“Instructing vs. Teaching – more thoughts,” by Francis Takahashi

“Feel free to ‘steal’ all you can, from wherever and whomever you can. After all,
taking a few things, probably is theft. Taking a lot of things, is really research.”

I have found learning, as well as instructing, to be habits cultivated by committed and prolonged repetition of the fundamentals of your chosen craft, science or philosophy. It has to be your own choice.

The stronger and more internalized the habits, the more resonance you will produce when sharing. The purpose of living, is that it must always be about your own life’s choices. Ask not of others what interests you, inspires you, or even defines you. There is no more qualified person to help you every day than the person in the mirror,

He knows, and has always known.

When I referred to “studying the art and science of teaching”, I did not allude to an independent course of study to do just that. Rather, by committing to the areas you truly will devote yourself to, you will naturally encounter experiences, mentors and methods that you will recognize, almost on a cellular level. Seek within, if you really want to win. By seeking primarily outside yourself, you are likely to continue cultivating even more doubt, and reluctance to act.

Trust the Teacher within. All the rest are merely your assistant instructors, regardless of accomplishments or relationship to you.

There is no other advice I can give, other than to search your own sense of correctness regarding your mission in life, and trust the fundamentals that are there. Feel free to “steal” all you can, from wherever and whomever you can. After all, taking a few things, probably is theft. Taking a lot of things, is really research.

People tend to take you at your word, all other things being equal.

If you say that “you can”, they will try to assist you. If you say that you cannot, and will not try, then they will simply move on.

I hope you choose, and research, wisely.

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  1. Your post reminds me of renowned poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s response to a young poet seeking his opinion that I cited in my book, The Aikido Guide to Success:

    You ask whether your verses are good. You ask me. You have asked others before. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are disturbed when certain editors reject your efforts. Now … I beg you to give up all that. You are looking outward and that above all you should not do now. Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. There is only one single way: Go into yourself.

  2. It is so nice to read your thoughts on AJ. We met several years ago on the aikido cruise. I was fortunate to have a few moments of your time then and appreciated your opinion. I appreciate it again this morning. I hope there will be other occasions for you to share your insights.
    In gassho,
    Mark E. White

  3. Your article articulates very nicely one of the qualities for a great teacher. However, my years as a public high school teacher tell me something is missing.

    Some teachers are passionate about what they are teaching. Some are very skilled at the mechanics of teaching. You will reach some students if you only have passion, or only have mechanics. To be truly great and reach the largest number of students (of anything), you must have both. Passion/belief alone won’t do it, if you are using ineffective teaching methods. The good news is that a small number of method improvements can make a large difference in effectiveness.

    I guess if you only teach to fulfill your internal needs, that’s okay. But you should be ready to only have students who can resonate with that. Some possibly great students might turn away because they don’t “get” how you are trying to “give”.

    The best thing about Takahashi Sensei’s article is the idea of internal motivation/passion. It is very difficult to teach/instill this in a peron that doesn’t already have it, even if they have great teaching methods. It is easy to teach people some tips on how to teach though. Which means there is more hope for the passionate instructor (to reach a large student audience).

    Finally, “success” in teaching depends on the teacher’s goals. Those goals will be different for every teacher…

    Jim Clark

  4. …teaching an academic subject shares some territory with teaching aikido, but maybe not much. my favorite student gets confused with the technique i’m demonstrating and comes up with a perfectly good related technique. maybe one i’ve never thought of. makes my task so much easier because we’ll just do that one next…

  5. “A teacher is a student who teaches in order to continue his study.”
    Minoru Mochizuki

    That distinguishes the teacher from the instructor who teaches only the technical aspect of his subject –whether as a job or a hobby, because it has nothing to do with the way he lives his life.

    Thank you Sensei for sharing your thoughts.

    Patrick Augé

  6. Thank you Takahashi Sensei for sharing your thoughts with us and at the same time provoking us to think. I commented this post already in the forum of Aikido Academy USA, but reading it again a few more thoughts came to my mind.

    Not everybody has the gift of teaching but everybody can learn to become an instructor. To be able to teach and to reach your students is a gift and you are blessed with that gift. I learned a lot just from reading, translating and thinking about your articles.

    To teach children, for example, is more difficult than to teach adults who usually come to an aikido class because they want to learn it, but also to relax after a hard work day. A good teacher should empathize with his students, encourage the children and the older students who cannot learn so fast as others. Stop the ones who like to fight or compete in a nice way redirecting their impetus in order to make them feel useful maybe helping others. And giving the shy and unsure ones more confidence in themselves.

    So a great teacher is a teacher from his heart and teaching is his hobby.

  7. Well said, yet again Francis. Children are born researchers of everything with infinite curiosity. Then people seek to restrict and train it out of them. Budo revives the teacher within and enables us to reclaim ourselves. We spend years suppressing our true selves trying to please societal mores in the vain imagining it will make us “good people” and in so doing cripple our true selves. It’s not until we make monumental errors that we again and again are forced to question ourselves and time and again seek to find our way back to becoming ourselves again. Then there is no need to collect learning because our true nature being intuitive, moves naturally, from the universe.

  8. I respect your comments and opinions but overall I do not agree.

    I think it’s trivializing the science of teaching, the traditional art of transmitting experiences and lessons learned, and how to get to overcome himself.
    If we talk about Aikido or any art, you are ignoring the history and effort put over a lifetime to leave us a legacy.

    Somehow, every person living intensely committed to the path chosen, and puts all of himself in giving to others, deserves to be called Master.
    Of course, a good “Master” knows guide those who want to start down a path and then turn them loose hand and go through your own experience.
    But this would not be possible without the initial guidance, without the aid in self-discovery.

    I know that each person is his own master in general, but in an art like Aikido should be more respectful of those who preceded us in the Path.
    I humbly thank each day the teachings of my teachers and I keep myself growing. Do not lose sight of the evolution obtained is largely due to the effort that others put on me.

    With all due respect, I greet you.
    Gustavo Romano

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