Student-Teacher or Deshi-Shisho: All is revealed…
It is very difficult to find words that have exactly the same meaning in languages from two countries as different as France and Japan.
To enable those reading these few lines to gain a greater understanding of the meaning that I wish to give them, I could talk about the Deshi-Shisho relationship as being one of a Disciple and Master. However, as close as this translation may be to the real meaning, it is not perfect and so I prefer to stick to the term Deshi and Shisho.
Unlike the Student-Teacher relationship, the Deshi-Shisho relationship is not built unilaterally.
It is true that in Student-Teacher relationships, it is mostly the teacher who applies to be «candidate» (through all types of intermediary «communication»), to provide tuition whose content is well defined. So defined in fact that the results of his teaching are clearly forecasted and identical for all. As for the student, he is a consumer of services, and could therefore even judge and possibly contest his results. Since his results are predetermined, the Student believes that he fulfils his contract as soon as he’s paid for it.
This relationship is totally «balanced» as long as each participant is perfectly aware of the role he plays.
Unfortunately, if this situation is perfectly clear for most sports, it is not so clear in the nebulosity of combat sports that certain people wrongly name «martial arts» for reasons of self ego, since it undoubtedly increases their self-esteem to act as if they belong to a group steeped in history, without either respecting its rules or fulfilling its obligations. In this type of relationship where teachers believe themselves Shisho and Students consider themselves Deshi, and where they make sure they remain within the bounds of the relationship explained above, it is difficult for the uninitiated practitioner to make any sense of it all. This is probably done for that very reason.
In certain people’s defence, it has to be said that very few have experienced a Deshi-Shisho relationship. Others, however, revel in this role which often gives them a feeling of «power» that they would not otherwise have.
They say in Japan: «when the Deshi is ready he meets the Shisho and vice-versa »
In all other cases, the relationship is limited to the one previously outlined. This does not necessarily mean that the Student-Teacher relationship holds no interest, just that it is not the relationship that leads to the values of Budo, and from now on I will only mention it in passing by means of comparison.
Being a Deshi in Budo is above all about being permanently attentive to others.
This path that leads to becoming «Samurai» still exists, even though this term may seem slightly anachronous when taken in its warrior sense. However, in the most humble form of the Japanese language it in fact signifies: «being next to a person from a higher rank, ready to serve, and waiting for the moment to intervene» and nothing more. But in order to serve properly, one has to constantly improve oneself to be able to continuously give more without expecting anything in return. This is the attitude that will lead the Deshi along a path to exemplary behaviour which initially involves the respect of«Rei Gi» to the Shisho, to his Sempai, to the other Deshi and also to everyone that he meets throughout his life, so that he may be proud to represent the group to which he belongs and to thank those who give up their time and energy to preserve these traditions.
Not all of the rules to be respected are written down, because this type of attitude comes from the heart and should be adopted without any obligation or imposed constraints.
This implies a genuine complicity between the Shisho and the Deshi, a close relationship where the «Kokoro» governs the relationship on a daily basis. (I will talk about the Kokoro in a future note).
It does not therefore serve any purpose to make a list of what is expected from a Deshi, since that will certainly restrict a way of being that should progress constantly and without limits and that should adapt to different situations that arise.
What is important is to adopt a permanent attitude to listen to others, like, for example, listening to seniors and to his Shisho who show the way. In Japan they say that in order to reach «Yamato Damashi» you have to understand twelve when you are taught one…
We are a long way from the Student-Teacher relationship that often results in irregular attendance - one or two lessons a week, where training is carried out in a group rather than individually and where, as I previously mentioned, «transmission» is impossible.
Not expecting anything in return does not mean not receiving anything in return.
The Shisho’s sole objective is to continue passing down values, without which life holds no purpose. In the past, the impossibility of respecting these convictions has led certain people to prefer the «Seppuku» ritual suicide rather than a life devoid of meaning.
The Deshi and the Shisho recognise each other when they meet. This was the case for me and IKEDA Shigeo Sensei many years ago now. We both knew at the same moment that something was happening, and even though one of us parted prematurely, our story is not yet over.
To embark on this route and in this type of relationship, I would say you must have a « Kokoro i ki » (this means a pure heart full of energy and a soul in unison), so that each one reads an open book in the heart of the other. Only this condition enables short, medium or long term errors to be avoided. Indeed, from both sides, it is easy to take advantage of a «pure heart» by faking ones own feelings, and therefore by entirely creating a character that resembles the one the other wanted to meet.
I myself have encountered this experience where, with time, the facade has slipped on hearts that didn’t deserve what they were given. I don’t regret anything because I expected nothing in return. I prefer to look with pride at those who are still here and who progress every day helping me and my search into my own person.
«No… But give back to others»
I never dissociate the Shisho and the Deshi, because they are nothing to one without the other.
Once the link has been established, nothing can undo it, not even the death of one or the other, on the contrary… At this moment, the Deshi is duty bound to adopt an attitude of blind trust towards his Shisho. The latter will adopt a responsible attitude by endeavouring to teach the Deshi every type of behaviour that will enable him to mature in every aspect of his life, respecting the trust that he has been given. The Shisho will adapt his teaching to the Deshi to enable him to blossom in the best way possible.
Thanks to this and to the progression of the Deshi, the Shisho can also improve his search into his own person.
Knowing how to wait for the person who will be your Shisho. Knowing how to wait for the person who will be your Deshi…
This does not mean wasting your time. Preparing yourself for «the encounter» may take years, but only this approach will bring it about. This is the only way to be in the state of mind that will enable you to know that it is «him». This means being ready to meet the person behind the technique that serves him as a support to transmit, since as good as the technique might be, it must not conceal deficiencies of the heart, which is frequently the case.
Within these conditions the Deshi can hope to surpass the Shisho thus thanking him for the teaching he has received. The Shisho must constantly try to give the Deshi the means to one day surpass him, so that he may thank his seniors for the knowledge they have passed down to him.