Master and Student. The relationship is as old as time itself. Over the past 30 years in and around martial arts I have seen many permutations. I have been a deshi (disciple) to two masters, and over time have become an instructor myself, although people calling me "sensei" still seems a bit out of place. I am yet to reach the level of "guro" in FMA, but I do my best to impart the essence of what my current master, Guro Fred Evrard, teaches in the curriculum of Kali Majapahit.
Most Westerners look with either awe or disdain at the master/student relationship.
We see movies like Karate Kid which show both sides: the evil master with his fanatical cult of followers who aspire to oppress the weak, but also the kindly master who teaches the underdog the true meaning of the martial arts and helps him find the strength in himself to overcome hardship and achieve victory.
This relationship has some implicit responsibilities for both parties. For the student, it involves coming to class regularly, on time and prepared, with clean uniform and open mind. It means giving 100% effort in every class to try to learn the skills and lessons the master gives. It means trying to experience first, rather than just immediately questioning things which are not readily apparent. It also means not being afraid to question in order to help find the deeper meaning which the master intends.
For the master, this relationship means teaching regularly, being on time and prepared for every class, with clean uniform and clean intention, teaching the class with passion and energy, and caring first and foremost about the students' progression rather than about glorifying yourself. It means being a good role model on and off the mats, and being careful never to abuse the enormous trust the students place in you.
The giving/receiving nature of this relationship has as its foundation a mutual respect between master and student. This is why we bow. Without the master, the student cannot find his way. Without the student, the master's knowledge cannot continue past his own mortality.
Not every relationship between master and student results in discipleship, which will be the subject of another post. However, both master and student should have no preconception of an end result, but rather allow the relationship to develop naturally, just as every relationship does between two people.
My own master shows me things I already know. He reminds me to be true to the path, giving me ocassional glimpses of what lies ahead, and is always an example of what I can be if I do not give up --- if I continue to heed his teaching, continue to train diligently and let myself become a better person. He is not just a better warrior, he is my spiritual guide, my mentor, and my "life coach" as I seek the path to my own happiness.
This relationship is a sacred one and should remain so. Both parties have a role to play and a responsibility to each other. This balance is Yin/Yang and in accordance with the traditional Asian view of things --- two parts forming a whole.