December 22, 2020, Judean Desert, Israel
So God, what do you have planned for me today? A flood? A new strain of the Coronavirus, another sick friend? Closing the airport? Collapse of the dollar? Just let me know.
I was asked a good question the other day by our newest black belt. A woman named Sara. How does one become a better teacher? I answered that the answer is complicated yet simple and that I have already written a great deal about it. The blogs are scattered throughout our blog pages, go look for them. Perhaps we should compile them all into one book, Blogs on Becoming a Better Instructor, Perhaps...
I have been a bit sad lately, still in semi-lockdown, a close friend lost his father, a brother and cousin diagnosed with Coronavirus, another Israeli woman was murdered yesterday while out on her daily run (52 year old woman, mother of 6), a new strain of the virus breaking out which will make it nearly impossible for me to teach, travel, conduct seminars. Sometimes it just seems that life is trying to drown you and it is difficult to keep your head up.
This morning I began to prepare the written description for a new video clip that I will be sending out to our IKI On Line members. I always devote a great deal of time to analyzing each situation, watching the video a dozen times and trying to best put it into words so that our members understand the technique. It is a time consuming and draining process. But it must be done with love.
So today I was working on a gun situation. It is based on a real life violent encounter, if I am not mistaken the holdup took place in Brooklyn, New York, where I used to live. As I was watching the video, and also thinking of what to write to our newest black belt who just passed her black belt test after years of training, it hit me. The secret is simple; you have to care, you simply have to care. There is no course you can take, there is no book you can read, you simply have to care. I watched my video and I thought of the incident. As always I put myself in the victims 'shoes, and heart. Suddenly I felt it, I need to reach this person, I need to teach him, I need to help this fine individual cope with the tragic reality of the streets of New York. And if I only reach one individual, it is still worth it. That Sara, is my secret. You have to have the blessing of pain, and love.
As the great rabbi, Rabbi Noah Weinberg of blessed memory, said with tears in his eyes, God, Give me some of your pain, let me feel it God, let me feel the pain of your people, I want to feel the pain because then I will do something about it. Share your pain with me. Give me the blessing of pain.
Oy, can anyone understand? You have to feel it to know it. It is said that when one says Shalom to another, and the other greets him with Shalom, God is so overjoyed that he says, Let me join you! Let me be with you guys! God is overjoyed when people love each other. But He also sits with the mourners and shares their pain.
Sara, we need to feel the pain. And we need to feel the love. The two are one.
And here is another point, the teacher too needs some help. The teacher needs to feel that the student wants to learn. There is a story I heard about an old Chinese master. He was raised in the old days, at the age of five was sent by his parents to train with the monks in Chinese martial arts, in Gung Fu. But eventually the Communists took over and soon all culture was being destroyed. The old way of life was banished. Years passed, and the man found himself in California, USA, alone and lonely with some menial job washing dishes in a restaurant. One day he was in the park and saw a young American man, a teenager, doing "Kung Fu", but it was all wrong. It was American commercialized martial arts, all so terribly wrong! Finally the old Chinese dishwasher approaches the young man and corrects him, No, no, no, that is all wrong, Let me show you!
The young man becomes very excited. Wow, Cool man, this is much better than what my instructor showed me, you are even cooler than the guy in the movie! Show me more. Teach me!
I no longer have the book, a friend dropped it in the bathtub and destroyed it, such disrespect for books! but I remember the impact it had on me. The teacher, now an old dishwasher, refused to teach, but the young man did not give up. Eventually the old man agreed to meet the young man in the park early the next day. Let's see if he actually shows up.
But the young man showed up, that day, the next day, and every day thereafter. And suddenly the old man returned to his youth, in China, suddenly he felt his life had a purpose; he had a student. With a student life was no longer so lonely. He would watch his student grow.
The student injected life into the Old Man and made him feel young again. One must have good students who appreciate the teacher, the art, the teachings, otherwise the lessons die with the teacher.
A professor was doing a study on how to raise young people from disadvantaged neighborhoods to be good people. He researched an orphanage in Baltimore that produced doctors, lawyers, scientists, successful people, and he researched their path. All paths lead to one woman, their "mother" at the orphanage. He wondered; could this woman still be alive? She would have to be in her 90's.
He found her. He asked if he could interview her, research her method. She was in an old age home, but she consented. The professor showed up with his team of expert research assistants, they set up cameras, microphones, they were ready to begin.
The questions began. The old woman began to speak. "I loved those boys".
She had nothing more to say. She had no "methods", no gimmicks, no books to share, only that one line, I loved those boys.
Sara, and all of you, you want to teach? Love and Pain. There is great joy in being a teacher but also great pain, hurt and disappointment. If you care, you will overcome all of it. If not, quit now. Like the Old Man in the park, when you see your student, when you care about your student, that is all you need. The rest you will figure out. Yes, there are tips I can share, but the core is care. When you feel you have nothing left, when a storm hits and leaves you dizzy and dazed and confused, seeing your student will get you back on your feet. With a student life is better. With a student you can see your tomorrow, and beyond...
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Moshe teaching in Morelia, Mexico, in a parking lot. As Bruce Lee said, any place can be a dojo, as long as you have a willing heart.