There’s nothing more valuable to a martial arts teacher than good questions. When someone asks me a great one (and even shows the patience to listen to my answer) it just makes my day.
When I have some insight to a question, I enjoy sharing relevant stories and details that I think might help the student’s progress.
When I’m stumped, I get to say to myself: “Oh sh**………I dunno!” (also known as OSID moments).
OSID moments are worth their weight in gold and can be more helpful in a teacher’s development than any secret scroll found in the mountains of Japan guarded by the Tengu. The more experience you gain, the more knowledge you gain. But an OSID moment is a brief glimpse into an area of your study that you have either overlooked or shortchanged during your research. Furthermore, an OSID moment invites you to peek outside of your own box, which can become rather thick and opaque if you’re not careful.
It’s true, receiving questions is vital to a teacher. We also know that getting answers is essential to any student (almost goes without saying). Why then do we often find ourselves (both as students and teachers) in situations where question-asking-paranoia kicks in?
What is question-asking-paranoia?
It’s that flutter in your stomach. That cold sweat of uncertainty that takes your half raised hand and slams it back down to your side. The symptoms develop differently at every stage of your martial training, and the internal dialogue often goes like this:
Early stage: “Ohh man, I’m just a noob. I barely know enough to stand on my own two feet let alone ask any relevant questions. The other students are going to think I’m an idiot!”
Middle stage: “Ohh man, I’m in brown belt territory. If I want to test for black belt I better not show any gaps in what I know. I think I’ll clam up until after black belt so I don’t look like an idiot.”
Late stage: “Ohh man, I’m a black belt now and the other students are looking up to me. I better pretend like I know all this stuff already or they might think I’m an idiot!”
Very late stage: “Ohh man, I’m an Nth degree black belt and super guru. I couldn’t possibly ask a question…in fact, they should be asking ME questions. These guys are idiots.”
When you compare these very common mental roadblocks with the true value of questions (as clarified above), you’ll see the incongruity. This is a disease of the ego and of external perceptions which hinders your progress.
During your training you’ll almost inevitably find yourself fall into a trap just like this. I’d like to give you express e-permission to ignore it. Your ability to ask valuable questions should be practiced just as much as any punch, kick, or stance. In fact, your long term growth will depend on it.