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Teaching Karate 2 -- Accepting Students As They Are

You must take your students as they are.

In the past, it was common for Karate teachers to refuse students or to require them to wait weeks, months, or even years to begin training. When by friend and senior Sensei Pat Nakata sought to learn Karate in Okinawa, Chosin Chibana threw tea in his face to test his reaction! Such testing was common in the old days. Today, we generally must accept students who wish to train with us and we cannot test them in advance.

Please be careful here. I am not saying that we should physically test potential students. In today's world, this would result in legal liability. I test potential students verbally. Basically I just want to know if they are really serious about training and have the time to do so. I do not physically test them (throw things at them, hit them, etc.).

It would be very nice if we could require all our students to be Navy SEALs. That way, they would already be in tremendous shape, disciplined and highly motivated. All we would have to do is show them the techniques!

But normal students come to us with all sorts of problems and limitations. The real skill of a Karate teacher is in helping students to overcome their problems and limitations.

Many of the great Karate teachers were sickly children who initially learned Karate to improve their health. Gradually, they become physically strong and eventually highly skilled in self-defense.

What if their teachers had refused them because they were weak?

If a student is weak, you must work to make him strong. If a student is uncoordinated, you must work to make him coordinated. If a student is meak, you must work to make him confident. If a student has a bad temper, you must work to make him calm. If a student can't remember things, you have to figure out how he processes information and come up with a way to teach that works best for him.

The more problems and limitations the student has, the better a teacher you must be. Students are challenges. It is your job to rise to each challenge.

You have to work to make each student the very best that he or she can be. That might not be as good as you are. It might be far better than you are. It all depends. All students are different. The one thing that should be constant is your desire and willingness to teach the student to the very best of your ability.

You must take your students as they are -- and work to make them the very best that they can be.

So what happened to Nakata Sensei? He remained calm and collected when the tea was thrown in his face. He did not react with anger, aggression, or indignation. Chibana Sensei accepted him as a student... and the rest is history.


Charles C. Goodin