One of the most conflicting things in the martial arts is learning the hard truth that your instructor whom you've just spent the better part of your life venerating is just a regular person like everyone else. On one hand, it's disheartening that there really is no secret (or maybe that is the secret). There really is no amount of training that turns you into a mystical, all-knowing warrior sage. That no matter how many years you spend in the pursuit of Budo, you still suffer from the human condition. But on the other hand, it's a wonderful thing. As instructors, masters and grandmasters, we put so much effort and energy into this persona that for you to be allowed into the "inner circle" and see who your instructor really is, is a gift that's simply invaluable.
You see, coming up through the ranks we place our instructors on a super human pedestal. This is aided by the complete misunderstanding of Asian culture, and actually stems from our totally incorrect view of the Samurai themselves. Everyone likes to throw around the "Bushido Code," a list of seven virtues for all noble warriors to possess and display in their daily lives. But the truth of the matter is that this concept of Bushido as we know it stemmed out of boredom. After the Tokugawa family came into power and essentially outlawed warfare, you had thousands of highly trained warriors now without work. What happens when you mix together testosterone, alcohol and boredom? Exactly. So the "Bushido Code" was put in place as a means of self-policing among the Samurai, stating that a true warrior would never rape, pillage and murder. Except for the fact that in times of war, those same warriors were first in line to rape, pillage and murder.
But that's not the history we want to remember. The Samurai couldn't have been bloodthirsty killers. They were highly enlightened, nearly divine super humans that drank tea in their Zen gardens while writing poetry, right? Unfortunately, as instructors we get looped into that ideal as well.
Because you know what? As an instructor, you've taken on that responsibility. No matter what is going on in your students' lives, they look to you for stability. They look to you for guidance and wisdom. They look to you for security. But being a martial arts instructor is not a "Get out of jail free" card. Life doesn't stop because we've learned how to punch and kick really well. And I guarantee your instructor is going through something right now they'd wish no one ever knew. Or maybe they wish they had someone they can ask for help, yet don't want to break the facade?
The bottom line is that your instructor is just like you. They make bad decisions. They have vices. They have troubles and worries. They have emotions. What they wear around their waist doesn't change who they are. It doesn't change what happens in your life, though it should change how you react to it. Should being the operative word, because remember, we're still human. If you get the honor of seeing that side of your instructor, consider yourself blessed. This person who was once a stranger has decided to literally demolish the wall and the facade so that you see who they really are. They become vulnerable and are trusting you as their student to maintain that image.
Everyone always talks about what type of instructor they should be, but no one addresses what type of student you need to be. There is a distinction among customers and students. I have many customers who fill my mat, but I have only a handful of students. And they're the ones I know I can count on.
As a student, it is your responsibility to look after your instructor. Don't let them be Superman. Ask them how their day is going. Call them up just to talk. Bring them leftovers if you have, because often times they've been at the school all day helping other students and haven't had a chance to eat. When you go out as a group, make sure your instructor never has to reach for their wallet. Ask if they need a ride anywhere (even if they have a car). Even if you miss training that week or month, make sure you pay your tuition. There are numerous little things you can do as a student that would mean the world to your instructor, and if they ever actually do ask you for help, do what you can or die trying.
I personally don't want the Dalai Lama as my sensei. Everyone says martial arts is more than just physical fighting skills. If you're training with someone you can't relate to, then what can you really learn from them?