About Teacher and Master
Japan differs between Teacher and Master. Teacher means "Sensei", Master means "Shihan".
It is nice to see that this kind of thinking also exists outside of the martial arts in regular Japan. At my numerous journeys to Japan I often heard that people, no matter which profession they had, had been called Sensei, because there level of perfection was very high.
Shihan Toyoshima once told me that on principle the belief exists that everybody knows something very well. Therefore the person can be a teacher for everybody else. That is the reason why the person is called Sensei.How often did I hear in the west:" I do not know something really good."
I always answer: " That is not true, you just can not see it right now."It also happend to me that japanese after we had breaken the language barrier and we had talked with hands and feet, with drawings an papers, always wanted to know where I am good at. This habit I sometimes miss in Europe.
Because of the strong influence of ZEN to the japanese way of living, carefulness, respect and accuracy are the major goals. This you can see in the daily work of this people and from that the understanding comes that everybody can teach everbody.
There is no need for ostentatious proclaiming of being a teacher or even a master, like it is common in Europe. The opposite is true, it is considered as rude to do so.
ZEN shows that a real teacher simply IS. Authentic and clear. It depends on the person himself, on his discipline, will power and effort to become good in something. The recognition is for sure, because the person stays authentic.
I have seen too many "teachers" and "master" in Europe, who proclaimed their status only because of diplomas, certificates and positions in organisations. They always legitimated themself through this papers not through their own personality. After Erich Fromm this people tend more to HAVE than to BE.
In fact I noticed more often that the students in Europe had been very disciplined and authentic in learning the schools. But they always had been stunted in their maturity not become better than their teachers.
An evidence of incapacity of self-confidence of this teachers.
Because of the major influence of Confucius in Japans legal and politic framework the focus on discipline and dutifulness it was arranged hierachically.
Hierachy has a bad taste in Europe. But beneath contempt it also makes sense. The master stand on a higher level as the teacher. This is obvious because the master also teaches teachers. But, and this is very important, he takes responsibility for his students. A master differs to the teacher because of knowingly and deliberatly taking personal responsibilty.
This is his personal utmost concern. Students need a lighthouse on there way. This is the master, the halt.
Very early I realized to dedicate my life to the school. It was very clear to me from the beginning that this will not work without privations and a kind of self-abandonment. When you betake yourself into the hands of your master, you must be sure that it will not be abused. You need to trust.
But real masters I was not lucky to find in Europe. I experienced that my efforts, my energy, my time and my courtesy was abused for personal benefits only.
After deep self-reflexion I went to Japan, to meet the masters there and lucky enough I found them there.
What characterises a master?
They are an example of humanity, honesty, empathy and silence. Sihan Toyoshima for example gives free english lessons to his students. He always tells me with a smile on his face:"My students are all more clever than me, and this makes me happy."
When I tried my test for the fifth DAN in IAIJUTSU, for which I have been the first European ever, all of the japanese masters wished me to pass the test.
At that day it did not work and afterwards all of them came to me to help me with training, tried to support me. No malicious joy, no instructions, just a very sensitive and empathically way of taking me in the arms for making my loss bearable.
THIS is, what I call masters. Responsibility, Honour, Respect and Empathy for each student.
Do not be blinded by certificates, diplomas and ranks. Humanity, Empathy and Responsibility can not be hidden. You might say that you can not estimate how much a master knows. Thats right. But you can sense if he is respectful, polite and he feels empathy and he is authentic.
And THAT is the MOST important quality of a master.
In the end the most important quality of all.
Masters constantly work on themself. Soke Nakamura still teaches three times a week. He is close to be eighty years old. He is teaching for almost 60 years.
Shihan Toyoshima teaches six times a week for more then thirty years.
Shihan Morita teaches four times a week for more than thirty years.
And many more.
THEY WORK, THEY TEACH, THEY DO.
No matter which ranks, certificates or diplomas.
Once I heard on european "master" saying: " Training is only for people, who need it. I know everthing, I do not need to train." A comment is unnecessary.