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The Role of a Teacher

“A teacher functions as a pointer to truth, not a giver of truth…”

Bruce Lee

What then is the role of a JKD teacher? Personally, I feel that the best answer to the above question was penned by Bruce Lee himself—

“A good teacher is a guide, not a guard. He studies each student individually and helps to awaken the student to explore himself, both internally and externally, and ultimately integrate him with his being…”

My primary goal as a JKD teacher is not only to instruct, but to inspire each student to think along with me; and develop what we refer to in JKD as a “discerning mind” and an “educated eye.” Unless a student actively participates in the “problem-solving” process, they will not fully understand Jeet Kune Do.

Another goal is to teach you “how to fish” instead of just “giving you a fish.” If I give you a technique, then you only have that technique to fall back on when a situation arises. You become dependent upon me, coming to me for more or newer techniques. But if I teach you the underlying principle, then you can find technique and develop your own. For example, when I have students practice particular punching combinations on the focus gloves, I’m not teaching so much the combinations, as the essence of combination punching. The student still has to relate any combination they use to an opponent. That’s why we say that at the Kent Institute we offer experiences rather than techniques.

To me, the major challenge inherent to teaching JKD is that the art has never had a concretized, formulaic blueprint, but rather, a series of guidelines to help lead a student to proficiency. As an instructor, I strive to constantly seek better methods or ways of training and execution, and remain flexible in my teaching approach. One of the primary objectives in JKD training is to prepare you for combat both physically and mentally, to get you as close to reality as possible, FAST! Not to have you spend years memorizing pre-established routines and countless rote techniques. But I also have to do it safely. Injuries can slow your training and retard your progress.

As a JKD instructor, I must also protect or guard you from my own partiality or prejudices. For example, I may not care for a particular kick, so I don’t use it that much. But you might develop the same kick into an awesome weapon.

There’s an old saying that states, “The teacher and the student together produce the learning.” One of the most satisfying things for me as a teacher is to see the “light go on” in a student’s eyes when they really get something. This is because I know that they did it them-selves. I may have helped guide them, but they did the work.

Sometimes I question whether I teach too quickly. But one negative thing I’ve learned about teaching is that it’s impossible to please everyone. All you can do is give students the environment and the experience. The rest is up to them. The bottom line is that, as a JKD instructor, I do not teach you so much as help you explore yourself. Each of you will retain what you want to retain. What you learn is up to you.

Finally, JKD training has often been compared to putting together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle to create a finished picture. Some people have asked me what the finished picture of JKD should look like. My answer is to tell them to look in the mirror. If they see an individual who has the ability to express himself or herself to the highest degree at any given moment and in any given situation, they’re looking at it.

I’ll close with a quote from Khalil Gibran’s classic book, “The Prophet”:

“No man can reveal aught but that which already lies half asleep at the dawning of one’s knowledge…”