Do you teach all you know?

Discussion in 'Silat' started by Bobster, Aug 25, 2006.

  1. Bobster

    Bobster Valued Member

    I try to avoid posting various articles I have written on more than one board, but this is an interesting topic to me. I would be appreciative if anyone here can offer some insight.

    A while back a fellow Silat enthusiast & I got into a debate about teaching, of all things. At the end of the discussion, I came to the conclusion that I have either been ignoring the current trends in Martial Arts, or just living in a really, really white neighborhood.

    We both came up from the old school, where you waited, trained & begged for years, even decades before you were given anything beyond the basics. As the years went on & the world opened up (mostly due to the internet) I found teachers who were happy to train & share their art with me, as well as those who wrapped it in mysticism, religion and vagueness, leaving me to guess what I was doing on my own. Foremost of the best teachers I ever had was the late Pendekar Herman Suwanda, who for me was a shining example of a man who loved his country and it’s art so much, you couldn’t stop him from talking/teaching/demonstrating at the drop of a HINT that you were interested.

    Before I get to the bulk of this post, you should know a little background about me, so you will have a clear line of sight as to why I think & teach the way I do, and why I am posting this. Please bear with me.

    I have been training Pencak Silat for over 20 years now. Mostly, I only trained for myself, to perfect my technique & understand this unique art to it’s fullest, particularly knife technique. I am not Muslim, or even remotely religious, so my focus has been purely on the PHYSICAL. But in all my time, I never once thought of teaching it, mostly because I wasn’t interested. I always kept on finding more methods, different styles, even different regional methods (Sunda, Java, Balinese, etc) for Silat. So as years went on, and I acquired skill, knowledge, and the rank that went with it, I just kept it quietly to myself, a hobby that nobody else would understand anyway.

    Five years ago, an acquaintance of mine from a Wing Chun school asked me to show him some Silat. We had a good session, and he requested to become my student full time. Trying to just shrug him aside without hurting his feelings (I didn’t hate him or anything) I said “Why don’t you wait a year, and when you feel more solid in your Wing Chun, we can do it then”. He agreed & I PROMPTLY forgot about it, thinking the matter resolved. Since I would train at this school from time to time, we would see each other & work out together but no mention of my comment was ever made. So at the end of a year, he again approaches me with the same request. Without remembering what I said the first time, I answered “Why don’t you wait a year, and when you feel more solid in your Wing Chun, we can do it then”. At this point he reminded me that he HAD waited a year, and that was exactly what I had said back THEN.

    Now again, let me state that:

    1: He wasn’t yet a friend of mine
    2: I still didn’t care to teach

    So you will understand why my next answer was: “Well, in that case, the answer is no. Find somebody else to train with”. He seemed let down with this, of course, but I honestly didn’t have a second thought about it. After class was over, the Instructor of the school asked me to stay. When everybody had left, he BERATED me for not sharing what I knew, even casually. He pointed out that the person who had asked me was a good, decent man, who had waited a full year just to hear me turn him down. There were several other things he said to me, but you get the point.

    So, a month later, I had a small Kali & Silat class going in my garage. The class has grown from one person to 15 (My poor garage can’t hold anymore!!) and I often have to turn people away because there is no room.
    My school enjoys a good mix of cultures, training and camaraderie. People have come and gone, but there is a solid core of students who train and work hard. And the man who originally requested to train with me has become one of my closest friends, and a great source of knowledge for me and my family (he’s a doctor). Teaching this art that has meant so much to me in life has been a blessing I never knew existed. I don’t regret it for a moment, and never would have discovered this side of the art, had I continued to merely train and not teach.

    Now, having said all that (still with me?) back to my post:

    When I decided to teach, I saw no other way than to simply give all I have, and develop students to the best of my abilities. Pa Herman once said that your students are a direct reflection on YOU. If they fail to move properly, it is not their fault, it is YOURS, as is the shame of allowing them to carry on in ignorance. Taking this to heart, I teach each student with their best interest in mind. I have had examples of both good and bad teachers, and I don’t want my students thinking of me they way I thought of some of the bad ones. I would like to be known for giving good training & quality information, not “Well, we know he knows SOMETHING, but he doesn’t really teach it”.

    The thing is, I have spoken to several Silat instructors in the past few months who believe in teaching by withholding. Not all teach in America, but most do.

    Here are a few reasons I have heard in the past few weeks:

    “You shouldn’t teach everything because…”

    1: “They may someday challenge you & use what they know against you.”

