© 2008 Kim Taylor, all rights reserved
In this era of email and texting, not to mention books and videos, it
may seem that we don't really need to spend as much time face to face
as we once used to. We can communicate quite nicely by
remote means so what's the point of spending the time to get in front
of someone else and say the same thing.
Much as I'm a fan of books and videos, I produce them, I have read and
watch them, there's a whole range of learning that needs to be done
face to face with your instructor. The immediate feedback is of course
a wonderful chance to fix things quickly. With an art like iaido your
sensei can watch and correct what needs to be corrected, and let you
know when you've fixed it. Often the correction that's needed is
something that isn't apparent at first. If your swing has a hitch in
it, the problem may actually be earlier in the kata where you aren't
looking quickly enough, or you're turning too late. A good sensei can
spot that and correct it with very little fuss. Learning it by trial
and error while watching video of yourself and others can be a much
In partner practices such as judo, kendo, aikido or any of the kata
based kenjutsu schools the immediate feedback from your partner is
especially difficult to replace. Learning the many shifts in balance
and momentum that happen in the body while interacting with someone
else is difficult to learn from a book or over the telephone.
There is a whole range of instruction that you get by just being around
a good instructor. How to teach, how to deal with problems, how to
treat your juniors and your students. A good part of becoming a good
martial artist and a good person is to have a good role model, and most
of the things you are learning in this way have little to do with the
technical aspects of training. Natural talent and hard work can't make
up for being around to find out how do deal with others in a way that
It's no secret that once you get to the higher levels of a martial
you'd better start getting your face in front of the judges if you want
to pass your next grading. I'm talking the top levels, where you have
some serious effect on where the art will go in the next generation.
You need to let the various judges see you and comment on your
technique. You also need to prove to them that you're serious about the
art, that you are willing to spend the time and money to get to the
seminars and that you're listening and working on the changes suggested.
Just as important, you're letting the judges see your iaido, to get
used to it.
This brings us to the judges themselves, it's as important for judges
to see different students at seminars as it is for them to be seen. A
judge that spends all his time with his own students may have a hard
time accepting variations in technique. By watching a wide variety of
students a judge will develop a good feel for the range of movement
that exists in his or her organization. This makes a better judge and a
Finally, for those in charge of any organization, it's important to
spend as much time face to face as possible. It's difficult to be
misunderstood if you're looking at the person talking, we read body
language and tone very well, as a rule, and so it's harder to be
misunderstood or to deliberately deceive. People of good will can find
a way to work out their differences if they are sitting at the same
table. When they are communicating by distance it can be difficult to
find common ground. Perhaps because they are not on common ground.
So for many reasons it's a good idea to get as much face time in as
possible, no matter what position you hold in an organization.