My Perfect Teachers

My Perfect Teachers

A perennial question: what makes a good teacher?

Very often, people will ask the question, “Why doesn’t Soke do something about so-and-so?” The teacher being discussed may have a reputation for not being very skilled, or being selfish, or too financially driven. Sometimes these criticisms are well founded. Other times they are rumors being passed on by people who have never met the teacher in question

There are certainly many qualities that make people bad teachers.

In the same way that you would never want to learn math from somebody whose knowledge didn’t extend  using a calculator, you would never want to learn a martial art from somebody who didn’t understand the how and why of the techniques being taught.

In the same way that you would never want to learn proper accounting from somebody who regularly commits fraud, you would never want to learn a martial art from somebody who didn’t have a good heart.

In the same way you would never want to learn advanced culinary skills from somebody who merely wants to exploit you for hard labor, you would never want to learn a martial art from somebody who sees you only as a dollar sign.

These are all very high standards that martial art teachers are held to. Running throughout everything that the teacher does is a purity that affects the teacher’s technique, heart, and soul. A teacher who lacks purity in any of these areas may not be a good teacher.

Yes, there are bad teachers out there. There are unskilled teachers who don’t realize how poor their techniques are. There are ego-driven teachers who want to be worshipped and feared. There are greedy teachers who want as much money from you as they can get.

And there are teachers like Larry, who is very skilled, works hard to hold his ego in check, and makes clear the secondary importance of money in the student-teacher relationship.

But all teachers, even the bad ones, are Perfect Teachers.

A Perfect Teacher leads by example. We often think of positive examples being the only examples worth considering, but negative examples also serve an important purpose. They serve as cautionary tales to keep our behavior in check and our standards high. If we fall prey to some bizarre form of worship, we serve as a powerful reminder to others about the dangers of ego and intention. And if we are eventually freed from these Perfect Teachers who lead by negative example, we will have learned things that others who weren’t exposed to this teacher will never understand.

In this way, every teacher is Perfect, and everyone is a Perfect Teacher. Likewise, every student is a Perfect Student. The question for the student is the same as for the teacher: will you offer a postive or a negative example to those around you?


(Originally published in Muzosa Journal, 8/25/05.  Author retains all copyrights.)


Studying in the Bujinkan
Learning from the past
The background on our martial art
We need all the help we can get
Extra advice for life

Share this article


More To Explore

Jeff’s Top 5 Training Books

I liked Rob’s top 5 training books, so I thought I would do my own, if only to answer my own question of what would my top 5 list be?

Catching up on sleep

Are you doomed from sleep debt, or can you get caught up? Scientific American offers hope.

Scroll to Top