So the other day I was watching a martial arts DVD on Silat when the instructor talked about being in his “Teaching Window”. Or as he put it the time was now for him to teach. He went on to talk about how it is important that you train with an instructor when they are in their teaching window or the time when they will be the best combination of practitioner/teacher. Some times you can come in too early and train with someone and some times too late. If you train at the beginning before a “Teaching Window” opens you may get poor training or even worse broken. Meaning the teacher is experimenting and figuring things out. So what is or was he talking about? This is not simple to explain but rather pretty complicated and there is some variables depending on each individual person. Bottom line some martial practitioner’s should never teach. Pretty much this is the vast majority of martial practitioner’s. They should only train and make progress on their own skills. Some people just do not have the right make up to be a good teacher. They may not have good enough fundamentals themselves and they also may not have the ability to show things and explain them in multiple ways to students. They may also not have the patience necessary to teach. There are however a smaller percentage of martial practitioner’s who in the end can become a good teacher. Being a good teacher takes commitment, skill, comprehensive fundamental’s, knowledge of principles, elements and theories and the ability to break things down and explain them in multiple ways so that students can understand them and in turn learn well. Plus a whole lot of patience and excitement at seeing someone learn. Not everyone can or should be a teacher. In IRT that is just one reason why I will not promote just anyone to the Associate Instructor level. If you are at that level you have my stamp to begin the teaching process. Otherwise you probably should focus on your own training.
So what is this “Teaching Window” that he was talking about? There is a lot that goes into this. However, from a students prospective you want to learn from someone who has mastered the fundamentals of their system. You also want someone who can explain everything. Beyond this though a “Teachers Window” opens once they have mastered the fundamentals and understand the principles, elements and theories of their system. Yet this window is not infinite but instead finite. What???? Well here is the crux of the situation. A teachers window opens for the amount of time that they can still do the fundamentals at an athletic level so that the students can see it done this way. This happens before a teacher starts on the path of constant refining and refining of their technique to the point that their age or refinement becomes so fine that a newer student will learn the refined version without first learning the fundamentals in their athletic level. As a teacher/practitioner refines their skill sets they in turn make their movements smaller and more specialized than in the purer more athletically fundamental format. If students are taught by a teacher too early on in the teacher’s window the fundamentals might not be just right. If they learn to late in a teacher’s window then they might be learning a refined version. Either one of those situations is not ideal for the student. No, instead they learn best if they are in the instructors “Teaching Window”. I have witnessed this in several systems down through the years. Take Modern Arnis for example. Those that learned from Professor Remy Presas early on when he moved to the United States were getting him in his prime. He was in his “Teaching Window”. He was young and fundamentally sound and understood his system and could show and explain it to you. Later on in his career he was substantially more refined and students that came in later picked up the more refined version but their fundamental movement was nowhere near as good as the previous generation. You can really see this in their footwork! They are very refined but their footwork stinks in my opinion. Those that trained with the Professor in his optimum “Teaching Window” really benefitted from training in that time frame. Now before people get ancy or upset about this I am not saying by any means that those who practiced at the end are terrible martial practitioner’s. Quite a few of them are really good and have overcome not learning from the Professor in his “Teaching Window”. This can be because of their own innate abilities or also because they also learned from one of the Professors students who trained during the “Teaching Window” and helped them with their fundamentals and movement. So not everyone who trained later on moves like shit as a friend of mine would say. All window dressing without a window is his other favorite quote. No some learned from one of the Professors students who was an instructor and learned during the Professors “Teaching Window”. This is not the only other system where I have seen this there have been quite a few more. Take for instance Budo Taijutsu or Hatsumi Sensei’s martial system. In the Bujinkan it is not uncommon to see people imitating Hatsumi Sensei’s movement now when he has refined his skill set over decades. If a Budo Taijutsu practitioner did not train with Hatsumi Sensei early on in his “Teaching Window” or learned from someone who did then they may simply not have the were withal to copy his movement and make it work. He is of course older and so refined in his movement that most cannot copy his movement and translate it and make it effective for them. Those like the Japanese Shihan, Doron Navon and a few more who managed to get in right at the right time during his “Teaching Window”. Have great fundamentals because they saw him in his prime. (they may have also survived the beginning) I have seen all of the Japanese Shihan, Doron Navon, Mark O’Brien and more and when they move you can see it correctly. There are of course quite a few people who also do it correctly or pre-refined. They learned either early on from Hatsumi Sensei or they apprenticed with one of the Japanese Shihan or an Instructor who got that significant fundamental exposure and transmitted it to them in their “Teaching Window”. Try learning from Hatsumi Sensei now and you are in for a whirlwind as he is demonstrating what he does. He would be the first to tell you that he is not really “teaching”.
This teaching window goes across all martial systems. Each instructor/teacher has a “Teaching Window” where the students will benefit the most. Once the window closes a newer student might not be able to get the fundamentals in their most athletic form unless of course they train as well with one of the teachers older students. This of course does not mean that training with a teacher who has refined to the point of perfection is not good. By no means is that true. No if you can be there at the middle and the end so to speak you will definitely be getting the goods. You would be getting fundamentals plus refinement! That would be a real bonus! However if you are at the end you need to make sure that you get those fundamentals in their most athletic form. No young man should be moving like an old man or an old man who has refined his martial practice to the extreme! A young man in the end has to move like a young man! Though it is okay for an old man to move like a young man athletically. Which brings me finally to the point that this “Teaching Window” does of course vary for everyone! Some teacher’s have a long window some have a short window. Some might even have a very, very long window and some should never have taught at all! So train hard, train right and find the right teacher in their teaching window!!! In everything we do in the Martial Sciences timing is of course the key. Good luck!!!
Brian R. VanCise
Note: This blog is opinion only and neither Instinctive Response Training LLC or Brian R. VanCise are responsible for any third party actions.
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