    I put this one first because it’s the one most commonly used. It also comes directly out of every Kung Fu movie I have ever seen. If I have even the SLIGHTEST notion that somebody I teach will try to attack me someday, I’ll simply ask him to leave my school. Go train with master Yang & kick his ass in 20 years. I understand that this happens from time to time in Asia, though. However, my thought process still leads me here: Why teach him at all if you suspect? And 15-20 years is a LONG time to hold a grudge!

    2: “I put in decades of training, sweat & blood to get this information, I should just give it out in a few years to you?”

    This one has very little reality to it, in my opinion. Yeah, I put in LOTS of time and effort to get this. I have been teaching for only four years now, but guess what? My most advanced students are nowhere NEAR even a quarter of my knowledge…They can barely retain me teaching a little of what I know over long periods of time…And I teach it by the gallon! They, like myself, must put in the HOURS and the EFFORT to reap the benefits. It will not come in just a few months, or even years. If you attract advanced martial artists to your school, they will naturally have a distinct advantage over your other students, especially if they come from the same style, i.e. Silat. But they would have to be with me for quite a long period of time before they could get everything I have to give, cultivate it to effectiveness, and move on to the next level of their martial evolution.

    3: “If they get all they can from you, they’ll leave your school to train somewhere else and you won’t get their money anymore”

    I understand this one better, because there are many who do teach for money. I myself don’t, so it doesn’t matter to me. Also, I encourage my students to seek out other instructors so they will have varied points of view, not just my own. As I said, I want what’s best for THEM, not ME. But for people who rely on student income for their livelihood, I can see some truth to this. But I do have a question: Do you worry about your reputation when a student realizes he isn’t getting the real thing, or everything you COULD give? If word gets around that you won’t show it, where will your finances be then? There is a famous Dutch-Indo Guru who was recently brought down because of this. He underestimated the power of the internet. It was what made him famous & popular in the beginning. It was also what ruined him when the word got out about his teaching method & lack of advanced skills. People today aren’t as gullible in the martial arts as they were back in the 70’s & 80’s, at least not for long. The general public is armed with more information nowadays then ever before, and they can smell a rat.

    4: “They have to prove they are worthy of it/loyalty”

    I think after the first few months, loyalty has either been proved or disproved. There was a time when you just about had to swear eternal servitude to the master to gain instruction in the Martial Arts. My students shouldn’t have to pull me out of a burning building in order to learn the Kujang Jurus from me. To me, loyalty means that they attend class regularly, pay their tuition on time, and WORK HARD. When I see them sweating & bleeding, trying to work out Paleradan on the double beat, I am reminded that I am as lucky to be their teacher as they are to be my students. I owe them my loyalty as well as vice-versa.

    I feel that, although the teacher is the source of knowledge, it is the student who pays dearly for it, in money, sweat and blood, as well as time spent training. Both the teacher and the student invest days of thier lives training. After class, the Guru will go home & relax, or focus his attention on other things. The earnest Silat student will dedicate time between classes, as well as entire years of his life mastering the art taught to him in school. For this reason, the student deserves honesty in payment for his efforts, and it is a poor teacher who would withhold information in the face of such dedication. For a student who has demonstrated willingness, loyalty, dedication and submission to his instructor, such martial knowledge as the Guru can bestow should be freely given. It does no credit to the teacher to withhold knowledge for years on end while trying to decide if a student is worthy or not. If you have accepted a student, then TEACH HIM. If you are unsure, cease all instruction after a few months and ask the student to seek training elsewhere. At my school, there is a one month evaluation period. This month is entirely free to the prospective murid, and I encourage them to attend as many classes as possible. If at the end of the first month I don’t think they will work out with the school or myself, they can go elsewhere and no financial loss to them. During that month, I teach a normal curriculum as would any regular paying student that I had already accepted.

    This is not to say that a student should be given every single detail in a few days, or even years. Just as food in a full stomach needs time to digest & be converted to fuel for the body, martial knowledge must be dispersed in moderate doses such as the student can take. Too much food on your plate will only cause indigestion, not nourish you. Some knowledge and concepts can only be grasped SLOWLY, through constant repetition and effort.

    The thing to understand is that an open training environment encourages growth & trust between teacher and student. By passing on the knowledge, the Guru gets a deeper understanding of it himself (I find this to be true more and more as the years go by). By training hard & trusting his teacher, the student can advance in skill at a steady rate, and experience personal growth augmented by confidence in his abilities.

