right to wear the sensei patch has to be earned apart from any belt ranking.And it can be lost for inappropriate conduct.I was reminded of that recently when visiting a class out of town.I have some fears that result from past traumas.The sensei picked up on that and assured me that I was completely safe in his class because if there were ever a problem I could report it to the master of my home class who is also his district master.And it would go from there to our grand master who would deal with it accordingly.

So there is a lot of accountability and a strong system of checks and balances that apply to anyone who instructs our classes.It's one of the things that made it possible for me to become comfortable and secure enough to start going to additional classes and workshops.It took a lot of time and effort but I have become far more relaxed and confident.

Thanks for the great article
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FETKD
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Joined: 06 Jun 2005
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Location: Macon Ga.
Styles: TKD, Goju-ryu

PostPosted: Mon Jun 06, 2005 9:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good Article,
I can tell you from experience, being an instructor definately means living like an instructor, a role model so to speak. You can't teach one thing and do another, people learn by example how can we teach morals and ethics if we ourselves as instructors do not abide by them if not LIVE by them.

ettiquete
modesty
perseverance
self-control
indomitable spirit
and most importantly
truth and hope...

these are the things I live by, these are the things I teach.
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Shorin Ryuu
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Styles: Shorin Ryu, Ryukyu Kobudo

PostPosted: Mon Jun 06, 2005 10:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting article.

If you want to go into more the historical and cultural basis, I would recommend you explore the Japanese versions of what are Confucian concepts: uchi, yoso, and giri.

Uchi refers to the "inside group" whereas yoso is the "outside group". In all circles of relationships in Japan, there is the inside and outside group. It doesn't matter if you are talking about a company, a ramen shop or a calligraphy club. You are either a member of the ramen shop (uchi) or not (yoso). I like to refer to it as the subway phenomenon. The Japanese are normally polite, yet once they get on a subway, all bets are off. A middle-aged man may sit down while an older lady is standing...he has no obligation to the lady so there's no reason for him to give up his seat. On the other hand, if a senior member of his company happened to be there, there's no doubt as to who would be standing and who would be sitting...

Within the uchi, there is giri or duty which flows both ways. The subordinates have their duty to act within the rules of the uchi lest they risk social abandonment and entry into the world of yoso. The longer they stay in a group the more senior and important they become (a phenomenon you see in all Japanese groups). All they need to do is abide by the rules (conformity). On the other hand, the leader has the duty to take care of an nurture the subordinates.

In this case, we are talking specifically about the sensei-deshi relationship between teacher and student. I think you did a good job of relating the duties the sensei has to the student in a social context. Interestingly enough, the Japanese use the term "sensei" to refer to many things, doctors, teachers, or just people they respect.

In the Japanese context, this duty towards subordinates is therefore ingrained in them as they stay within a system. There is a constant analogy of "the nail which sticks out will get hammered" in terms of conformity and it plays no small part in this. Without getting too deeply into the intracacies of Japanese politics, many times the nail which only sticks out slightly won't get hammered, but will be sort of molded to become a hammer itself (a way of identifying those who have some individuality and creativity but don't fall too far from the tree) and thus a future leader. In other words, a team player that has the potential to guide or lead a team later on.

Hope some of this helped.

I
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ninjanurse
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Joined: 13 Feb 2003
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Location: Upstate NY
Styles: TKD;Shotokan;JuJitsu;Tai Ji

PostPosted: Tue Jun 07, 2005 7:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I must confress that when I wrote this I was not thinking about the subtlties of the culture only the generalities and how they relate to us today. I do a lot of teaching in other areas and felt the concepts relavent to those as well. The ethics and morals that I refer to are not necessarily imposed on a student by the teacher because of his/her position, I think the teacher guides the student to find their own sense of duty and their own set of ethics and helps them to develop them within the framework provided. Extending that beyond the school or training hall is the responsibility of the individual. You are right, japanese culture is a far more complex subject.


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taekwondomom
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Joined: 03 Apr 2005
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 13, 2005 8:23 am    Post subject: important topic! Reply with quote

Hello Ninjanurse--
Your article really brought up some important issues in teaching, especially in teaching something like martial arts, where students gain power over others. Seems like anytime you do this, you really need to think about the social responsibility of the teacher!

(I teach college-level writing, and I consider what I do very similar--I help students learn to handle the power of language!)

I wonder if you or anyone here has run across the Martial Arts for Peace website. The founder, Terrance Webster-Doyle, is committed to using Martial Arts (he does Karate) as a way to promote peace. Do you or anyone else teach conflict resolution in classes?

Thanks for your thoughtful article.
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ninjanurse
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 13, 2005 8:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

We taught Mr. Doyle's program in my former school. I have read his books too. My new school does not use his material but does teach/encourage peaceful conflict resolution.



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bushido_man96
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 23, 2006 4:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great article, Heidi.
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shukokai2000
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 08, 2006 3:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"WOW" you certanly done your home work
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