Acting or Coaching?


“Art is not a handicraft; it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced.” Tolstoi

Benjamin Franklin said: “Tell me, and I forget. Teach me, and I remember. Involve me, and I learn.”

What we train is Art, but requires some strong basics to be correct. I’m too often stuck between two attitudes: teaching the form, or showing the feeling?

The question is: as a Martial Arts teacher, should I be an actor or a coach?

The actor is showing his level of expertise to the student; he doesn’t actually teach.

When you teach high ranks you need to “act” so that they get the feeling, the forms being different for everyone. More or less this is what you get when training in Japan with Hatsumi Sensei and the Dai Shihan.

The coach does his best to give his knowledge with simplicity. And each student can reproduce the technique.

You “coach” when you are teaching beginners.

The more I teach, and the more I turn into a coach. And I like it.

This year has been very active for me. I gave many seminars since January. Four in France, three in India, two in Germany and Dubai, and one in Hungary, Argentina, Brasil, and Colombia. I also trained twice in Japan. Over the course of the year, I saw my way to teach evolving into coaching. At first, I had the feeling I was lazy, but then I understood that this was the proper way to go.

Too often, teachers use their seminars as an excuse to show off. The dōjō is like a stage where they demonstrate their “excellence,” so the attendees can worship them. That is wrong if the majority of participants are not Shidōshi or above.

Let me explain. As a beginner or a young black belt, what you need is not to attend a show, you need to learn how to be able to move.

When I was much younger, I loved to watch the Formula 1 races. But that didn’t improve my driving abilities! We have many gifted high ranks in the Bujinkan, but not all can teach. A high-rank diploma does not come with a teaching ability. You have to like it.

In my dōjō, I teach the beginners and let the Shidōshi show the black belts. I find it more interesting, and also mentally challenging. Showing your excellence is only challenging your ego. I made this error long enough, to be aware of it.

The Denshō are for Transmission. (1)

If teaching were only a show, then teachers would be Kenshō, “natural show offs”! (2)

Show your level to the high ranks. And be a coach for the beginners, this is Sekinin, your moral responsibility. (3)


1. 伝承 Denshō: handing down (information); legend; tradition; folklore; transmission.

Denshō is the name given to the scrolls of a Ryū.

2. 衒性, Kenshō: show off + nature (of a person or thing)​

3. 責任, Sekinin: duty; responsibility (incl. supervision of staff)​, liability; Moral responsibility​

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