    As I said at the beginning of this post, I am new to teaching Silat. I am still fumbling my way through the mistakes of training other people, and I have filled entire volumes on what I have discovered about myself and my art since I opened my school. I would like to sincerely ask anybody who reads this post, Guru, Pendekar or Murid, if you have any advice, I would truly like to hear it. I posted this because, maybe I am doing it wrong. I seem to be the only one with this attitude towards my school. I would welcome any comments from my brothers and sisters in Pencak Silat.

    Lastly: This post was worded as hypothetical as I could make it. I am very fortunate to know & in some cases train with the people who browse this and other forums. This is entirely MY OPINION, not trying to pass it off as fact. I don’t mean to insult or instigate anybody here, such is not my intention, please don’t view it that way.

    Thank you,

    Bobbe Edmonds
  2. Steve Perry

    Steve Perry Valued Member

    Bobbe --

    As a teacher, my goal in transmitting any knowledge is to achieve a student who eventually surpasses me in it. As a practitioner of a skill, my goal is to be as good at it as I can be.

    I don't see how these two are at odds, or that by having a student who may someday be better than I in any way diminishes me. If my student blossoms into a brighter star than I, it's at least a partial testament to my skill as a teacher.

    I won't live long enough to become as adept as my teacher, who is thirty years ahead of me and continuing to learn. That doesn't bother me, either, it's just how it is.

    You are on the right track from where I sit. Roll on ...
  3. aikiMac

    aikiMac aikido + boxing = very good Moderator Supporter

    If you don't teach all that you know, you're selfish.
    Selfishness is the antithesis of being a teacher.

    Enough said.
  4. fire cobra

    fire cobra Valued Member

    I try to teach what i think the student needs to know at any particular time,usually i can tell what that is by a) how they move and b) what questions they ask me.Teaching what you know to quickly is a waste of your time and the students(imho) and can just become entertainment for the student and showing of for the teacher!. I have made many mistakes when teaching over the past 20 years or more and im sure i will make many more in the coming years,but if the teacher teaches with a giving heart and the right intention then that is all the student can hope :) for,i think a good student/teacher relationship takes a good few years to develop
  5. tellner

    tellner Valued Member

    I don't know everything I can do, and I can't do everything I know. I just teach as best as I can. By the time students get to where I am now I'll have learned something else.
  6. fire cobra

    fire cobra Valued Member

    thats great tellner :)
  7. realitychecker

    realitychecker New Member


    Great post! Please do not take this wrong, but I noticed a slight contridiction in what you said.
    "I understand this one better, because there are many who do teach for money. I myself don’t, so it doesn’t matter to me."
    ...And later on in the post...
    "At my school, there is a one month evaluation period. This month is entirely free to the prospective murid, and I encourage them to attend as many classes as possible. If at the end of the first month I don’t think they will work out with the school or myself, they can go elsewhere and no financial loss to them. During that month, I teach a normal curriculum as would any regular paying student that I had already accepted."

    I only ask you this because one of my former Silat instructors claimed to others that he did not charge for lessons, yet charged all of us out the yin-yang. Later we discovered he charged all of us different rates, some of those being outragous. Needless to say, he lost a batch of loyal students after this discovery. The shame was that he was an excellent martial artist, and a really good teacher. He was a horrible businessman.
    He even charged a higher rate to some who wanted to learn higher jurus from the system.
    I realize that that's not what YOU are about. I have always heard great things about you, Bobbe.
    Just an observation...
    Take care,
  8. kiaiki

    kiaiki Valued Member

    Teach all you know, then you'll really get to know all you teach! :)
  9. Steve Perry

    Steve Perry Valued Member


    John --

    Bobbe isn't saying he doesn't charge anything, only that he doesn't try to earn his living as as a silat teacher.

    Not that there is anything wrong with being a full-time teacher. The difference is, to do that, you need to have enough students coming and going to pay rent on a school and to make a living, which means there is a difference in how you have to approach it.

    If you have a job and you come home from that and then spend hours teaching silat because you love it and want to pass it on, that's another game. With a handful of regular players, you can't make enough money to rent a building, much less live on that income.

    In a lot of places, the U.S. in particular, people don't attach a lot of value to anything that is free. Even if the amount isn't much, it means you are serious if you are willing to pay it. And a teacher can use that to weed out those who would try anything as long as it is free. (I'm pretty sure Bobbe is like most martial arts teachers I know, if a student were to fall on hard times, even that fee would be waived.)

