Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Teaching one student

Fri 8/21/09. La Pelangi Sports and Recreation Centre, Semenyih. The inaugural Aikido class at the centre.

I turned up at the Centre at 7.30pm to wait for the first student to show up. By 8pm there was no sign of anyone coming and a thunder storm was in the process of forming. I exchanged
small talks with the manager to pass time while waiting for the first student to report for training.

8.15pm. the few remaining swimmers was getting ready to leave. Blinding rain accompanied by lightning strikes had descended on the Centre. The manager, getting bored and restless had already retreated into his office. I guessed he already knew that he would not be issuing any receipts for Aikido training tonight. Alone, I was wondering whether I too should pack up for the night.

Just as I was getting ready to leave a SUV with a family of 4 people pulled up the curb side. The driver wa
s the Malay university lecturer M whom I was expecting. Accompanied him was his wife and two kids. After the usual greetings we sat around the table and started to chat.

I could see from M's demeanor and body language that he was not yet ready to commit on the training and so I decided to put away the application form and attendance register.

Before I realized it we had already chatted about Aikido for more than 1 hour. He was throwing all kinds of questions at me. How long it takes the trainee to achieve shodan, why are the fees so cheap in comparison with what others are charging whether once a week training is enough, whether it is possible to extend the training time beyond 11/2 hours allocated, the grading frequency and where it is conducted, why are so few Malays taking up Aikido, my take on religious sensities with regard to bowing in the dojo, whether Aikido is effective in street attack situations, why teach self- defence applications seperately from Aikido training, etc, etc were some of the questions that he fired in my direction. I sensed that asking questions was M's way of sizing up the worth of his potential Aikido teacher. I answered all his questions promptly and as honestly and sincerely as I could. I was not sure if all the answers to his queries made sense to him.

"Sensei do you mind coming to the Centre to teach even if there is only one student?", M's last question as we were about to bid goodbye to each other. "Yes, I am pleased to teach anyone , even if only one student comes to class." I reassured him without any hesitation.

From time to time I am often confronted with the stark reality of facing an empty gallery where not a single soul shows up for practice. After so many years teaching the art you learn to deal with this sort of depressing experience with a shrug of the shoulders and a smile in the face.

In my mind it is not the matter of the teacher teaching the art to only one student but more importantly whether the one student is willing to learn from the one teacher. Perhaps I should be the one to ask " M san if you are the only one student in the class do you mind learning the art from the one teacher in the class all the time?" Naturally I kept my counsel.

Waving goodbye as he fired up his car engine he said that he would start his first class next Fri 8/28/09. Well I shall soon find out the outcome in one week's time.

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