Tuesday 2 April 2013

...It's harder to find a good student?

Davidine Sim
Traditionally, in the world of Chinese martial arts, if students wanted their teacher to take an interest in their development it was understood that the onus was on the student to demonstrate their commitment. Not just in words, but in action - by invariably showing up and giving 100% - not just showing their face when it was convenient. In this post I'd like to share an extract from an article by Davidine Sim on the nature of the student teacher relationship:

...It's harder to find a good student?

I didn't understand this statement until I became a teacher myself. In the 15 years that I've taught the truth of this statement has become more apparent and valid.  The first part of this statement is " It's hard to find a good teacher".

My teachers must have been tired of seeing my face.  I was an ever present 'stalker'. I was indiscriminate in my attendance - the thirst for understanding this fascinating, complex and hugely misunderstood discipline meant that I went to all the classes I could go to, irrespective of what the teaching programmes were.  As I progressed 'up the rank', I continued to line up with the beginners and repeated what I've done countless numbers of times, always discovering some new aspects of the art as I did so.  I'd like to qualify that I didn't do this under duress.  I genuinely enjoyed, and still enjoy, the energy of being in a class, of  being guided  into postures that I would  hold until the legs scream for release and the body loses the essential quality of relaxation.  Or until the teacher tells me to move.  For me it was inconceivable that there would, indeed could, be a class without me!  

I've 'stalked' my teachers to over 20 cities in different parts of the  world.  I did not inform my teacher that I
Davidine Sim being guided by Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang - 1998
was coming, I just went. After all, when you go to school you don't inform your teacher each day that you're turning up.  Nor do you take time off whenever you feel like it.  I did not discuss my 'lesson plan', nor did I tell the teacher what to teach, or what I 'preferred' to learn. The teacher knows the curriculum!  There's always something new to learn.  Some aspect one can improve on.

A good student therefore is not the strongest, fittest, youngest, most intelligent.  But the most interested and committed.

The relationship between a teacher and a student develops over time.  Not in term of months, but years.   A student's commitment to training, in actions not in rhetoric, and his/her attendance, for self-development and not for association, earns a teacher's respect.  Yes, respect goes both ways, although it takes different forms.  This respect manifests in the teacher taking the student's progression seriously - by proper, appropriate and timely instruction and guidance.


  1. Great piece. I'm reminded again of a recent conversation with GMCXX. I asked him what it meant for him and his family to have disciples. He told me about their history (family) as teachers - how due to culture and dynasty they had to be hidden, not that they wanted to stay hidden. How now it is different, they can teach openly. As our conversation progressed we moved into the topic of students. He and the family have many, but even with this family, those "many" don't stick around. The ones that stick around are rare. The translator said, "do you find those students?" CXX said, "no, they find us."

  2. Very true, David and Davidine. And great reply, Embrace the Moon! I, too, have been teaching for 15 years (I started teaching another system just as I was being introduced to Chen Taiji). So many students come and go. When one comes along who sees it as a lifelong journey, it's as exciting for me as it is for them. The ones who stand out are the ones who understand that they won't "get it" very quickly -- they realize how difficult it is -- but they keep coming back anyway because the difficulty is the enjoyable part.


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