When the abyss stares back

Posted on Posted in On Combatives

There are three general reasons I have found  students leave their teachers completely.

One, the student runs out of things to learn.

Two, the teacher runs out of things to teach.

Or three, what I call the crazy factor – sometimes teachers get so outside the bounds of
normalcy, the student can no longer train.

When you are no longer learning, it is very tough.

I write this article from a personal standpoint – I’ve been there with a system, and a
teacher. It becomes like a bad relationship as resentment grows. It is common to say in
gambling someone stayed at the table too long, usually resulting in the gambler losing
money, when they should have simply stepped away from the table. They become
invested psychologically.

This very often happens with students of martial arts. They stay at the table too long. This is
not to say they have nothing else to learn but at a certain point the investment becomes
so expensive, or it becomes difficult to square with life and general ethics or morals,
they begin to confuse the relationship with the teacher for their own well-being. It starts
out slow, and grows, and soon the student is staring at the abyss in training, wondering,
feeling guilty for looking at other systems and teachers. The whispering inside the head
grows louder.

And then the abyss stares back at them.

It’s a daunting task to leave or take time off, especially after years of training in a system.
Here’s a few tips I have found to step back from that abyss and create more longevity in
training in a system so that the day doesn’t come, or if it does, you recognize it and can
work to prevent it…or prepare for the inevitable.

1) Never sign up for a new school for more than a few months. Contracts are a common
thing because people have to put food on the table.   But when you are starting off, start
slowly and only go a couple times a week. After a few months, if you want to do more –
do more, but never sign for more than a few months at a time if you can. This way you
never stay because of money, you stay because of training.

2) Avoid a personal relationship with a new teacher for a while. Avoid excessively
hanging out, getting beers with or doing dinners with your new teacher. Other students
is one thing, but the more you are able to avoid personal entanglements the beginning

the more you will be able to tell the difference between friendship and teaching relationship.

3) Avoid the kool-aid. Refuse to get involved in the politics of the school, it’s teachers,
online forums and issues. If people talk a lot of crap about another system, go check that
system out. Every few months, go to another class at another school. Take a freebie
class people offer, see what you like. Martial arts can become group think very quickly,
as people begin to develop their own groups and see others as outsiders. Avoid this –
you’ll be glad you did long term as one day, those outsiders become your friends or teachers.

4) Do not change because of a teacher – change because it’s a yearning inside you
to better yourself.  The moment you must change yourself  – your personal habits, relationships, etc. –  to please a teacher or a school you have officially gone from martial art to a cult. Sorry, but it’s true. If the changes are natural and good for you physically, do it – but if it’s just to learn more, not to fit in.

5) Never pay more than what is reasonable for what the teacher knows. If it’s not
covered in the program at a later stage, and the teacher says they will teach you privately
for an amount – look at local personal trainers, talk to friends, see what they pay – offer
that and that is it. Teachers quickly become conditioned to stop teaching some things in
order to charge for ‘secret knowledge’ – if you do it once, you’ll do it again.
We are lucky in Pramek – little can be secret when you rely on science.

6) Listen to your friends and family, other martial artists, and the internet forums. Not
about the training – different strokes for different folks. But listen about the organization
and behaviors. Do your research, know history.  If everyone is telling you that what you are involved
seems odd of dangerous, take a look and see.

7) Be in it for the long haul – and pay for it over the long haul. If you have to decide
between training and shoes, food, clothing for work, or your girlfriend, wife, partner’s birthday – reevaluate.

8 ) Never be afraid to tell the school you are taking time off, and talk to people that do take
time off about their experience. Look at the reaction you get – if it’s positive, inviting,
and understanding, good. If it’s aggressive, negative, or they cut you off and forbid
others from dealing with you – you are making the right decision.

Learn in order to be able to pass knowledge on to others.  You’re never as along as you think…

More than likely, someone else is staring into the abyss too.

Good training to you!



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