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Most Upsetting Things

In my years of Karate training, here are some things I have observed that really upset some instructors:

  • A student who leaves and teaches without permission.
  • A student who leaves and teaches without permission and takes students with him.
  • Another instructor who "steals" students.
  • A student who goes over his instructor's head (contacts a more senior instructor without permission).
  • A student who studies with another instructor on the side without permission.
  • Bad calls in tournaments.
  • A student who changes kata and techniques without permission.
  • A student who accepts rank or title from someone else or another organization (without permission).
  • A student who calls his Sensei by his first name (even once).
  • A student who shows any disrespect (even once).
  • Another instructor who shows disrespect, even if obliquely.
  • Talking behind the instructor's back.
  • Fiscal malfeasance (basically stealing).
  • Personal malfeasance.
This is certainly not a complete list. Some people carry around long lists of grudges. Karate would be so much easier if everyone, everywhere could get along. But human nature is human nature.

Many of the things on the list could be avoided by properly training students in courtesy, and by making expectations in the dojo very clear. Students can avoid most problems by simply asking permission first.

Also, Sensei should not be petty people. We teach to preserve and perpetuate the art -- not to create kingdoms.

One of the reasons I put my second son in charge of our dojo when I was only 49, was to break the usual cycle. If I have to be in charge to be a good Sensei, then the system is possibly flawed. My goal is to produce some fine instructors so that they can carry on the art. You have to let people teach in order for them to get good at it.

Many of the things on the list have to do with control in the dojo. I recall a saying that a Buddha has no fist, meaning that he is very open. We should try to lift up our students, not push them down. Control is important, but so is generosity.

Also, it is important to keep in mind that students do not only upset instructors -- instructors can do things to upset students too. The relationship is a two way street. There are good students and good instructors. There are also bad students and bad instructors.

A bad instructor is like a bad doctor. You should get a better one -- after all, it's your health! Actually, you should not get a better one, you should get the best one!

As a student, you should do your best to find a good instructor, to be a good student, and eventually to become a good instructor yourself.


Charles C. Goodin