Poison Teachers Can Poison Spirits
A casual student of mine asked permission to study with another instructor for a short time. He was not leaving our school, but had heard that instructor claim to be a specialist in a certain technique, and he wanted to explore that man’s specialized knowledge.
Of course I gave him permission. To forbid him exposure to that teacher would make me look like a coward. I would look like I was fearful that I did not have the goods to compete with another man.
I have experienced that kind of cowardice from the other end. Friends of mine have sponsored my seminars in their cities and run into just that kind of weak behavior. It is no secret that other local instructors, claiming to teach the same thing I learned from my teacher, have forbidden their students from attending a seminar with me. They use all sorts of pretenses to justify blocking their students from meeting me and seeing what this martial art is supposed to look like. But in reality, those teachers (and I) know they secretly fear they cannot compete against what I offer, and are really sweating what would happen if their students got a chance to train with me for two days.
Not being a coward, I had to OK my student exploring with that other teacher. But as a caring friend, I had to warn him against the spirit poisoning he would endure spending time with the individual in question. If he opened himself to that particular man’s influence, he opened himself to the power of that man’s twisted psyche full of haunted memories of authority figures disdaining him as inadequate. The teacher in question was a veneer of confident smirking sarcastic superiority covering a deep black hole of resentment for those who lived brighter than he, and beneath his pretended coolness his ego personality boiled in angry intensity.
Be very careful of even temporarily looking up to poison people, I warned my friend. Even a present of pure gold becomes poison if delivered in a radioactive box. He assured me he would be careful not to come under the spell of the polluting teacher, but I knew he had no idea of just how extremely difficult that would be.
So, how do you reconcile any possible appearance of contradiction in my above bluntly stated derision of those who block their students from meeting me, and my concern for my student working with another teacher? Am I being a hypocrite? Am I advocating one thing when I get to win, and something different when it works against me?
Well, the way I see it, your teacher and your training partners determine not only what you study and learn as a martial artist, but also who you develop into as a human being and how you walk in the world.
Where you train is what you become. Study in a disorganized rag-tag school and you are likely to become a disorganized low-expectations person. Study in a violent high-fear school and you are likely to become a highly violent fearful person. Study with a monstrous ego teacher and you will become a groupie instead of a person of power. Study with a bully and you will come to see you deserve bullying. Study with a teacher who lurches from fad to fad and you will find that instead of building steadily improving skills, you are always starting over with some new and different tactic for handling what scares you. Study with a loser who ridicules those more powerful and successful than he is and you too will learn to be a loser.
When it comes to others considering me as a teacher, I am always ready to be put to the test. I am willing to be judged and compared.
What you see is what you get. Look at my life, my skills, my books, my DVDs, my home, my family, my friends, my philosophy, my work, my impact in the world, and if you would like to have any of that in your life, train with me and I can demonstrate how to do it. I can teach what I have mastered.
On the other hand, if you are more attracted to some other teacher who has a life and story and philosophy very different from mine, and that really appeals to you, you had better study there. He or she is the expert on living very differently from Stephen K. Hayes.
If you want to become the kind of teacher that lots of high quality people want to study with, you need to be the kind of student who is highly demanding when it comes to the teachers you spend even a short amount of time with.
It’s a real joy & treat to read your personal, blunt, straight-to-the-point views in this densho blog.
It still is one of the things that frustrates (might not be the best word) me so much…
If only “our good work” could infect as quickly those poisonous ones….wouldn’t that be great?!
This writing is exactly why I continue to see you as my teacher! You honestly give your views & opinions and allow each of us to walk our own path. In times like these it is indeed good to hear your voice resonating.
Chad ‘Ho-Mon’ VanVorst
Very interesting post. Makes me think. Thanks!
Hello An-Shu Stephen K. Hayes,
That is so real. For the people we chose to have around, especially learn from, can have a profound influence upon us. Others vibrations, energy, will become a part of our own. Then manifest our thoughts, even perceptions. Going on to be reflected in our words we express, then end up being made real through
our actions. So, let us chose wisely we align our energy with.
Thank you for sharing this wisdom with us, along with being such an illuminary teacher as well. Best Always, Bill
Very deep and interesting points that make me analyse my own motives and methods. That cannot be a bad thing (or a negative start).
The very best to you and yours,
One of the ways I judge the potential value of an instructor is by the amount and quality of his or her senior students. A good teacher attracts good people and those people tend to stick around.
In terms of the poison analogy, I was also thinking how there are many types of poison. Some poisons might have a very quick negative effect, but have antidotes which are easily available. Other poisons may seem harmless but have effects which act slowly and to great detriment over time.
Worth considering, perhaps, how these 2 types of ‘poison’ might appear in the situations Anshu describes.
I first heard you speak of this concept at a seminar it is was a very profound concept for me. It rankled me in some ways as I’d like to believe that I am capable of “only taking the good” but the more I thought about, the more I realized the truth of the concept. I hear people say all the time, “You are what you eat” and I think that this is true of our minds and spirits, as well as our bodies. I know use this concept as a factor in making decisions about what product lines I carry in the pro-shop, what businesses I patronize, and with whom I choose to spend my time. Thank you for always being honest and trusting us to take the time to understand the hidden lessons.
The worth of a teacher has little to do with the kind of students they attract. If anything, it has more to do with the kind of student the instructor is.
One of my newest favorite sayings, which I learned from Nan Huaijin: “My eyes were clear, until blinded by the teacher.”
The post was indeed inspiring to me since although I am in a different situation, I understand the poison and how stability is important and your honesty and lack of fear are good for the spirit. I believe being honest with ourselves is so very important. It frees us to face our fears and then to see that attempting to control really never works in the end. Then we are not free.
All things codeenirsd, this is a first class post