Last CIK seminar dedicated to Iaido instructors, masterfully held by Claudio Zanoni, Detlef Uedelhoven and Andrea Setti, was characterised by responsibility and communication.
After an interesting introduction on the safety and responsibility of the instructor, in my opinion topics we never talk enough about, I particularly appreciated this edition focused on method rather than on technique. In my professional life I am often involved in those actions defined as T3 (Train The Trainer) or Instruct the Instructor, where a person defined as SME, Subject-Matter Expert, with a particular preparation in a defined area, makes available own experience to educate those who in turn will have to explain that specific subject to someone else. And through feedback from participants’ different perspectives and experiences, the group becomes a real community, able to constructively share knowledge, thus contributing in delivering the appropriate education.
This seminar was set up precisely on this fundamental exchange, that goes beyond the practice of Iaido, the knowledge of kata or the understanding of Budo, that in my opinion are certainly fundamental parts of the training, but equally certainly not differentiating a practitioner from a teacher. Seminar main theme had to be found in the context of the qualities and skills of a teacher in relating to their students through preparation, method and communication.
The forty or so participants were divided into about ten groups, homogeneous by degrees, with a specific task: turn-based kata execution and the subsequent corrective comment, not simply to highlight errors, if any, rather on how to correct them. After having witnessed the guided execution of a kata, highlighting some qualifying points also through the comparative reading from different versions of the ZNKR text and commenting on the execution as per provided guidelines, the commission then provided ideas for each group analytical approach so that we could continue along the lines, and after half an hour then rejoining the other groups for a complete shugo in which to share our training experience, regardless of grade, age, and type of students to whom we are targeting.
In its most basic application, communication is the basis of a relationship, and in this case not only the one between teacher and practitioner, but also, and especially in this specific case, between teachers. A constructive discussion was born, in which everyone was able to participate, as it should be in a real community with a passion and a common task, as disclosure and education through positive and enthusiastic involvement.
There was obviously no lack of moments in which specific personal examples were also addressed, and again the level of communication was as open and transparent as possible, in order to grow, as people and as a group, according ZNKR Kendo principles.
Unless particular factors intervene, a Way is followed for a lifetime: becoming a teacher is therefore not a point of arrival, but only another point of passage, which should be crossed with full awareness, not as an act due to other merits. A teacher becomes a student himself, with the humility that follows, through a different and somhow more difficult study, because it is mediated by a personal experience gained over the years that leads to preconceptions.
Shunryu Suzuki reminds us how an empty mind is always ready for, and open to, anything, and yet how in the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, as opposed to that of the expert. It is therefore essential to know how to see, to know how to question oneself and to know how to elaborate an effective method, and above all to know how to compare, ready to take a suggestion from those who may have lived a similar experience but seen from another perspective. As a beginner begins to copy a master in his first personal phase of the shuhari, an teacher can surely refer to another teacher to broaden his views and appropriate different teaching techniques, first copying and then customizing, to try to overcome an impasse.
A seminar therefore that brought to the attention of the participants the need to dialogue and to build together, as a real community should do, without the fear of confrontation, as well as the need to expand one’s knowledge and methods, in endless progression oof studying fueled by interest and enjoyment in applying into.
As Musashi taught us, it is difficult to understand the universe if you study only one planet.