“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive,
but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through
it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose
Empty your mind; be formless; shapeless, like water. If you put water
into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it
becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now,
water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.
― Bruce Lee
Your instructor has dedicated countless hours on the mat molding you into the jiu jitsu practitioner and person you have become. There’s no doubt you have had other influences off the mat, but how many challenges have you faced that have put you on the brink death? Each day that you step on the mat, you are putting your life in the hands of trained killers and you have to trust that they have been adequately trained. The instructor has not only helped to mold you, but also those that you are trusting to strangle you. Dedication to the team, not only from the instructor but also the practitioners, is necessary to be able to freely practice without the fear of injury.
Consumerism has taken over and the pupil is becoming the customer. The change has allowed for individuals to freely jump from gym to gym with the justification being that they are a paying for a service. Your instructor’s responsibilities are far reaching. Not only does this person teach you proper technique, but they also teach you the morality involved in applying that technique. An armbar is not just an armbar. If you have rolled long enough, you have rolled with “that guy.” An armbar from him differs from the guy who won Pan Ams. What’s the difference? I would argue that the instructor is the difference. A good instructor not only teachers the proper technique, but they also clarify the conditions of how and when to apply that technique. This lesson is not learned in one training session. This takes time and dedication by both the instructor and the pupil.
“Be like water …”
A skilled instructor teaches the practitioner how to apply the technique as well as how to vary the application dependent on the circumstances. There are times when a strangulation hold or armbar must be applied with one hundred percent effort, but those times are few and far between. The skilled instructor knows how to tame the ego and teach the pupil the most important part of the technique, which is control. The majority of practitioners must be able to wake the next day with functional limbs as to carry out the necessary responsibilities to provide for their families. The life and death battle is not the one on the mat, but the one that earns the paycheck to provide food and shelter for the family. The skilled instructor teaches each pupil how to adequately apply and assess skill as to not hurt his or her teammate so they can continue to contribute to the well being
of their family. The skilled instructor develops skilled practitioners that are capable of understanding and applying a deadly technique that does not harm their teammate. The pupil is like water in that he or she has learned to adapt to different situations and circumstances.
The consumer comparisons people are drawing are akin to sales. Instruction is a service of sorts, but much of what a good instructor has to offer can hardly be duplicated. There is much more than hip movement and grips that a skilled instructor is teaching. The dedication this person is showing you should be reciprocated. Loyalty used to be about hidden techniques and secret moves to use against enemies or rival academies. With the access to technology, this is no longer the case. Loyalty is now more about the well being of your fellow practitioners. It is imperative that the atmosphere in the academy harbors a mentality that emphasizes growth and members are truly interested in the well being of their teammates. A good instructor sets the precedent and leads, but your safety ultimately lies in the hands of your teammates.