From trainer to master

What am I — a stu­dent? — a trai­ner? — even a “mas­ter”? I don’t know how other mar­ti­al artists feel when they stand in front of a group of stu­dents. But I often ques­ti­on my actions and my posi­ti­on.

This is of cour­se hel­ped by the fact that I mys­elf am con­stant­ly in the role of a stu­dent. When I tra­vel to my sen­sei Olaf Bock, I often have the fee­ling of being a Kem­po goof. When I train with my Silat mas­ter Niki, I am ama­zed at his pati­ence with me. And when Alex has me in Silat trai­ning, I run out of breath so fast that I always make a firm reso­lu­ti­on to add ano­t­her sho­vel of endu­ran­ce trai­ning.

Why I am a student

So I’m a stu­dent. Which means that when I teach stu­dents, I am always cri­ti­cal of my actions. So I feel anything but sover­eign, becau­se my Kem­po is sub­ject to a con­stant chan­ge in which I also let my stu­dents par­ti­ci­pa­te. I deal open­ly with the fact that I am in the midd­le of a pro­cess, not least becau­se of the trai­ning with Olaf Bock and the occupa­ti­on with silat.

When I stand in front of a group of stu­dents, which is the case at least twice a week, I see mys­elf as an enter­tai­ner and trai­ner. The peop­le / child­ren come to let off steam. Or to exer­ci­se them­sel­ves phy­si­cal­ly. To them I have to offer ani­ma­ti­on, pre­sent a hope­ful­ly cohe­rent trai­ning con­cept and make them feel good or sweat a lot — pre­fer­a­b­ly both. Par­ti­ci­pa­te, sup­press your own pan­ting as much as pos­si­ble and always have an ans­wer to your ques­ti­ons.

If we go deeper into the mar­ti­al arts, I hope that I can do jus­ti­ce to the role of a trai­ner. I see this as someo­ne who can think out­si­de the box Who can indi­vi­dual­ly reco­gni­ze the strengths and weak­nes­ses of his stu­dents and can respond to them. Who sup­ports his stu­dents, if they want to. Who spurs them on, but can also let go some­ti­mes. And who can com­mu­ni­ca­te and teach him­s­elf and his actions as con­vin­cin­gly as pos­si­ble. And that with a cer­tain sustai­na­bi­li­ty. Trai­ners bring out stu­dents who out­per­form them. This inclu­des a cer­tain amount of vani­ty. But also the cer­tain­ty of having inter­na­li­zed your mar­ti­al art in such a way that you can stand firm despi­te all your weak­nes­ses and not let yours­elf be led astray. I learn in every trai­ning also for mys­elf — so I am actual­ly taught by my stu­dents.

Why I am not a master

I’m not a mas­ter. For one thing, I am at home in a mar­ti­al art that has no rigid cur­ri­cu­lum. Lear­ning, che­cking off, tes­ting and then con­ti­nuing — that’s just not how Shao­lin Kem­po works. It is too ali­ve for that, the­re is too much to dis­co­ver. Even though the tra­di­tio­nal gree­ting is cal­led “sen­sei”, I don’t feel like one.
The 2nd DAN marks me only as an advan­ced stu­dent. The tech­ni­cal pro­gram of the Lung Chuan Fa beco­mes com­ple­te only with the 3rd DAN. Only after that do fur­ther mas­ter forms fol­low, which remain a con­stant chal­len­ge, regard­less of the DAN level. Not only becau­se of my gra­dua­ti­on I am far from being the­re, espe­ci­al­ly by pro­ces­sing always new influ­en­ces. “My” style is far from com­ple­te, and I am a very imper­fect stu­dent and anything but “finis­hed”.

Finn and I

And then I under­stand the term “mas­ter” in the mar­ti­al arts, that is Sen­sei or Sifu, rather as a tit­le of honour that my stu­dents give me. A Sen­sei is much more than just a trai­ner who trains push-ups or Kiba Dachi. Much more than someo­ne who can show the bunkai of a Sifat. A Sen­sei helps and sup­ports his stu­dent in a way that helps him in real life.
The­re is a level swin­ging along that goes far bey­ond the com­mon swea­ting and pan­ting on the mat. Trust, respect, but also affec­tion — ele­ments that have litt­le place in the broad sports trai­ning con­cept of sit up and push ups. Some­thing like that has to grow and is also litt­le influ­en­ce­ab­le by mys­elf. No won­der that most styles are pure fami­ly styles — like the ori­gi­nal Kun­tao Mat­jan by Carel Faul­ha­ber, the root of our Shao­lin Kem­po.

The peop­le I have met as real “Sen­sei” in the sen­se of mar­ti­al arts have always given me more than just trai­ning inst­ruc­tions. And this is not meant as a trans­fi­gu­ra­ti­on of some far eas­tern wis­dom. I have had the gre­at plea­su­re of trai­ning with real­ly gre­at peop­le and gre­at ath­le­tes. …who are unpar­al­leled in their mar­ti­al arts. But they do not beco­me my sen­sei. An examp­le: Maul Mor­nie is alrea­dy a Silat legend and I was allo­wed to attend some semi­nars with him. But my “tea­cher” is Niki Sand­rock. Becau­se Niki sha­res his know­ledge, his insights, his pas­si­on of mar­ti­al arts with me. This has shaped me extre­me­ly in the last years. At the same time Niki would hard­ly call him­s­elf my “sen­sei”, he takes him­s­elf far too much back for that.

The same app­lies to Olaf Bock. Olaf brings his disci­ples clo­ser to his under­stan­ding of Shao­lin Kem­po in a very unpre­ten­tious, yet clear and direct way. Alt­hough he also speaks of him­s­elf as a “see­ker”, he con­veys an extre­me sover­eig­n­ty and secu­ri­ty. High tech­ni­cal skills and a per­so­na­li­ty flow tog­e­ther to someo­ne I can call “my tea­cher”. This is a very indi­vi­du­al decisi­on that I have made for mys­elf.

A sen­sei, a mas­ter, is not by gra­dua­ti­on. but by the con­si­de­ra­ti­on and respect of your stu­dents.

So, enough of the wis­dom, now it goes to Sen­sei Olaf Bock, who wants to bring the Sifat clo­ser … 🙂 I hope you enjoy­ed the lines!

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