I am an ”egoist”, I don’t teach out of ”vocation”. I don’t teach because I wish to make the world a better place, or change people’s lives or anything like that. I always trained in Aikido first and foremost for my enjoyment and personal growth. Consequently, as a teacher, I have never felt I was or had to be anyone’s father, not to mention felt somewhat responsible for influencing the lives of my students
by SIMONE CHIERCHINI
I am an ”egoist”, I don’t teach out of ”vocation”. I don’t teach because I wish to make the world a better place, or change people’s lives or anything like that. I always trained in Aikido first and foremost for my enjoyment and personal growth. Consequently, as a teacher, I have never felt I was or had to be anyone’s father, not to mention felt somewhat responsible for influencing the lives of my students – not least for an extremely practical reason, perhaps, because for a long part of my teaching career I was far too young to be anyone’s father or responsible for anyone, as I was barely responsible for myself. I was still growing and maturing.
Today, having come of age, I still feel close to a statement made by Kazuo Chiba sensei: I read it many years ago, but I have always remembered it well because I strongly identified with it: I am not quoting it literally but it said, essentially, that in traditional Japanese martial arts, keiko is a place where certain situations are created, and then the actors in these situations have reactions; they go there for that purpose! These reactions are about them, not about their teacher.
This should not be simplistically reduced to a lack of interest for the student on the part of the teacher, to being cold or mean, as too easily this is often misinterpreted. It simply means that in traditional Budo – as I understood it at least, but I am in an excellent and titled company – the teacher doesn’t look at all like the old sage-character in the movies, who paternalistically is there to shape every aspect of the student’s life. I have never seen it in these terms.
It is my opinion that what the teacher offers is a means that we as teachers manage (being a means). Therefore it is evident that, to a certain extent, the teacher is involved. Naturally, depending on what we proposed to the student, certain effects are obtained. There is no such a thing as a ‘selfish’ teacher.
Nevertheless, once you have observed a student and proposed a recipe that as a teacher you feel suits him, the effect is something that each person has to deal with on his own. We are not taking part in a children’s class: we are all adults and as a consequence the moment we choose this practice and embark on this path, we should accept that we feel something and that those who feel something feel what they feel. As a teacher, you can’t necessarily accommodate the Aikido experience to your students to do them good. It doesn’t work like that.
It is also true that if one practises Aikido simply as a bi-weekly recreational activity, the entire argument becomes completely different. It’s up to the teacher to take notice. The relationship will be of a different kind and the contents offered, besides the practical means to realise them, should be consequently different.
To conclude, the teacher offers a stimulus and there he stops: also because who are we? What are we supposed to do, perform brain surgery on the students so that they forcefully conform to what we want for them? I don’t think so.
As a parent, I believe that if you play your role towards your children with commitment and affection – two things that always go hand in hand – and if you live your life as a parent based on certain healthy patterns, rules and values, the little ones who are close to you every day see this and are steeped in it.
Twenty years later, as it is happening to me at the moment, one looks at them with wonder and sometimes even with a form of delight, of ecstasy, because one realises that perhaps not everything we did was wrong. The example offered was not so bad. That is a wonderful feeling. In the end, with the students, it shouldn’t be much different.
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