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Catching Flies

There is a saying that "you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." Actually, in Hawaii, I think you would attract ants rather than flies.

But the meaning of the saying is that is is easier to attract people by being kind rather than by being angry or domineering. This applies in the dojo.

I have been in classes where the instructor always seemed to be yelling at and punishing the students. See: Push-Ups. This type of instructor demands respect, but seldom deserves it. He is teaching with vinegar.

I do not believe in punishing students. If a student is disruptive, I might have them sit down and calm down for a few minutes. This is not because I am overly liberal. It is because I am a parent. As all parents know, you can only yell at your children so much. After a certain point, they stop listening.

Our goal is not to make the students listen to us (obedience), it is for them to gain self-discipline. How will yelling at them help them in life? When they have to make tough decisions, who will be there to yell at them? When they are offered drugs in school or dared to steal something, will their teachers or parents be there? No. The only voice they hear will be that of their own conscience.

The best way for an instructor to motivate his students is by setting a good example. In a technical sense, this means that the instructor should have a high level of skill and conditioning. But it also carries over into daily life. How does the instructor act outside of the dojo? What kind of a role model is he? Is he a role model at all?

Once, I heard an instructor say "do as I say, not as I do." That was very sad.

The term "hanshi" means "moral exemplar." As instructors, we are exemplars (one that is worthy of imitation; a model) for our students. We show them how to be by trying to be our best ourselves. We are as demanding of ourselves as we are of them -- in fact, we demand more from ourselves.

Getting back to vinegar and honey, I prefer to teach by enouraging my students, and hopefully providing a good example for them. There are times when a student may be superior to me in certain respects. I would then do my best to encourage them. Just as a parent does, an instructor wants his students to go farther than him. We want the very best for our students. Our job is to boost them up, not beat them down.

How an instructor teaches reveals a lot about he is as a person. An angry person will teach a certain way, as will an insecure person, a frightened person, etc. In the same manner, a happy person will teach in a certain way, as will a generous person, an intelligent person, an enlightened person, etc.

You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.


Charles C. Goodin