Tim Tipene writes about the importance of accountability within the martial arts, and the responsibility to the community that martial arts schools must consider. This article was published in the New Zealand Martial Arts Magazine, April/May 1999.
The Martial Art's teacher/student relationship would have to be one of the most meaningful in one's life. It is a Mentoring role where pain, joy and frustration are shared. The relationship has the potential for a depth seldom found outside of the Dojo. It holds a huge amount of value for both concerned and is vital for one's growth.
For me my relationship with my teachers was just that. I received affirmation, acceptance, respect and courage via this link in a time of my life that was dark. The belief in me, from my teachers, prompted a move forward, taking a firmer stand in life for myself. Many of my friends did not make it through this period. The power of this relationship saves lives and is vital not only for ones self, but also our communities.
However, this positive view of the Martial Art's teacher/student relationship is not shared by many community health agencies. In the area of Anger Management or Stopping Violence many of those deemed offenders through the courts have had Martial Arts experience. A large number being long term students. This is a reflection on the Arts that could prove to be detrimental to the NZ schools and has already damaged the credibility of the arts being a healthy sport or hobby.
To take it even further, a number of men with murder charges also have links to various schools. We may not have to take responsibility of individuals, but we may have to take on responsibility for our contribution to our communities. My sense is a time is coming where Martial Arts schools will be held accountable for what they teach.
I had a small school in Helensville, North of Auckland, where I taught a good number of students for a few years. As this was the start of my teaching career I had little knowledge of the impact my teachings could have to society. I took little responsibility in what I was passing on. Students requested the flashy, quick lessons and in order to keep their interest alive, I obliged. I was also caught up in the common Martial Art line of thought which was to regard much of society as the enemy. That everyone was out for themselves. This made other schools a threat along with fellow students and created a strong sense of Isolation. I am now aware that all this under current was being picked up by my own students.
Teaching Warrior Kids in Helensville 1994/1995.
As with all mentor relationships there was a certain amount of transference happening between the pupils and myself. They looked up to me. Waking up to this powerful influence I carried, responsibility kicked in. Soon I had a very small class and the teachings were slower. Most of the students I came across were not ready to know a great deal of the art. Timing was essential.
My experience with various security work and roles within mental health includes a great deal of armed and unarmed attacks. My confidence in my ability paid off and I was able to defend myself without bringing harm to my attacker or me. This has been the promise of a mature Martial Artist within.
Today, I run my own programme for an agency in West Auckland. Warrior Kids is an Anger Management, Self Defence, Support, Behavioural change and Life skills course for people aged 5-13yrs. This programme is the result of my first ever class in Helensville transforming over the years into an accountable Martial Arts school to the community.
Warrior Kids is community funded and serves a deprived area of community work. Children!!
Many of which come from violent and disruptive families. I am held accountable by the results, constant supervision and ongoing training. I have a code of Ethics, a code of Conduct for facilitators and a complaints procedure in place.
The classes are full of games and interesting activities so the learning can be slow and the students are assessed constantly in their manner towards others.
Warrior Kids article for the NZ Women's Weekly with Tim Tipene, 1999.
With all that I've put forward, it brings up the issue of protection for schools and teachers, along with accountability. In preparing for the possibility of being challenged in the future, there are steps we can put in place.
Steps towards Accountability and Protecting One's Practice.
Reaching out and becoming more involved in the community. Letting public know you're there and what it is that you do. Keeping strong connections with the larger school body and the teachers. Communicate with other Martial Art schools.
Internal and External of your organisation. Having someone sit in observing then having them feed back at the end of the class. Someone to check in with once a month or so to discuss issues around students, class, school or personal matters. Someone who is willing to work with you on improving your teaching and management.
Keeping people around you who believe in your abilities and in you as a person, again Internal and External of the organisation. People who offer encouragement and who will stand behind you.
People who you could discuss various matters with and who are willing to lend a hand. Community organisations, (C.A.B etc), have a lot to offer.
In your position, you could always offer support to other, smaller groups.
Keeping the skill level high and the learning fresh in the Art. Always remaining a student while being a teacher. Being open to other forms of training, even outside of the Arts, such as First Aid and keeping it up to date. Also training to become a qualified educator at a technical institute, or the likes there of, has benefits. For example understanding group dynamics and mental development stages can alone improve attendance results in class.
Someone to answer to.
If you're on your own it can be a hard and a very vulnerable road. What if tomorrow one of your pupils ends up on the front page of the Herald for a violent attack, which may have even been the result in them defending themselves. Who would the paper eventually look too to blame? Or maybe some parents or concerned citizen decides to lay a complaint.
A bigger organisation would survive such a challenge. A school on it's own would probably not. It helps to be connected to a larger body, whether it be a martial Art's body or a community group, you will have protection and support.
I found a sense of peace, a deeper understanding of others and a respect for life through Martial Arts and it wasn't just the slow soft training that gave me that. The hard fast is essential. The vital ingredient.
We influence and transform our students. This overflows into their home life and community. We are in a powerful position for influencing society. Our role is so beneficial to the well-being of individuals and their families. Many may not have realised it, but the work we do, I believe, reaches a depth like no other. We are performing soul work. Are we, as teachers, aware of our potential and the potential of the art. We can heal people. We can heal communities. Most services within the mental health sector only provide healing of the mind. Martial Arts encompasses the being. We are worthy to take on this role.