Instructor, Student and Respect

I thought I would talk a little more about respect this week. I am still away from my computer and once again I’m going to be posting from my phone and once again I’m sorry for the lack of pictures.

A student of mine once asked me on the way to a non-taekwondo seminar, “what should I call you at the seminar?”. Unfortunately, I can not post my reply. Needless to say, I basically told him he could call me anything he wanted. Would you ever ask your instructor that? A better question might be, would or do you ever call your instructor by a different name off the training floor than when on the training floor?

Because most of you that are reading this are Taekwondo students, I’ll use my Taekwondo instructor, Grandmaster Kyongwon Ahn as an example. I had the privilege of working with Grandmaster Ahn for 2 years (as national director of Dan promotions for the USTU). I spent over 60 hours a week with him. Some of that time was on the training floor but a good portion was off the training floor: business meetings, eating at restaurants (we ate almost every lunch together for 2 years), traveling, etc. Whenever I addressed him, I always called him, “Master Ahn” (he preferred it over Grandmaster Ahn at the time). It didn’t matter if I was on the training floor or off the training floor, the thought of calling him anything but Master Ahn never entered my mind. I never thought, “what should I call him now that I’m not on the training floor.” For those of you that are reading this that know him, would you ever think of calling him anything other than “Master Ahn?” Of course not. Why? Chances are, the level of your respect for him is so high that the thought of addressing him without his title would never enter your mind.

So, back to the initial question, what do you call your instructor off the training floor? If it is different from what you call him/her on the floor, why is that? I would suggest it has to do with your level of respect for your instructor. For those of you that are saying, “it has nothing to do with respect”, you should call Grandmaster Ahn by his first name the next time you see him. I know what you are thinking, “I’ll get in trouble if I do that.” You will, if anyone hears you other than Grandmaster Ahn, but if it’s just the two of you, I can almost guarantee he will simply act as if you did nothing wrong. It would be the same as asking him, “what should I call you at the restaurant?” He will simply make a mental note of the “event” and move on.

Respect is something that should always be monitored by both the student and the instructor. It can be used to gauge the relationship. As a student, if the level of respect you have for our instructor isn’t high, move on and find one that it is high with. How can you expect to learn from someone that you don’t have a high level of respect for? Oh wait I’ve heard this response a lot, “my level of respect for the head instructor is really high, just not my level of respect for the assistant instructor.” If that is the case, only take classes from the head instructor. If that isn’t possible, move on. I know this might seem harsh, but you can’t hope to learn to a high level if that respect isn’t present.

As an instructor I’m constantly monitoring the level of respect my students have toward me. Who do you think I am going to spend time teaching non-curriculum material to? It’s not going to be the students that don’t have respect for me. No it’s not an ego thing. It’s simply a fact that students that have a high level of “true” respect learn better than the ones that don’t. It goes back to a previous post: how would you greet a master of the way, on the way?

Something to think about…

by Master Sean Pearson

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