By Sensei Guy Hagen, October 6, 2014

Mitsugi Saotome Shihan: the Teacher as Designer

After this weekend’s Instructor Seminar in DC, I was sitting in the house with Saotome Sensei, and senseis Patty, Chetan, John, Thurston and Nina. Sensei elaborated more on his discussion of what he means by “designing” that I thought was really valuable.

He said that it would be unthinkable for a surgeon to make the same cuts, remove the same tissue from the same place, on one cancer patient after another – but many martial art teachers teach with exactly that mindset. “only one patient, treat all same”. He said that in ASU, we have a responsibility to treat every student as an individual, and create a “customized instruction” for each student so they can express the infinite variety of DNA and experience that life has given them.

The second example he gave was clothing – “we are not factories selling clothing, same sizes and shapes to many people. We are custom designers, designing the clothing to fit each person, their body shape, their personality”.

He emphasized that when he talks about “designing”, it’s not just customizing the response to each uke’s attack, but customizing our response to teaching each student as instructors and dojo cho.

“I have only one student. One thousand unique individuals, each different than me.”


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