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Koryu – Teaching in the Old School

It’s easy to paste posters with positive words such as “teamwork” and “self-confidence” all over the walls. However, posters and coloring books are superficial efforts at instilling those attributes into people. My responsibility as a Sensei of the old school is to demonstrate virtue everyday through the way I live, teach, and train.

All too often, I see schools that are skim-coated in virtue. The homework assignments and badges on their uniforms mention one set of values, while the words and actions of the teachers and students tell a different story.

For example, many years ago during a board breaking class, I witnessed a teacher suggest that a student should imagine her sibling’s face on a board before breaking the board. The student looked at the teacher, bewildered. Of course, it was all in lighthearted humor but nonetheless, this type of suggestion teaches students to externalize their feelings in a negative manner.

When a student steps up to a daunting (yet surmountable) challenge, one is in the optimal zone for learning. My curriculum includes gross motor skills development, self-defense, escapes, reversals, strikes, takedowns, and ground skills but the true focus of my teaching is to develop the warrior spirit and moral character of my students. This is the spirit of the Koryukan – The Old School.

The old school method of teaching is a craft, or skill that cannot be learned through studying books in a library or university. Such a skill is based on first studying oneself, others, and also nature. A certain sense of awareness is required in order to challenge the right student, on the right day, in a particular way, and to precisely the optimal degree.

When such learning occurs, the student becomes empowered with knowledge and experience.