Thursday, December 06, 2007


George Ledyard is an aikido instructor in the Seattle area. I haven't met him, but he wrote something once that really resonated, something that most martial arts student need to hear. I don't have it in front of me and I definitely don't have Mr. Ledyard's gentle way with words, so this is my personal take on it.

This is for all of the students who are in awe of your instructors: Get over it. Get over yourself.

The best instructor in the world has the same number of arms and legs as you (more or less). A human body and human brain not too far off the charts. In most cases (barring the ancient or damaged student) there is nothing he can do that you can't do.

Do not use him as an excuse to aim low. Do not set him up in your head as an unapproachable paragon. Never say, "I'll never be as good as my sensei." It's an insult to you and it is an insult to his teaching.

It's time to stop trying to be good.

Don't be good enough.

Don't be damned good.

Decide to be amazing.

Exceed your teacher. Take what he gives you and bring it to new levels.

You can do this and if you really want to honor your teacher you must do this.

And then you must turn around and give your students permission to be better than you.

Be AMAZING. Good enough isn't.


Patrick Parker said...

Amen! You're awesome, Rory! You're the greatest! Nobody could have said that as well as you did.


But seriously, that is a great point. There is a lot of cult-of-personality type behavior in the martial arts.

You know, F.M.Alexander said, "Anyone can do the things that I've done. All they have to do is do the things that I've done."

And Kano said that anything one man can learn he can teach 100 generations of men.

I think the gist of all this is that anything one man can learn to do, any man can learn to do.

Keep up the great posts. I'm eally enjoying keeping up with your blog.

Steve Perry said...
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Steve Perry said...

"I think the gist of all this is that anything one man can learn to do, any man can learn to "

Probably true, generally, Patrick. But -- maybe not as well -- how many people could cogitate with Einstein? Leap or stand en point with Nijinsky? Have won as many Olympic gold medals as Mark Spitz?

Yep, A lot folks can theorize, dance, or swim, but clearly there are always going to be people who do it better than others.

People who can do it better and who can teach it are rare. Bruce Lee was faster than a a cobra and by all accounts a first-rate martial artist. How many of his students, or any student to practice JKD were or are as good as he was?

Doing and teaching aren't the same thing.

Rory's point is a good one -- putting your teacher on a pedestal is generally not a good idea. But in the case of a world-class mover, there are some realities to consider.

There might arise better players of my version of silat than my teacher, and he might be the one to instruct them. (He is not nearly as egotistical as he could claim, pretty much a salt-of-the-earth guy who balks at my attempts to pump up his honorifics.)

It would speak well of him as a teacher if one day his students were better than he.

That said, he started studying silat as a child, has practiced several forms of assiduously for forty years, and has continued to explore the whys and wheretofors of the system. He knows this stuff down to his bones.

I came to the art as a middle-aged man, spent the first couple of years unlearning a lot of the moves I had gotten from other martial arts, and I don't have enough time to catch up.

When you are on the downhill side of sixty, you can be in better shape than a lot of twenty-year-olds. Sixty might be the new forty, but we are probably a long way from ninety being the new forty ...

Kai Jones said...

That's my new goal: to be amazing!

Hold on, who was my teacher again? ;)

Mark said...

Kai, you already ARE amazing!

Kai Jones said...

Woot! I've already achieved my goal.

I guess my life is over. I will retire to my rocking chair and knit baby sweaters.