Gurus, L. to R: Cliff, Jonny, Ari, Maha Guru Plinck, Bud, Louis, Narin, Bob
So, the recent post on the philosophy of teaching stirred up some strong opinions, and I've had some further ideas about that, and our art in particular, so I'll just toss these thoughts out and see how they fly ...
Supposing, hypothetically, that Maha Guru Plinck gets up tomorrow morning and decides, for whatever reason, he is done teaching silat.
Who among his students could step up and continue teaching Pukulan Pentjak Silat Sera Plinck?
Sure, a few of us know enough to maybe muddle our way through. None of us have his experience, nor expertise. Maybe that's the nature of an art -- the head of it, if he or she keeps learning as s/he teaches, is always going to be leading. And the best teachers always seem to say stuff like, "Yeah, I'm okay, but my teacher? Oh, man ..."
Guru Plinck has wallpapered some folks as Sera gurus, but of those, only three are people who came up through our version, and the rest are from similar, but not the same, branches. Some of them are learning it now. Some of them, the designation is honorary. In no way do I intend to demean any of these men, that's just how it is.
In terms of folks who put in the time from the git-go with Guru Plinck as their primary teacher all the way up, there are three: Guru Narin is the seniormost; Gurus Jonny and Ari are younger. (Not to say he didn't teach the others anything, mind you.)
Anybody in our group think any of them could replace Guru Plinck?
Guru Narin, as adept as he is, has blended Sera into his other stuff, and what he teaches includes a lot of material we don't play with. Gurus Jonny and Ari, from the cold European nordic lands are young, fit, enthusiastic, and getting better, but both of them have less time training than half the class in Cotten's garage.
Gurus Cliff, Louis, Bud, and Bob have their own systems, and from my experience at the seminar in Las Vegas, where I took the picture above, what they teach, and how, isn't what I'm learning from Guru Plinck. Related, surely, but not the same.
No reason it should be, of course. Every teacher is unique, and that drift is to be expected, but the further away you start? Staying close has to be harder.
So, for this hypothetical discussion and the sake of continuity, which makes more sense in terms of teaching? That Guru Plinck should spend most of his time bringing a new batch of beginners along? Or that that he advances his seniors to a place where they could step up and keep the system going?
You already know how I feel about that.
I don't really have a dog in this fight, because I'm older than Guru -- whatever I learn is mostly for me -- I won't be starting a school of my own.
I'm not against new students. They are what keeps a system alive and growing. And you can hardly ever go wrong covering the basics, because those are what you are apt to fall back upon if you ever need to use the art for real. But it will be adept teachers who will keep the art viable in the long run. And to that end, time spent bringing them along serves the art better than not.
There was a time when we had two classes, one for beginners and another for the intermediates. That has its pluses and minuses. For students at my level, teaching helps with learning. If I have to show it, then I have to know it, so having beginners in a class is a good thing. Better to be able to do three things well than ten things badly.
Then again, when everybody has certain basic knowledge, you can go on without having to recover it, and that's not a bad thing, either. If you have to start your calculus class out by going over addition and subtraction? Yeah, you need to know it, but you already should.
On balance, the single class is probably better for more students, the learning and the teaching, but I think that works because the numbers are small and there are more seniors than newbies.
In a small system, with few students, and fewer qualified instructors, the chances of continuation would seem less than in a large system with many teachers. Maybe you don't care for TKD or karate, but neither of those is apt to die off soon.
I don't think Guru is going to stop teaching any time soon, either, though I don't know. His teaching window seems pretty wide open. And for me, it's moot. My window is a lot narrower, and I don't have enough time left to get really good at it, much less to bring somebody new to a point where they are really good at it. But there are students half my age who could be raised to a level where they would be adept teachers. I'd be happy to see that.
I think that would be a fine legacy.