(thanks for the inspiration KJ)
Friday night training followed by a meal together with my students. For me it doesn't get much better than this. We talk about a lot of things. Sometimes we joke, but sometimes we really explore some of the substantive elements of our lives.
This time one of my senior students confided, "I've never been in a fight. Not a real one, anyway...except a bit of pushing and shoving on the playground. Not a real fight, though. How can I teach people about fighting if I've never had to fight?" A legitimate question. Rory Miller (career department of corrections officer and author of several excellent books on violent encounters) would suggest that if you haven't done it, you shouldn't be teaching it. I am not sure I fully agree though.
My explanation was that it all really depends on what you are teaching and what you expect your students to learn. In the case of Sgt. Miller, his goal was to prepare corrections officers to survive working daily in a hostile environment where they would be challenged by intimidating physicality, potentially multiple (and/or armed) attackers who would need to be made complaint and restrained if necessary. To achieve this, a menu of practical and devastating self-defense reactions was necessary for the officers' safety. He taught based on his decades of direct experience handling these encounters. It works.
By contrast, one of my favorite teachers refused to train his own country's special forces, generally considered an extremely lucrative and prestigious contract. His reason? They were field operatives so he would have to teach them to kill, and he was not sure how they would use that knowledge or on whom. Thus, he wasn't comfortable teaching them. He said NO.
If you plan to teach soldiers who will be in combat, or officers in the field, or anyone else in harm's way I agree with Sgt. Miller and suggest you do so from your own direct experience. There are many outstanding FMA practitioners who are or have been active law enforcement or elite military. That is what they offer.
At the same time, there are also many excellent teachers who aspire to something else. Their mission is to help students build their character and discipline and prepare them for the challenges they will face outside the dojo in school, at work, and at home. They want to give their students the confidence they will need to excel in life and achieve their goals by becoming better people.
My brothers and sisters teaching the KM Kids classes in Singapore are testament to this with the magnificent leaders they help grow. My role models in other schools like Sensei Ramlan of Shudokan, Master Krenz and Shihan Borkowski are testament to this with the thousands of excellent black belts they have taught that are changing the world for the better. Of course, my own teachers, Guro Fred and Guro Lila of Kali Majapahit, have a lifelong mission of personal development, health and spirituality which continues to be a great influence on how I choose to live my life.
Martial arts is a vehicle for self-improvement, at least it is for me.
My personal goal is not to prepare my students to kill or maim other people, although the techniques we learn can easily do so if needed. I have been in violent encounters before (although fortunately not for a very long time), and I continue to feel regret for the harm I caused. It was not worth the risk of going to prison for aggravated assault. Learning how I would react under stress was not worth the guilt I feel for having injured another person. I would have preferred not to know if my skills really worked.
In the end, every teacher has to decide what he or she is teaching their students.
What they learn is as much from what and how we act as it is from what we explicitly teach. If we exhibit the qualities we want from them, we will influence our students to follow our example and someday exceed us. I think this is the dream of all good teachers. It is certainly mine.
See you at class.