Acting or Coaching?

Leon Tolstoi said, “Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced.”
Benjamin Franklin said: “Tell me, and I forget. Teach me, and I remember. Involve me, and I learn.”

What we train is Art but requires some strong basics to be expressed correctly. Because of that I’m too often stuck between two attitudes: teaching the form or showing the feeling?

Put differently; the question is: as a Martial Arts teacher, should I be an actor or a coach?

The actor is showing his level of expertise to the student; he doesn’t actually teach.
Acting is what you can do when you are teaching high ranks so that they get the feeling, the forms being different for everyone. More or less this is what you get when training in Japan with Hatsumi Sensei and the Dai Shihan.

The coach does it differently. He does his best to transmit his knowledge simply so that each student can get to reproduce the technique.
Coaching is what you are supposed to do when you are teaching beginners.

The more I teach, and the more I turn into a coach. And I like it.
This year has been very active for me. I gave multiple seminars: 4 in France, 3 in India, 2 in Germany, 2 in Dubai, and 1 in Argentina, Brasil, and Colombia. And I went twice to train in Japan. Over the course of the year, I saw my teaching evolve to turn more into coaching. At first, I had the feeling to be lazy, but then I understood that this was the way to go.

Too often, teachers use their seminars as an excuse to show off. The dōjō becomes a theater stage where they demonstrate their excellence to be worshiped by the attendees. And this is wrong when the majority of participants in a seminar are not Shidōshi. Let me explain that.

When you are a beginner or a young black belt, what you need is not to attend a show, you need to learn how to be able to move correctly. When I was much younger, I loved to watch the Formula 1 races. But honestly, it didn’t better my driving abilities! We have many gifted high ranks in the Bujinkan, but not all of them are destined to teach. A high-rank diploma does not come with teaching ability. You have to like to teach. In my dōjō, I teach the beginners and let the Shidōshi show the black belts. I find it more interesting and also more challenging intellectually. Showing your excellence is only challenging your ego. I did it long enough to be aware of it.

The Denshō are for Transmission. (1)
If knowledge were supposed to be just a show, then teachers would be Kenshō, “natural show offs”! (2)

Show your level to the high ranks, and be a coach for the beginners, this is Sekinin, your moral responsibility. (3)

1. 伝承 Denshō: handing down (information); legend; tradition; folklore; transmission.
Denshō is the name given to the scrolls of a Ryū.
2. 衒性, Kenshō: show off + nature (of a person or thing)
3. 責任, Sekinin: duty; responsibility (incl. supervision of staff) , liability; Moral responsibility