At the end of class, as we sat in seiza, I had a realization. And so I asked:
Who was tested here today?
In fact, I set out that morning only to assess their readiness, not to “test” anyone, so there was no announcement that this was what had occurred. After the members speculated a bit, I gave them my answer:
In the past, I’ve always thought of teaching as a secondary activity. When I explained tough exercises to my friends in grade school, it was part of being a friend. When I taught RF theory to fellow soldiers operating different radio equipment, it was sharing my extra knowledge from ham radio studies with my peers so we could better accomplish our missions. When I tutored junior students in intensive foreign language studies, it benefited my own understanding. When I tutored fellow undergraduates, it was part of keeping food on the table for my family. When I taught undergraduate classes as a graduate student, it was part of my duties. When I occasionally led Aikido classes as a 2nd or 1st kyu, it was in support of my instructor who allowed me to train when I had no money. When I shared my knowledge about techniques and technologies with my peers on the job, it was helping interns to learn. When I taught night classes at the community college, it was so I could help make ends meet. When I coached friends on the intricacies of standing up businesses, it was just about being a friend. When we homeschool our children, we are simply doing what we believe is best for our children.
Currently, I am also an Aikido instructor—and once again, teaching is out of necessity. I wanted very much both to increase our dojo’s ranks and to bring our group’s Aikido to our homeschool community, but between those thoughts and the implementation a little over two months later, I was asked to leave the local dojo. At least until someday when we might affiliate with a larger organization with senior instructors who can help us, I am the club’s de facto teacher for over twenty students.
Standing alone, I set initial testing requirements based upon my past experience and other groups curricula. This past Friday, a little over three months since our club’s first meeting, four of our members demonstrated that they had met these requirements.
I cannot count the number of tests I’ve created, administered, graded, or supported over the years. I’ve tested 50 or more people at a time in different environments, but the testing of these four students was profoundly different; it was fundamentally more meaningful to me in many ways: They are my first Aikido students, this was their first Aikido test, and these are the first students I alone have had the privilege to promote.
It was not my intention to do this alone; however, having accepted this Path, I am learning more than I could have expected about many things, especially myself.
I will continue to flesh out those thoughts over time, though for today I am left with this: Is it possible that all of my life I have walked the Path of a teacher and called it anything but? Is it likely that I routinely find myself in the role of teacher if that is not a natural state for me?
It may be time to reexamine my Path from a different perspective.