12 posts / 0 new
Last post
Gavin Mulholland
Gavin Mulholland's picture
Teaching on faith

For those of you who are instructors to any degree, how much of what you teach do you teach on faith?

By that I mean any elements of your system that you do not quite understand or are not yet entirely convinced by.

Personally, I would take Sanchin Kata as my example. I was teaching it for years before I think I fanally came to understand its purpose. Niko Ashi stance would perhaps be another example.

I belive that my understanding kicked in around 3rd dan but had I set up on my own at, say, 1st dan, would I have droped these vital elements through lack of understanding? I don't know, but what I did always know, was that people I respected had faith in the system and so I maintained the faith also.

Looking back, I'm very glad I did...

shoshinkanuk's picture

Hi Gavin,

Difficult one to awnser this, as we all have our own perspective on how much we should know, to teach others.

I do know that I started teaching aged 22, after 10 years hard training and I was so far off from being ready it was crazy. But the students were happy and learn't some useful things. (This was down to poor instruction previously and my own immaturity as a person).

So roll forward to 6 years ago when I tried again (in the form of being the dojo Sensei), I feel very comftorable that I can teach our system to students, however I remain a student in our system - there are for sure elements that I am not qualified to teach so I steer clear of these things.

However saying that, part of what we do is experience/interpretation based - not direct this is this, and that is that type training, when I encounter areas like this I ask my Sensei and Sempai - and then work and test what im told so I am at least competent before I teach these areas.  

Gary Chamberlain
Gary Chamberlain's picture

I taught loads of stuff in Kyokushin that I thought was rubbish (and still do)

Unfortunately that's the deal.  If you belong to a group with a charismatic chief instructor you teach as he wants you too.  As my confidence grew and I started to research training methods I was more questioning and a bit cynical, but for years the balance was still in favour of good stuff.  I kept quiet and emphasised what I wanted to in the confines of my own dojo and paid lip service to the rest.

Eventually that became untenable.  I'm not deceitful by nature so the best thing to do was be honest and stand down.  Luckily for me Enshin has removed a lot of the dead weight from the syllabus and re-introduced grabbing and throwing.

I'm far happier now.  Life's too short to teach stuff you don't believe in.


Gavin Mulholland
Gavin Mulholland's picture

I agree with that Gary. My question really sits around stuff that you didn't have much faith in in the past, but that you subsequently came to believe in. Some of it may come down to the stage at which you decide to cut stuff loose perhaps.

diadicic's picture

I will not teach or believe what a teacher shows me unless I have faith that it is for real and at some point I will be able to pull if off on a live partner.  If I don't know somthing I simply say I don't know.  I simply have no faith.  Sometimes I wish I did.


Neil Cook
Neil Cook's picture

There is one technique that stand out for me on this subject, Juji Uke (X-Block) For years i was told it was for defending a kick to the groin, which i hated. It made no sense using your hands to essentially punch a kick while your head was undefended. However, i kept teaching the technique as i felt i wasn't ready to dismiss it. A few years later, with Mr Abernethy's help, i found a better use.

It would have been wrong for me to drop the technique because i didn't understand it, which was probably because i started teaching not long after i got my black belt because my instructor was going to close the club. This means i didn't really have the knowledge neccesary.

I did change how i taught though, i got rid of one/two/three step sparring (set attacks with set response) as i thought they were uneffective. I couldn't remember using a head block in kumite so why were we practicing it in that way? I kept the basics, as again, there must have been a reason for the technique.

Gavin Mulholland
Gavin Mulholland's picture

Diadidic wrote:
I will not teach or believe what a teacher shows me unless I have faith that it is for real and at some point I will be able to pull if off on a live partner.

But that is faith isn't it???

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

It seems like amost any martial arts training is based on faith to some degree.

Very few if any people will have used everything they've learned "for real"..even professionals.

I would think having a reasonable amount of faith in what you are doing is neccessary to get better, or even to be good at something, having NO faith in what you are doing is a recipe for failure.

That said, there is a big difference between unquesitoning, blind faith that accepts knowledge as it is given, and informed faith that comes through investigation.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

I agree that we learn almost everything on faith initially, and that subsequent experience will conform or invalidate that faith. Like most here, there are things that were a part of my practise that no longer are. However, I find Gavin’s question of (paraphrasing here) “What did we have little faith in initially, but were convinced of at a later date” very interesting. It also raises the further question, of at what point do we get rid of something? Perhaps we could drop something prematurely and miss out on the value it has? However, do we need to keep doing something decade after decade on the promise that all will become clear one day?

At the moment there is nothing I teach that I’m not 100% convinced about. I’ve dropped all the things that I was doubtful of. As an example, after almost 20 years of one-step sparring I was still not convinced of its value and hence it was dropped. However, there will no doubt be new information that I’ll come across and new ways of training that I’ll use to superseded what I’m currently doing.

As an example of things I was not sure about, but am now totally convicted about, kata would have to be the big one. Although I always enjoyed kata, I was not totally onboard with its practical value at first. However, more practise and more research has now made it central to what I do.

Interesting tread that raises many questions!

All the best,


Andrew Carr-Locke
Andrew Carr-Locke's picture

 To be fair to my students and as authentic as possible, I only teach what I have pressure tested.... and then only things that are relevant to the area of the curriculum that we are studying. 

Gavin Mulholland
Gavin Mulholland's picture

What do you count as pressure testing Andrew?

Th0mas's picture

In a word Shuto...

(didn't really fit into the KUGB-shotokan long range fighting thing at the time - also I didn't understand it and I couldn't generate any power with it...) 

and now it's my favourate technique....(jolly glad I persisted)