Physical Training May 2004

Kim TaylorKim Taylor's occasional column with no clever name

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Letter from Sensei

Copyright © Kim Taylor 2004. All rights reserved.

I found this letter in a box in the basement, haven't a clue who wrote it but thought I'd share it with you today. - Kim

Dear students

The time has come to talk of many things, but mostly of you and me. I have a couple of things I'd like to explain to you about our little group here.

First of all, I'm not your employee. You don't pay me to be in the dojo. You pay me, to be in the dojo, there's a difference. OK you don't get it, let me be a bit more clear on that. You pay me, to be allowed to be in the dojo.

You're not my employee. I have no obligation to find you a job or provide you with money, uniforms or weapons. The spare stuff lying around here is for brand new students who are trying out the art, not for you because you're too cheap to buy them, or too lazy to bring your own to class.

If I tell you to teach the class, go teach it, don't argue with me and don't be looking at me every three seconds to see how you're doing. You're not working for me, you're learning how to teach. I'll tell you if you're doing something wrong. By the way, if you teach three classes, or three months of classes, or three years of classes, it doesn't mean you're a teacher. I'll tell you when you're a teacher, until then you're practicing.

You're not a client. You did not pay for lessons, services, or advice. You're my student which means you paid to hang around and listen to what I've got to say and show. You're not a client of our organization, you're a member, which means that if you have a problem with how things are run, get off your fat arse and do something about it. Get on a committee and do some work with something other than that mouth of yours. The only people who get to complain about how things are run around here are those who run things around here.

I'm not a bank. Your name isn't on the lease last time I looked, so get your dues in on time and we'll all have a place to work out.

I'm not your mother. If you take it out, put it back. If you spill it, clean it up. If you break it, tell someone about it so we can fix it, or fix it yourself.

I'm not your servant. If you track mud into the dojo, get the mop out of the cupboard and clean it up yourself. If you notice the bathroom getting a bit dingy, pick up the sponge and give it a wipe down on your way out the door.

I'm not your wife. It's not up to me to remind you when class is, when your next test is, or when your fees are due. You forget, and you're forgot.

I'm not your boyfriend, I don't have to see you messy and dirty or smell your pits. Take a shower before class and wash your uniform once in a while.

These are not piano lessons, and your mother didn't force you to come to class. If you don't want to be here, than don't come. If you don't feel like practicing, than don't come. If you figure it's too expensive, than don't come. The dojo is small, move over and let someone else get on the floor if you decide you don't like the class. The refund policy is in the contract.

I am a clock. Class starts when I get there. If you're there and I'm not, you're early. If you're not there and I am, you're late. That said, when I walk in the door at the designated time and you walk in after I do, you're really really late. If you make a habit of it you should ask yourself whether or not you really want to be in the class. If you walk into class a minute after the official start time and there's nobody there, it's because nobody else was there either and I had something else to do. Lock the door when you leave.

I'm not your memory. When you make the same mistake at the same place in the same kata every time you do it, you're trying to make me your memory. Don't. If you can't remember a kata that I've shown you 5 or 6 times, it only says that you're too lazy to write it down, not that you're a slow learner. I'm here to teach you new stuff, not remember the old stuff for you.

I'm not better at this than you are. I'm older and have been doing it longer. I'm telling you how to avoid all the mistakes that I made so that you'll be better than I am at the same rank. You're going to catch up and when you do I expect you to pass me. Some day you're going to be better than I am... if you're not I'm wasting my time and you're lazy.

I'm not your conscience. I drink, smoke, play around on my wife, and get involved in shady business dealings. Don't ask me for advice on how to run your life, or expect me to be an example of moral virtue. I teach you martial arts not marital arts. Use the brain your parents gave you and think for yourself.  If you do decide to follow me like a sheep, don't complain when I sell you that special stock that's guaranteed to rise 300%... and it tanks... I probably lost a bundle too. On the other hand, if you insist on asking me for advice and I give some to you, pay attention and use it, I don't talk just because I like the sound of my voice.

Remember always, I'm not your brother, I'm not stuck with you.

Have a nice day

Kim Taylor is publisher of EJMAS and a maker of bokuto, you can see some of his work at

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Physical Training May 2004