Can I learn from someone younger than me – a case of social bullying??

Posted by Christopher Allen – Tring Martial Arts Blog – click here for link to original article

I posted this article on my Tring Martial Arts Tumblr blog page at the end of September 2011, but have been suprised by how many people have contacted me regarding it.  It seems that many people in all walks of life have faced challenges either to their ability or knowledge and more frequently through discrimination over their sex and age (or both).

I thought therefore I would re-post this article on Tring Anti Bullying, under Workplace Bullying.  I hope that readers of this blog will find this article useful, perhaps people will think twice about their criticism of others when they recognise that their comments and actions could be received as bullying.

Does a river not start with a small spring high up in the hills?

The other day I was approached in the street by a man in his mid to late 40’s, he was interested in coming to learn Kickboxing, he looked at my polo shirt and noticed it said “Chief Instructor”, he remarked that he had never met an instructor younger than him, and that he might find it difficult to take instruction from someone of my age (36). I was shocked, but upon reflection I wasn’t suprised, its a comment or thought that I have faced many times in my career as an instructor.

What I find most peculiar is that a student, and even sometimes a black belt student feels that should someone younger than them be responsible for a class, that in some way the instruction doesn’t apply to them. I think a culprit for this could be the stereotypical martial art master, as depicted in the Kill Bill films and others of the genre, yes age does carry alot of gravitas and certainly the longer you spend honing your art, the more rounded the instructor you will be. But everyone can learn from others.

Black Belt students achieve much whilst training, but there is a sad and disturbing fact that many of the students who reach this lofty goal, forget the role that their instructors played in getting them to this pinnacle of achievement. They forget the many times their instructors spent encouraging and nuturing them, instead they can forget that the path of a martial artist is about self development not self fulfilment, we must strive to be the best person when can be, not just the best fighter, we must strive to be humble. In fact, even if we reach 10th Dan, we still have so much to learn and know that we still have much to learn.

There is one important fact that I will always remember, even though I teach full time, I am still a student of Martial Arts, I can still learn, even from those younger than me. For instance, I went on a Tai Chi course a couple of years ago to train with a Chinese man called Master Wang Xun of Zhengzhou, Henan Province in China. He was 27 years old and ironically, he started training in the martial arts with his father when he was 9 years old, the same time I had started. Did I think that this younger man couldn’t teach me anything? Did I think that because of my status, rank or experience I should disrespect him by messing about or by trying to look down at him, (both literally and metaphorically)? No, of course not, I learnt so much from him, my tai chi practice improved dramatically!

Over the years I have attended many seminars, courses and other events, I’ve met and trained with instructors who are amazing in their abilities and their capabilities as instructors, many of whom were younger than me. I have many certificates and awards, but the most important one is my White Belt certificate, it reminds me of where I started and how far I have come, it also reminds me that I still have much to learn and to give.

Can a Man learn from an Animal?

Lets take a look back, far back in the early Chinese civilisation, who’s society formed centuries before ours in the West. There, Monks of Shaolin and other locations became the victims of bandits, they needed to defend themselves and chose to replicate the movements of animals. (Monkey, Snake, Tiger, White Crane) These animals were certainly not as old as the monks, yet their movements were revered.

If we want to learn to improve ourselves, to be the ultimate martial artist, then we must remember that we can learn from anyone.

My message is this, if a monk can learn to defend himself by copying an animal, then we can learn from any human, regardless of age!

Christopher Allen

Tring Martial Arts