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When the Student is Ready...

There is a saying that "when the student is ready, the teacher appears." What this means in Karate training is that when you are ready to learn something, the Sensei appears and teaches you.

I have found this to be a true statement, but not for metaphysical reasons. It is not as if the teacher miraculously appears. There is another, more practical reason.

It all has to do with resolution. What I mean by this is the capacity to perceive.

Imagine a black and white television (I'm sure some people cannot even remember such a thing). A black and white television will receive a standard television signal but can only display images in black and white. Even if the signal is broadcast in color, the television will show black and white.

Now let's say that you improve the television -- change all its components -- and now it can show color. All of a sudden, the television will now show color images.

The signal did not change -- the television changed.

In a similar way, a student can only see, appreciate and understand so much. A beginner is like a black and white television. In fact, a beginner is even less sophisticated than that. A beginner can only show simple stick figures. As he advances, his ability to handle the signal that his sensei is broadcasting increases.

Eventually, the student can show black and white images, then color, then high definition, then 3-D, then the real thing.

I know that this is just an analogy, but it is a pretty good one to explain the saying. To the student, it seems like at certain stages the teacher miraculously appears. Actually, it is just that he himself has become capable of learning at a new level. The teacher was always there.

My Sensei have taught me the same things over and over. With great patience, they have shown me the basics, once, twice, a hundred times. Maybe on the hundredth attempt I finally got it. I could finally see what they were saying. I could finally do it. It was like a miracle -- but actually the miracle was that my Sensei never gave up, and patiently taught me, over and over, once, twice, a hundred times -- until I was finally ready to learn.

"When the student is ready, (it seems like) the teacher appears." In reality, he was probably always there.


Charles C. Goodin