Sunday, June 8, 2008

Teaching Awareness


My teacher Grandmaster H. C. Hwang for example could put out a candle flame by pointing from over a foot away, I've also been amazed by his awareness, I've seen him spot one person in a crowd of hundreds that did not belong. I've seen him on countless occasions catch details that no one else did.

I'll never forget when Master Bonsigniore had tucked folded knife into his uniform which was no bigger than a pack of gum. He was using to as a prop for a demonstration. Grandmaster walked by and after he passed two steps he turned back and reached in Master Bonsigniore's uniform and said 'what's this?'. How he spotted something you couldn't even see if you know it was in his uniform to this day amazes me. His awareness was extraordinary .

- Master Dan Segarra, Warrior-Scholar


Awareness is a key component of the martial arts, and is an attribute that must be built via constant practice.

I teach on a college campus. For a vast majority of the kids on campus, they are walking in a haze, listening to an ipod, checking their latest text messages, lost in their own world. I imagine this is why the obliviously walk into oncoming traffic, usually in front of my car.

"Wake up!" I want to yell, shaking the student by the shoulders.

Maybe it's just a pet peeve, but a lack of awareness is completely unacceptable in a serious student of the martial arts. Subtleties can be the difference between surviving a violent encounter, and the alternative. On a less serious note, a strong leader - which I aim to develop -- must be constantly aware of the class and how to anticipate problems.

Here's an example: Halfway through class, I give the students a water break. They all leave the room, get a drink, and come back. Right?

What if one gets sick, needs to use the restroom, or falls down the stairs? When will a good leader know they are missing one of their charges? Will they notice when they line everyone back up, and see the gap? Maybe they keep going and halfway through drill think "hey, where did Jane go?" If she ran into a friend and got pulled into a discussion, no problem. But if she went to throw up, I'd be very upset if one of her seniors left her behind.

Grandmaster Shin wrote a section on the relationship between hu bae and sun bae, or junior and senior rank (Notice I didn't say lower and higher rank, another pet peeve.) Sun bae watches out for junior rank and takes responsibility for their training. Hu bae offers respect to senior rank, and also work hard to keep senior rank on their toes.

The above example plays exactly into the sun bae / hu bae relationship, and to meet the responsibility of sun bae, you must be aware.
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