Are all black belts instructors? Part 1

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The quick answer to the question “are all black belts instructors?” is maybe. An easier question to answer is “are all black belts teachers?”. That’s a hard no because there are differences between teachers and instructors.

The differences between teachers and instructors

For the sake of argument, let’s say that all teachers are instructors, but not all instructors are teachers.

The instructor

Think about all the different types of instruction you have received throughout your life. The short list includes tying your shoes, getting dressed, riding a bike, swim lessons, balancing a checkbook, cooking a meal, driving a car and changing a diaper. Most of those scenarios involve one person showing another person, or people, how to get from point A to point B.

You will encounter instructors throughout your life. Many times, however, the word instructor is used synonymously with the word teacher. You may have been told that the individual standing in the front of the martial arts class and wearing a black belt is your teacher. If he or she is in charge of the class then he or she is definitely an instructor. Not necessarily a teacher.

To make it even more confusing, many martial arts disciplines, like The Bushido School of Karate, use terms like Shihan, Sensei, Deshi and Sempai. Those titles and their definitions will be the topic of Part 2 of “Are all black belts instructors?”, so stay tuned!

The teacher

Let’s go back to the list of instructors you’ve had in your life. Any one of them could have been easily replaced with another instructor. That is the difference between an instructor and a teacher. Teachers cannot easily be replaced.

Teachers make the effort to know each student’s strengths and weaknesses. They push you out of your comfort zone and care about your progress. Realistically, a student who holds a green belt (intermediate level) in karate could instruct a white belt (beginner level). When the instructor becomes vested in the student’s success and can impart the wisdom received only through their own trials and tribulations, the instructor becomes the teacher. And then…

The teacher becomes a student

By learning how to teach effectively, the teacher becomes a student of his or her own students, or karateka. Teachers are humble enough to be willing to continue to learn, especially from those they are teaching! Understanding and embracing this is the difference between an instructor and a teacher.

Some black belts are instructors, some are not, and some are teachers!

I hope I have successfully explained why the statement “some black belts are instructors, some are not, and some are teachers” makes sense. Earning a black belt means you have passed a series of requirements. It does not mean you are now a teacher, or even an instructor, although sometimes those requirements may involve instructing or assistant-instructing in classes.

In order for a black belt to be a teacher, he or she ultimately has to be willing to learn from the newest of students. It’s a journey worth taking!

Stay tuned for “Are all black belts instructors? Part 2”

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