Although this post talks about a circumstance regarding martial arts, it is applicable to many other areas of life as well.
After our last Krav Maga testing class we were "talking around the campfire" as we always do and I said something could have been taken as biased, uninspiring and untrue. Craig, you managed to put your foot in your mouth again.
I know you all are on the edge of your seats wondering what I said. Well, we were talking about instructors and leadership, so I shared my perspective with the group which may have been taken that I didn't think that (martial arts) instructors under 40 were as good or qualified as those who were that age or older. After thinking about how that may have come across (especially to the people who were under forty in the room), I want to clarify.
I remember a not so inspiring instructor meeting twenty five or so years ago, when I was a young instructor in my early 20's. The head of an organization I belonged to at the time was telling the group of us that no one was a real instructor until they were at least 40. A buddy of mine who was also in his 20's and an instructor in this organization as well, thought WTF?! So, where does that put us then? What are we chopped liver? We were the two who had a good following of students. The guys that the organization would call on for their demonstrations. Our students always showed well at testing and tournaments etc., yet because weren't 40 we wouldn't seen as "real" instructors and wouldn't be given the same amount of respect? We believed that we were young, smart and talented instructors and our performance reflected that. So, needless to say we felt disrespected and put out. It was as I said, very uninspiring. So, isn't it funny that twenty some years later I would utter the same words?
First, I want to say that there are many incredibly competent and gifted instructors of all ages, genders and backgrounds. There are also many that shouldn't be in a position of leadership at all. So, what did I mean about the infamous "40" statement? Simply that a little life experience will hopefully equate to a wider view on whatever you are teaching and more importantly how it relates to the bigger picture of ones life. There is more to any endeavor than what appears on the surface. For instance being a high school football coach is not just about winning the game. Winning at the expense of integrity, teamwork, sportsmanship, hard work, dedication, etc. in my opinion is at the very least short sighted and hollow. The same is true when it comes to teaching martial arts, defensive tactics (or pretty much anything); there is a lot more to it than just getting good at techniques, winning a trophy or being the toughest person in the ring. The exceptional instructors know this and it comes out in the decisions they make in their life and teaching. To be honest, I think that no matter the age, some people see the bigger picture of how things connect, where others do not. One would hope that with more years an individual would be more likely to see the larger connection, be more empathetic, have more wisdom, however I am often reminded that not all people do. Having some years under your belt hopefully betters the odds so to speak of having a better perspective, but older doesn't necessarily mean wiser.
The bottom line is the best leaders and instructors have to have both knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is the accumulation of facts and information (including martial arts techniques). Wisdom is the synthesis of knowledge and experiences into insights that deepen one's understanding of relationships and the meaning of life. In other words, knowledge is a tool, and wisdom is the craft in which the tool is used.
When it comes to martial arts you don't want to suck, but it's more than just smashing and winning. Its about how we LIVE, PROTECT & INSPIRE. This isn't a sprint, its a marathon.=)