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The Spirit of Teaching
The Student and Teacher Connection

by Ihor Rymaruk
Renshi, Okinawan Uechi Ryu

         I have always told students of age that they really do not begin to understand and appreciate the complexity of a Martial Art until they try to teach it. Teaching forces you to intellectualize what you have already learned, know, and can do. Teaching elevates your comfort level in the Art and stimulates the quest for further in-depth understanding, research and refinement of the Art.

         As a teacher one must have faith and understanding in the nature of their students. Problems arise when a student begins to believe that he has become more knowledgeable and more capable than the teacher. That is, the student tends to forget the years that his hands were held as he was guided from one slippery stone to the next, while crossing the unknown raging waters of training in the Martial Arts.

         We know that very few students ever make it completely across these difficult challenges and climb the steep banks to higher levels of success, continuing to honor their teacher with loyalty, respect, and trust. There are a few special students that stand far above their own super egos and realize the true essence of the Martial Arts. They move beyond a punch or kick, and the trappings of the rice bowl or, "get rich quick," syndrome.
The fact always remains, and can never be erased, that the students cannot hide from the one real teacher that nurtured their growth and development, planting and sowing the solid roots of their physical foundations in the Martial Arts. At the same time the teacher is responsible for the students' emotional and psychological transformation, building their character and attitude, actually training and encouraging the students to explore and assert their independence, free will and self-reliance. The SENSEI is the architect, engineer, and psychologist in the creation of each individual Martial Artist. He is also the gardener who must weed out the foreign and undesired growths and influences, while balancing trust with the students' ego. The work of the SENSEI with his students is never over. It just moves on to different levels.

         Time is a strange factor in our lives. Time, more often than not, heals most ills. Time also clouds our memories of the difficulties in our early struggles of development. Students may conveniently shift credit for their development elsewhere, or may even become so bold as to credit themselves with their own mystical genius.

         It is the morally conscientious and dedicated students of high character that recognize the difficult struggles on the road to success. It is easy for them to remember their teacher's firm, helping hand, and voice of encouragement. As the students' life shines brighter with greater personal success and rewards for their dedicated struggle, perseverance, and trust, a very unique relationship is bonded for life. Henceforth, the meaning of respect, loyalty, and honor takes on a deeper significance when one thinks of their SENSEI.