Reprinted by permission from author Rev. Kensho Furuya*
This article first appeared in the newsletter of Aikido Center of Los Angeles, headed by Furuya sensei.
An instructor may be at a high level or low, he may be a very tough teacher or very gentle. He may teach in a very vigorous manner or very slowly. In any and all cases, a teacher must have a "caring heart" for his students. Although it is our highest ideal, just to love one's students is not enough. A teacher must also teach with wisdom.
As everyone knows, love without wisdom can lead to tragedy, just as wisdom without love can be disastrous too.
If a teacher is too gentle, for some students, it is very necessary. But in some cases, it may spoil a student or make him too willful. If a teacher is too tough, it may make a student too hard and inflexible, but, in some cases, this is the only way to teach a student who needs a great deal of encouragement and energy.
In martial arts today, the teacher's personality is emphasized, and indeed, a student should seek out a teacher who he believes can do the best for him. However, our personalities should never overshadow O'Sensei and Doshu and the teaching of Aikido. As an example, if I am a math teacher in school, do the students come to me to be entertained by my "charming" personality, or do they come to learn mathematics? Perhaps, a little of both is necessary, but for the aspiring teacher, one should make sure that he himself is focused in teaching something beneficial, important and necessary to the student's growth and development in each and every class.
I remember one episode during my days at the university. I had one teacher who was very "wonderful" and occupied our minds in class, and I really thought this was one of the greatest classes I had ever experienced. But later on, as much as I enjoyed the class, I realized that I had been "entertained" quite well, but did not learn anything and this had a serious effect on my following classes. I had a terrible time later on. I had another teacher who was very serious and quite "boring," I didn't enjoy his class very much because it didn't have the "sparkle" and "charm" of the other class, but later on, I realized I had learned so much and, even today, I am still grateful to him. I will never forget this.
Of course, a great teacher is both and everything. Some of us, like myself, only have a "little of this" and a "little of that, " so we have to concentrate ourselves to do the best we can.
For my younger instructors, they should take a moment before class to settle and focus themselves. Think about what you want to do, but more than this, think about what the student needs. Observe the dojo, feel the atmosphere, see who has come to class, remember what you taught in the last class, analyze what you think will be the best for them. In one class, it is not necessary to teach the "entire" art of Aikido. Give them one good thing, however small or insignificant it may seem to others. Even if you don't have a good idea of what you are going to do, first and last cultivate within yourself a "caring heart." Make this very strong in yourself in the moments before you begin class.
An honest teacher will develop honest students. A lazy teacher will develop lazy students. A wise teacher will develop wise students. Show your sloppy self, and your students will all become sloppy. If you are confused and unfocused, all of your students will become confused and unfocused too.
Like myself, your talents may be humble, but if you faithfully follow the correct teachings of Aikido, you cannot be far from the correct path. And although many do not like it when I emphasize this point, form is very important. Form is the "measuring stick," the "ruler," and "straight and true line" by which you measure the course of training.
There is a secret to making a little pond in your Japanese garden. If it is an open pond the koi or goldfish will tend to stay in the same area. But if you put a stone in the middle of the pond and create a circle "like a donut" or a course to move in, they will swim more and grow bigger and stronger. Just by the "form" of the pond alone, one can encourage the growth and development of the fish that live in it.
Sometimes, before I teach class, I wonder how I can put that tiny "stone" in the middle of my students' training, to make them grow and become strong. This stone is what I like to call "caring heart."
*Rev. Kensho Furuya heads The Aikido Center of Los Angeles, which is located at 940 2nd St. #7, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Please visit the website at http://www.aikidocenterla.com