The Student/Teacher Relationship

My wife, my kids, my friends, my teachers. These are some of the most valuable relationships I have in my life. They are all reciprocal, loving, compassionate relationships that share a lot of qualities with one another. There’s mutual respect and consideration. There’s understanding and support. There’s patience and space for growth.

Despite all of these similarities it would be absurd to think that my relationship with my wife is the same as my relationship to my son. It would be just as absurd to try to make my relationship to my teachers the same as my relationships to my friends.

My teachers are distinctly not my friends. They are my mentors. And under their guidance I have been able to achieve things that were near impossible before I met them. They have taught me to think more deeply, to care more, to love more, and to aim higher. They’ve helped me raise my self-esteem, move with fluidity, and to respond rather than react.
Part of our love for our teachers derives from the feeling we get when we see results based on their tutelage.  Which is why we tend to want to be closer to them. We think that if we see them more often or outside of the martial arts setting that it will help us glean more of their wisdom. We idolise them and we think if we know more about them we can be more like them. The reality is we begin to see them as a friend or a peer. We tend to see their flaws and their short comings. Its not as if we didn’t know they were human before. But now we know it all too well. When we look through the lens of their flaws we not only see them differently but we hear them differently. We heed their advice differently. And then our results are different. All of a sudden we’ve gained a friend but we’ve lost a teacher. And now we’re searching for something new. When we try to change this relationship the result is that we corrupt it and ultimately destroy it.
If you want to maximize your relationship with your instructor, do everything you can do to make sure those roles don’t change. You are the student and they are the teachers.


If you want to learn more train more. 
If you want to understand more listen more. 
And if you want to be more do more.

How I Stopped Making Fear-Based Decisions

I’ve always found it incredibly admirable when people are able to turn their biggest challenges into their greatest victories. Many of us have been inspired by stories of Beethoven and his ability to overcome deafness to write some of the world’s most beautiful symphonies.

And from an instructor’s point of view, it’s no less powerful to watch a student turn low self-esteem into an ever-growing, positive self-image.

One of the troubles I struggled with as a younger person was my own fear of rejection. In it’s mildest form, it was a worry that I wouldn’t be accepted. It seemed to show up everywhere I looked:

I thought I wouldn’t be able to make friends.
I thought I wouldn’t ever have a girlfriend.
I thought people would laugh at me if I tried out for the team and looked foolish or didn’t make it.  

I took everything so personally.  If I called someone and they didn’t call me back, it was wasn’t because they were busy or just missed my call – it was because there was something wrong with me.

When I look back, I was allowing my fears to dictate my decisions. As a result, I never felt like I was making mental or emotional progress. I wasn’t taking any meaningful steps to a better life, no matter what activities or sports or hobbies I was involved with.

It’s my belief that as adults, we often stay in negative, unfulfilling relationships because we’re afraid to risk the vulnerability it takes to enter new, good relationships.

For me, it reached a point where if someone was willing to influence me I would let them. It didn’t matter if they were influencing me positively or negatively; I just went along.

My fear of rejection drove me to do “whatever it took” to feel included. I lied, cheated, and stole in order to avoid being rejected.  And in the end, I was barely holding on to my integrity by a thread.

What happened?

Well, it started by reading a few books and honestly looking at where I was in my life. What came next was Martial Arts training.

I began at BBJJ partly because it stripped away my trouble spots – there wasn’t any “team” I had to make it onto, and there weren’t any “in-crowds” for me to try to fit in with. I could focus on my own personal goals without that fear of not being accepted.

Most people think martial arts practice – especially Jiu-Jitsu – is about getting “up close and personal” with a sparring partner or a classmate doing the techniques. But when I started practicing regularly, I got “up close and personal” with myself and my fears. 

With guidance from my instructors, I started to see myself acting out of fear…and once I started to see it, I couldn’t NOT see it.

That gave me the impetus to go to work.

Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gave me the confidence that I didn’t have to do the work alone. I understood that my teachers had my back – it was like knowing I had a net while walking on a high wire.

So I did what they told me to do – I read more, and I listened more.  I learned to discern who might help me…and who might not.

Ultimately, I’ve been able to swing the pendulum so far in the other direction that I am now actually able to BE a positive influence on so many people.

Now, I can’t say that I never make decisions out of fear anymore…but I can say that it’s rare. And I can look myself in the mirror and know: I turned one of my greatest challenges into one of my greatest victories.

Challenges have the potential for greatness – not just despair.  I recently dealt with an injury and I immediately looked at how it will eventually add to my Jiu-Jitsu practice and my life rather than detract from it. My teacher has always told me that tough times don’t last…tough people do. 

And through this personal experience of turning challenges to victories through this BBJJ training, I now know that it’s true.