    A lawyer in this country can charge two or three hundred dollars an hour for his or her service. A really good lawyer gets twice that. There are hundreds of lawyers in my town, dozens of them really good. There is only one world-class silat Sera teacher in this part of the world and to train with him cost less than a tenth of what an average lawyer would charge for his service

    My teacher asks the same amount for private lessons as he does group classes, and both would be cheap at thrice the rate ...
  10. realitychecker

    realitychecker New Member

    Got ya...

    I hear that Steve. I completely understand, and second that point about Guru!
    Thake care,
  11. Pekir

    Pekir Valued Member

    sincerity can never be wrong


    Good post and one that shows the many different faces of the MA world. I can see no reason why a teacher shouldn't teach everything he knows. I you get the opportunity that is! I believe that students should only get taught what they are up to. This is the same way I was taught, my teacher was taught and probably his was. No belts, no grades. Depending on ones curriculum you might wonder if they stay long enough to even get close to your full knowledge base. Out of over/only 60 students in the last 7 years only 2 of them are getting to a point where they start overlooking it all. I can only hope they will stay around.

    Though we only ask students to pay a tuition that covers the fee for the facility (at this time it's not enough and a will gladly pay to teach) some students tend to have the attitude: "I pay so you teach". This is a 'bridge to far' for me though. I won't teach them any next techniques when I'm not convinced they are up to it. I will prefer to let them go. I'm not making my living out of teaching but I think this would be the wise thing for a full time teacher too. The loyalty is to your MA (the source) first and then your students (the river). Ther is no river without the .....

    In reality though, I spoke of this with one of my fellow teachers yesterday, when a teacher passes along his MA some things are bound to get lost. I know e.g. that my teachers teacher dedicated his whole life to his martial art. In every aspect of his life his MA was dominant in the choices he made. I'm told he took his teacher in his house and cared for him untill his death. For my teacher it was already in a lesser extend and if I'm honest to myself the same goes for me to. Silat is in my life every minute of the day but still not to the same extreme. My teachers teacher expected his students to train every day, my teacher expected us to attend classes at least three times a week (if you wanted to be taken seriously) and I can hardly get my students to train more than ones a week. I'm pretty sure I know less than my teachers teacher. I'm getting close to my teachers official curriculum, if I have to guess about 90 to 95%. But his non-official curriculum? I might never know how much I got. This is not because he doesn't want to teach it though, it probably is a modern day matter: time and distance.

    It doesn't bother me at all, the best I can do is give what I've got and I'm convinced it's worth the trouble, my students still have to struggle hard to cope with the curriculum thusfar. Everyones effort to teach is based on their sincerity and if we don't let this go out of sight we can never be wrong.

  12. Bobster

    Bobster Valued Member

    About my teaching for money, Steve Perry answered most of what I was going to say. I do indeed CHARGE for classes, I just don't depend on Silat for my livelihood. However, I gave a lot of thought to what I would charge when I started teaching, and wanted to make the rate high enough that people attending class would invest enough to make the effort & not get lazy or complacent, and still be affordable to the serious student who couldn't afford regular classes. My monthly fee is $75.00 a month, and that's for 4 two hour classes a week. $75.00 buys you 32 hours of class time with me a month in a practically semi-private environment.

    Taking a poll around Seattle, I have discovered that I am indeed the cheapest game in town. In fact, I'm the only South East Asian martial arts school with tuition under $100.00 per month, most being at $150.00. And most classes are 1 to 1 & 1/2 hours long, and several require that you sign a contract.

    There is the occasional student who can't pay, or is having financial troubles, and if they tell me about it I will always be accomodating. During the economic recession of the past few years, I have had several students unemployed, and I told them just to train & don't worry about paying until the were back on thier feet. One of my students worked at Microsoft & paid me with a video game. I am more interested in the sincere student than a measly $20.00. Which doesn't even fill up my car these days.

    Also, if you have been with me for an extended period of time (about 5 - 6 years) I don't accept any more tuition from you if you have been dilligently training. There are two students who are already at this stage, and there will be another two in a few years if they continue to train hard.

    Realitychecker, I cannot imagine a teacher who would charge a higher rate for higher training. I'm not doubting you, it just boggles my mind that it still occurs in this day and age. I have had a similar experience with a US based Silat teacher who lied WAY more than he was honest, and leeched money from us like a vampire. This too has been as much a lesson to me as any one Pa Herman taught: I don't want to be remembered like that. So even if it means admitting I was wrong, or humbling myself before a murid, I would always prefer brutal honesty to politicking and lying to my students. If they can't trust me and don't believe what I say, how will they ever learn anything from me?

