I have been teaching martial arts for over 10 years. In general I do not teach people under the age of 18. The reason for this is the material I teach is quite serious and dangerous. I want to make sure that the people who I give this knowledge to are able to handle it and treat it with the proper care and respect.
Occasionally though someone who is 16 can apply to try a couple of classes and see how things go. There are some extremely mature young people who can handle the situation and their parents vouch for them so I give them a shot. They participate in 2 introductory classes and then we talk.
I had one such young man come to class over the past couple weeks. His mother said he was very mature and asked if I would give him a chance. This evening he had is last trial class. He seemed to be enjoying himself and was doing quite well.
He Didn’t Like The Freedom
After class I asked him if he was interested in joining our merry band of ninjas and he replied that his old teacher was much more strict. At first I thought he was saying that he enjoyed the friendly atmosphere in my class. I soon realised though that he was actually complaining!
He said his old teacher was more military style and demanded respect. He made people call him Sensei, he ordered people around and told them what to do.
I Treat My Students As Equals
I don’t let anyone call me Sensei. It makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like the feeling that I’m above people in any way. I don’t need the title to teach. Whether you call me Sensei, Oh Great and Venerable Master, or just Vivek, I will still tell you that your knee is out of alignment, that your back isn’t straight and you’re using too much strength.
The young man said ”You treat us like equals, more like friends. I do not believe that people can learn this way. I think we need someone as an authority figure to tell us what to do and only then can we properly learn.”
I Prefer To Earn Respect Rather Than Demand It
I told him I prefer to treat people as equals and friends and make them responsible for their own learning. I said I want to earn your respect through my teaching and my movement, I don’t want to demand respect because then it is only on the surface. He said he doesn’t like that and he actually wants a more firm approach.
I realized that it is likely he has never been treated as an equal by adults before and the experience was unfamiliar and unsettling to him. I also realized as we were talking that he hasn’t been given responsibility for his learning. I think everything in his life has been under the thumb of authoritarian adults.
To Raise Kids In An Atmosphere Of Freedom
He seems like a good kid and I am sure he will have a very happy and successful life, but this experience really highlighted for me how important it is to raise kids in an atmosphere of freedom and not control.
He was actually telling me that thinking for himself was unpleasant for him and learning for himself was too difficult. He wanted to be told what to do.
I believe that if we raise our children in an atmosphere of freedom, if we give them the ability to make choices and support them in learning from their choices, then they truly develop the ability to learn and think in an independent way.
Don’t Tell Me What To Do!
Anytime we tell a young person what to think or what to do we remove this independence from them. And then when real independence is thrust upon them when, they end up in the “real world” they can be largely unprepared for it.
When I think back to my early university years I can see that I was quite unprepared for having to take responsibility for everything all of a sudden. I had to take care of myself and all the details of life. Dealing with food, laundry, socializing and studying was too much for me because I wasn’t raised to be independent. I was raised to follow authority.
I have learned from this young man how much I value independence. At least he knew what he wanted and was able to communicate that to me and that I appreciate.
Inspire Independence and Confidence
So I encourage you to let your kids make as many decisions as possible. I encourage you into let them be their own authority and their own source of learning and motivation. I Encourage you to teach them to trust themselves and their inner wisdom so that they don’t need to rely on an external source. And I encourage you to treat them as equals so that they feel equal to all they interact with.
Offer them your wisdom, guidance and unconditional love and support. Be there for them through everything, but don’t tell them what to think, don’t tell them what to do, don’t make their decisions for them and inspire them to trust themselves.