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Critiquing Some Students

This is a story.

A senior Sensei was visiting from Okinawa. The head of the local dojo asked him to privately review the kata of four students, one after the other.

The first student performed his kata and the visiting Sensei said, "Very good!"

After the first student left the room, the host Sensei asked, "Sensei, it seemed to me that the student was weak. Why did you say, 'Very good!'"?

"Because with time and practice I am certain that he will improve," replied the senior Sensei.

The second student performed her kata and the visiting Sensei said, "Very good!"

After the second student left the room, the host Sensei asked, "Sensei, it seemed to me that the student was too slow. Why did you say, 'Very good!"?

"Because with time and practice I am certain that she will improve," replied the senior Sensei.

The third student performed his kata and the visiting Sensei said, "Very good!"

After the third student left the room, the host Sensei asked, "Sensei, it seemed to me that the student was unsure of his movements. Why did you say, 'Very good!"?

"Because with time and practice I am certain that he will improve," replied the senior Sensei.

Finally the fourth student performed her kata and the visiting Sensei said nothing at all.

After the student left the room, the host Sensei asked, "Sensei, that was my best student. She was strong, her timing was good, she knows the kata very well. Why didn't you say anything?"

"Because you could see arrogance in her movements," replied the senior Sensei. "She was so full of herself. Time and practice will probably make it worse. I did not want to say anything to feed her ego."

"I see," said the host Sensei.

Later that day, the host Sensei met privately with the fourth student. "I want to explain what happened earlier today," he began.

"No need," declared the fourth student condidently. "My performance was obviously so good that the senior Sensei was speechless!"

The moral of the story is that the ego will feed on anything -- what someone says or even what someone does not say. An arrogant student deserves a good kick in the groin (figuratively)... like the saying, "No matter how tall you are you will be humbled (bow down) when you are kicked in the testicles." I realize that women do not have testicles, but I think that such a kick will make them bow down too.

Sometimes we describe an arrogant student as "tantaran," which is sort of like a student who performs a kata and then says, "tada!"

There is no "I" in kata, student, or Karate for that matter. (Sorry, I really do not like "There is no "I" statements, but it fit this story pretty well.)

And there are two "I's" in training. (Sorry again.) And four "I's" in Mississippi!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin