I was just sent an article to read written by a Bujinkan member, it was called “Why do you train?”, now without getting into the semantics of the difference between training and practicing, as it would take too much space to write. I have to say I was completely disappointed and appalled at the attitude of the author of the blog.
The first paragraph was a throw back to the “good old days” of the 90’s when they would have 60-70 students per class, and this was good thing! WTF, who wants to grow a dojo fast? Who wants to go to a class that has 60-70 students in it? I want to go to a dojo to learn, to improve, not to participate and get lost in the crowd. I am assuming it had a high turn over of students, because you just couldn’t maintain any quality while growing fast. The teacher must have struggled to remember everyone’s names. Then the excuses started, “ in the 90’s it was trendy to do Ninjutsu”, because of the movies/pop culture. But today its not so trendy… Well, one only has to search YouTube for 2 mins to see what so called “high level” instructors teach as Taijutsu today, and what a simple BJJ class looks like in comparison (Organised, professional coaching, with a clear goals of progression & standards and a curriculum).
Then it starts with a pretty negative mind set. If I was a member of this dojo, I would be very disappointed if I read it, and in my opinion, if you don’t think it’s a good idea to “run a dojo” then quit. Who would want to practice with someone who doesn’t want to be there? How much passion is in a dojo like this? How would you feel, as both a student and a customer (I am assuming money is being exchanged for lessons), that your “teacher” is disappointed that you come to the dojo, loyally week in and week out, only to find that, because 20, 30 or 60 people are not practicing they want to quit? It would make you feel like you are not worth their time, right? I could understand not practicing indoors in a rented facility if the “Rent” wasn’t being met and it became a burden for you financially, and you choose to move practice outdoors etc, but the purpose of the Dojo is not to teach, it is to learn, not profit from, not be disappointed that 6 or 10 people came instead of 20,40, 60. Be grateful for those who do come, do your best as a teacher to express the art to them, in a way that inspires them to practice more, and perhaps even encourage their friends and family to attend the dojo too.
The blogger then goes on to describe the “training” as some sort of life cleansing act, and finishes it with asking why his students continue to train. At no stage has the blogger discussed his “training” at all, only how he feels as a teacher, and without it something would be missing. Well its simple to see the blogger is just playing the victim card of not having enough students anymore to please his ego, which is the reason he feels like quitting the dojo. Looking to your students for “why” doesn’t serve any purpose for you, unless its monetary gain from having more of them. As a teacher, your purpose must be to inspire, educate, motivate, be humble etc, not whine about the good old days. As a teacher you are not there for you, but for them. I can’t comment on the bloggers views as a student as he never gives them, which makes me wonder do they actually practice at all themselves? Or only teach and run a business?
He goes onto alienate the “next generation” of students, by saying they have ADD and a “me, me, me, now, now, now” attitude, and that the Bujinkan learning process is slow… Firstly, I didn’t realise there was a learning process in the Bujinkan? There is no standard…. So I don’t know why you would pigeon hole all Dojo this way, secondly in all descriptions of previous generations by older ones, whether it was the 1960’s or the 1760’s the older generation always complains about the younger generation, its always the same complaints too, they don’t think, they want it now, they demand respect now, I had to earn my place over …. Years of practice or experience.
What this tells me is that this particular member of the older generation is out of touch or doesn’t know how to teach to the different needs of the students coming to them. Dojo’s are not drone factories turning out the same product day after day. They are a wonderful mix of people from all walks of life, who have different needs from Budo and their dojo, and from a teacher if they are to succeed in the dojo. It is a teacher’s responsibility to grab hold of the student’s mind, and inspire them, to be the role model!! The master to copy from. It’s funny then when you look at the following Kanji 師範, It Brings the meaning back to reality.
It is also the teachers responsibility to continue to develop your skill in not what you teach, but how you teach it. If the students does not understand, or are slow to pick up on it, it’s the teachers fault, the teacher has the responsibility here. And within reason, as Michel Thomas the world famous language teacher would say “There is no such thing as a bad student, only a bad teacher”. If your students are not growing in the dojo, then you need to change not only what you teach, but how you teach.
As for trying to “seduce” (I will forgive that word, as I am sure it is a lost in translation moment), lets replace it with “entice” new students with free classes and that they are not receptive to these.
You have to ask why are they not receptive to them? Is it truly a case of people not seeing the value because you give it away for free? Or is there nothing worth staying for in the dojo for them? One has to ask…
What came next was perhaps the most pompous and arrogant statement I have read in quite some time with regards to budo, “I analyzed this. I discarded the fact that teacher’s skills were not in cause.” Really, it’s your dojo! That you lead! You are responsible for everything that happens inside it. In Australia we have an expression when people act this way and have such a precious belief of themselves such as this, we say “Pull your head out of your arse.”
He then goes on to list 7 excuses as to why he believes no one is coming to “train” anymore.
My rebuttal to each point will be in brackets underneath due to not be able to change colours of text on Social Media
If you are a teacher, it’s time to stop teaching, come down off your pedestal, its time to start practicing, to become the inspiration for your students, to be the “master example”, to be a role model who can show them the way, because you are living it.
1) They are not used to pay for things, they want everything for free. This is what I call the “app syndrome”.
(This is not true, people work very hard for their money and free time, they only want to pay for things that bring value to their lives, if they don’t see value, they won’t pay.)
