When I was a rather new black belt I used to travel and train with many different instructors in my area. Working with one of them privately, one Saturday morning, he was working on his Rohai kata that morning. And as he was working made a mistake in his form, causing him to stop.
Now if he hadn’t stopped I would have never known he made a mistake, for at that time I had no knowledge of Rohai kata. But mistakes to happen, but what came next was nothing I ever expected.
He said, “I am sure glad none of my students were here, I can’t let them see me making a mistake”. He went further on, being in charge it is necessary to be perfect before them.”
I had never heard that before. I have no idea if my instructors ever made a mistake before me, I was too focused on my own work. Never paid attention to whether they ever made one. But I had never heard anyone suggest black belts, instructors or instructors of instructors should be error free.
Time passed and the years rolled on, I taught youth and then adults.
I have made some mistakes in front of my students over the years. For the younger students, I explained being human we all make mistakes, but as martial artists discovering them means more work is necessary to get better.
For the adults, who trained with me for decades, I have forgotten some movements on forms, started one form and ended with another, started one version of naifanchi and ended with a different version of naifanchi ( long ago I had been taught both versions and can’t recall which was first) I only taught one version but my mind would play tricks. I used to have very good control, but there were times I nailed them in the face (abet with control not Kos. Still causing unintentional owies). They were continuing proof we all make mistakes to remind them of their own.
The art of making mistakes…. Hmmm the art of being a martial artist.
Assuming we survive them, they remind us we have to continue to work harder, so we don’t make them at the wrong time.
Full disclosure, one time at a tournament in Delaware I was comtpeting in a mid sized tournament, one where over 20 black belts were judging black belt forms. My instructor and seniors were among those judges.
I was competing with Shi Shi No Kon No Dai, and I was experienced with that form. When I was called, I felt in the grove and my form performance was doing very well. Then at one point in the form you drop to the floor to rise with a foreward strike the bo sliding forward between your left hand fingers.
Everything was so perfect, I remember rising and striking forward with the bo, However as I did so my fingers flew open when I did the strike. It was wrong, I knew it, my seniors knew it,
I did not pause and completed my form, I so wanted it to be a perfect performance before my instructor. But it was what it was. And I was correctly judged by in instructor and seniors. Ever if the others on that panel did not know the form. And that is all I wanted, fair judgment.
Proving I did not know the form as well as I thought I did, and it was time for more work.
Mistakes will occur. How we learn from them shows the quality behind our at.
The instructor leads the way for their students.
Lead them forward.