    Lies, damn lies! Who has been spreading these wild tales? I'll have the rogue's head!!!

    I do have a real renegade approach to teaching & running a school, and the way I do it would close down a public storefront place in a matter of weeks. But I find it far more rewarding to cultivate good practitioners in the art than have them grovel & scrape before me, or trick them out of every dollar they have.

    ...Got a little off-topic there. Sorry. But yes, I do charge for my classes. And no, it means almost nothing to me.
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2006
  13. Wali

    Wali Valued Member

    LOL! Here in the UK, it costs $106!!! to fill up your standard 60 litre tank with unleaded petrol (in the cheaper supermarket stations). This goes up to $112 for diesel.... and the prices have recently COME DOWN!!!

    You lucky Americans!
  14. realitychecker

    realitychecker New Member


    I hear ya Bro. From where I sit, your students are very fortunate. I think that your approach to teaching is something that should be standard. Alot of sweat and blood is the only way to attain understanding in any endeavor. It sounds like your students learn a lot about themselves along the way too.

    Let me go kinda off topic. Do you do a lot of P.T. (push ups, squats, running, etc.) during the 2 hours of class? I have been comparing various class content from different instructors, and was just curious. Some feel that physical conditioning was equaly as intregal as the art itself.

    Please let me know what you all think.....

  15. serakmurid

    serakmurid Valued Member

    Selamat All,
    I have my students do push ups crunches and more as well as stretching at the beginning of class.
  16. Bobster

    Bobster Valued Member

    I do a lot of streaching, but not as much pt. I tell my students that I expect them to train on thier own time, I don't want to spend precious class hours doing push-ups. My class curriculum is very strenuous, though, and will work you out. It won't give you tone or definition, but again, I think that's your own responsibility.

    On the streaching, though, that's a story on it's own that I learned the hard way. I sapu'd a guy in the first months of my school, and pulled his groin muscle BADLY. This little accident taught me to have a modicum of streachign and yoga before class. It was a REAL eye-opener, and the student has never returned. I suppose I should be thankful I didn't get slapped with a lawsuit.
  17. tellner

    tellner Valued Member

    We've been doing djuru djuru and langka langka really low lately and a lot of groundwork. It's all task-specific work that increases strength and flexibility. The way Guru Plinck sees it you have to get in shape, but that's not what he's best at. If you're motivated you'll exercise on your own and save class time for what he can give you that 24 Hour Fitness can't.
  18. rizal

    rizal Valued Member

    that depends

    Plainly, I don't teach, I share...
    Teaching requires patience and whatever your students do with your teachings, it will be your responsibility in the end.
    I did have a few guys/girls who want to study with me, but I usually direct them to more established schools.

    Selfish? No, simply that as in the other thread, I simply think that what I have is my own and cannot be taught to others.

    Except for a few rare cases where someone I think is worthy and serious enough, I will give him/her a senior of mine who IS a teacher. One guy even willing to travel to Sumatra and studied under my teacher for quite a while.
  19. Narrue

    Narrue Valued Member

    This one is funny, its directly out of the movies. You teach your student some secret art and he uses it to kill you. In this case he taught you the final lesson….......your judgment is not good :D
    Seriously though your main concern should not be that he will use it against you but that he may use it against others.
  20. Rebo Paing

    Rebo Paing Pigs and fishes ...

    Not quite. There was a time (in many places it wasn't that long ago) when there was fierce rivalry between different perguruan and different styles. Each peguron would guard the core (inti) of their style or system.
    It was not uncommon for there to be 'spies' passing off as students in order to discover the secrets of the style. Should that be uncovered and made public knowledge, there was a real risk that the rivals would develop a counter. Recently I was made aware of an on going rivalry between two groups in Jawa. There most recent 'war' was in the Bojonegoro area I believe.

    While we are inured against the requirement for that type of rivalry in the West, it would be wrong to assume that it doesn't exist. Really, it is no different than what software companies do nowdays with the copyright laws. You can't see what is under the bonnett of Windows XP, because you might 'discover' weaknesses in the OS and it might become compromised ... or the alternative, that something that took years to develop gets stolen is a cogent argument as well.

    A student had to prove their loyalty, prove the common aim of survival of the clan or village or society before the inner secrets were revealed.
    Nowadays I will happily share some aspects of my silat, I don't teach for money ... but I always make it a proviso on my judgement of the character. Is the person a worthy person (in my opinion)?


Share This Page