2) They are so used to zap from one thing to another that they are unable to focus. Young people are looking for instant gratification.
(How is this different from people rushing home from Japan selling seminars & dvd’s of stuff they saw once or twice… Unless said people are amazingly fast learners, and if that is the case, then why don’t they teach their methodology of “Fast Learning” to their students? Also, if you have any charisma, good taijutsu and ability to publicly speak, then gaining and keeping the attention of the intended audience is not difficult. If your Taijutsu sucks, you are boring, or you have a bad attitude and complain you have no students while bashing any future potential students, and that you don’t want to be in the dojo yourself because numbers are low, implying that you don’t respect who is practicing with you now and their hard work, then you cannot blame people for not wanting to stay.)
3) They “try” many arts to finally stay at home and play with their phones. That is because they are not used to being in charge of their lives.
(They are in charge of their lives, that’s why they “tried” many dojo and arts, and didn’t find any inspiration in them. They probably have gone home to try and find another dojo to try, or to escape a sales pitch from a depressing teacher. They made their own minds up, they don’t need a teacher making it for them.)
4) They come to us because of video games where pain doesn’t exist, where you can revive yourself with a magic potion. And if you die, you start another game. There are no consequences for the actions they take.
(really, WTF does this have to do with anything?
This is just stupid to read… In reality, when people disrespect their future potential students, the consequences are, people won’t come and practice with you. When you let them down, they won’t practice with you. When your focus is on quantity over quality they won’t practice with you. If you sell ranks, they won’t practice with you. If you act entitled and ungrateful and don’t provide 20x value for your students, they won’t practice with you.)
5) If it is a movie that brings them in, then they are surprised not to learn how to fly or to become invisible!
(Really!!!….Only small children would believe this.)
6) The image of the ninja transmitted by the media is wrong. And this image breaks into a thousand pieces once they enter the Dōjō. They discover that to be good, you have to train a lot. And that goes against their ADD (2)
(Firstly stop talking about ADD unless you are a Medical Doctor who specialises in this sort of diagnosis. You cannot diagnose a whole generation of young people with ADD just because they don’t stay and enjoy your class… Secondly, the reality of what Ninja were, and what a dojo is today is not the problem, they are probably just disappointed with what they see. With Social Media providing access to content, people can make comparisons with many different dojo around the world to assess teacher style, personality traits and abilities. Maybe your Taijutsu just sucks and leaves them wanting for a more qualified or passionate instructor. - Also, young people do work hard! In fact the hardest worker I know is a young man of 20 from Mexico, he left home at 15 and moved to the USA, he couldn’t even speak English and had no money or family when he came. He put himself through High School, learned English so well he sounds American and worked a fulltime job as a ranch hand and horse trainer and entered University at 18, he is doing so well, he is in his last year of Pre-med and is near the top of his class, while still working a full time job and he has not been home or seen any family member in 5 years. You shouldn’t write off an entire generation, it just makes you look sad, foolish and bitter because you don’t know how to connect with people.)
7) And finally, they find out that pain exists. What a surprise!
(wow, call them pussies too. That will inspire people to practice with you. Why the hell are you hurting your students? Why cause pain? My teacher taught me many years ago, and I am paraphrasing, that if you have to hurt and beat your students, to prove that you are good, that you are strong. Then you are weak and have an ego problem. If a student comes to you who has experienced domestic violence, or assault, and they are already physically weak or small, coupled with mental trauma from the events, I am sure beating them and leaving them with painful reminders of class and a revisit to their traumatic events will inspire them to come back! (not). Budo is about enriching peoples lives, not punishing them for needing help and guidance.)
If you are a teacher, “sensei” or “Shihan” reading this. I would like to leave the following commentary.
Be a role model, be an inspiration, don’t write off our youth (they are our future whether you like it or not, if you write them off, seriously just quit practice altogether now, there is no hope for you as a teacher), don’t go for quantity over quality. Don’t chase money. Be appreciative of those you have around you in your dojo. Learn to be a better teacher, use technology its our friend!! We don’t need the yellow pages anymore to find a university or college to learn how to improve our teaching skills. We can learn from our phones and apps, about teaching methodologies/pedagogies almost instantaneously, and learn to fill in the gaps, where our lack of skills and abilities might be holding us back in reaching our intended audience effectively. Where we can quickly find the tools, we need to have in our “teaching tool belts” to help us improve the quality of our classes to enrich our students. In how we reach out and attract, retain, provide 20x value, and build Budoka of the highest quality. Where we can watch other classes from other dojo’s and arts, and perhaps find inspiration from them to help us “teach” better. Where we can also find people to help keep us humble (If you are a Bujinkan member of any level, and you think you can fight, I implore you to go try an MMA or a BJJ class and stay and spar too).
21st century technology certainly comes with its social challenges, but to write off an entire generation as “spoilt” is stupid and dangerous. I have hope for the next generation, I must have it because I am part of the next generation, I have seen first hand all the hard work my fellow buyu are doing to keep our art alive, to try and make the master happy. To be smart and use modern technology as an aid for learning and growing and not a hindrance.
If you are a Budoka, stop trying to squeeze money from the art, teach from the heart, learn from your students, broaden your horizons, learn to be humble or get humbled. Embrace change, always put your students first. But most of all, practice budo! Practice it from the heart! You cannot be the role model/teacher 師範 that your dojo needs if you don’t practice.