Sunday, February 16, 2014
Fathers and Teachers
When we were in Singapore from 2008-2010 I got hooked on Kali Majapahit, as I described in my last post. In addition to becoming a driving force in my life, I firmly believed it would help my children so I got my oldest son George, 6 years old at the time, enrolled at KMHQ and took him for Discovery/Kids Class every Saturday. I loved to watch him in class.
Although the movements were tough and he had trouble being still and concentrating, Guro Lila's charm and skill are irresistible, and soon George was making progress. He enjoyed being with the other kids, and doing something he knew his Dad loved so much (and still does). It was something we shared. He proudly put his framed rank certificates on his wall. I was so proud of him for that.
So what happened??
After we came back to Japan these was no dojo. No KMHQ. Thanks to the trust Guro Fred placed in me, I was allowed to open the KM Japan study group in Roppongi, but we have a single 2-hour slot which we use for our weekly class (beginners and intermediate/advanced). It was too far away for George to attend, too late on a Friday night, and we had no other days or slots for a class.
Perhaps more importantly, however, was the great difficulty I had teaching him personally, which is common to every teacher I suppose. The relationship between teacher and father is a very complex one. In many cases (mine included) my early teachers were proxies for my father, father figures in their own right, offering not just training but also wisdom and guidance for my life. I counted on their advice and looked up to them in a way I never did ( and maybe never could have) to my real father. They became the fathers I wished I had. It was only after becoming an adult that I truly recognized and appreciated everything my real father had done for me, and probably never would have without the training from such good teachers.
Being both teacher and father is very hard for children, especially younger children, since they seem to have a lot of trouble separating the two. They want their teacher to be fun, joking, playful in the way their father is - not a stern taskmaster. They want their father to be the heroic figure they see in the dojo with the sticks and barong, not the guy folding laundry, changing diapers or washing the dishes. It can be tough for them to accept the different facets of the same person.
Very often, the father-teacher is too hard or too lenient on their child. Too hard and the child hates him and the art and ends up rebelling (I offer the Christian Church as one example, and the phenomenon of the "Tiger Mother" as another). No parent or martial artist wants that for their child. Too lenient and the other students sense the favoritism and lose their respect and motivation. Every veteran martial artist has seen this in one school or another. Finding the balance is elusive. I have tried to get my kids interested in aikido and other arts I have studied, hoping they would master the basics and then we could build on that foundation. However, neither has shown any interest and I feel that pushing them too hard would have the opposite effect.
I do wish my kids would find the love of martial arts training, especially KM training, that I have, and decide to leverage this for their future success the way like I did. I hope someday to give them the gift of knowledge that I have spent most of my life studying - my life's work. I hope one day to do sinawali and sombrada and hubud and all the other drills with them just as I love doing them with my students. I hope one day to bring them to the Bali Camp, where they can feel the lifelong bonds of fellowship I discovered with other FMA fanatics from across the globe.
Right now I still don't know how to find the right recipe. It was so much easier when they trained at KMHQ just like I did. If you are in Singapore and enrolled at KMHQ, PLEASE share the gift of your training with your wife and children. If they go and you don't, ENROLL so you can take this journey together as a family. Make this a special training time for your family, and celebrate every victory together. THE FAMILY THAT TRAINS TOGETHER REMAINS TOGETHER.