Relationship between master and student

The image

Every student has a certain image of his teacher. He sees in him an example and advisor in learning a martial art. As soon as he realises that his teacher is a normal person when being off the mat, a simple person with feelings and mistakes, just like every other human being, the student might be disappointed. Realising that the image of the teacher is incomplete might unsettle the student. Hence, a student should never glorify his teacher nor consider him to be perfect. The teacher is just a “guideline”.


A student might be disappointed if his teacher does not praise him. Martial arts teach us that as soon as someone is praised he stops striving for perfection. In martial arts, however, one should never be satisfied with oneself. In the very moment you think you have become too good you hinder your further development. Many wars were lost because the warriors thought themselves victorious too early. Some battles exceed the end of the fighting. In order to overcome this frustration, the student has to muster a lot of patience.

“Patience is the foundation of training”,

this is what Bujinkan principles have been teaching us for three generations now, beginning with Toda sensei via Takamatsu sensei till Hatsumi sensei. This sentence should be our main guideline considering our own training as well as our whole life.

Every master has his own way of praising or critisising his students. Your actions in martial arts are not supposed to be guided by expectations such as praise, success, fame or invincibility. These things hinder the mental development and distract students from aligning mind with body which is the precondition for reaching what mankind calls “perfection”.


Actual perfection lies in accepting the lack of perfection. It is the same with nature which makes mistakes and then corrects these. Since man is not perfect by nature, his actions cannot be perfect either. Unfortunately it also is human nature to blame others for this imperfection, e.g. parents or teachers. The most significant realisation, however, is to acknowledge that every human being is responsible for himself.

Martial Art

Since martial arts had been developed by man who is prone to mistakes, there is no such thing as a perfect martial art. In Asia there are various arts, such as the Art of Love, the Art of War, the Art of Healing and the Art of Killing.

“There is no such thing as a good or bad combat style”

It all depends on the representative of a combat style whether it is consdered “good” or “bad”. The “perfection” of a combat style lies in completely understanding one’s enemy, getting to know him inside-out and defeating him with his own weapons or by turning his mistakes against him.

A perfect / good teacher

A “good” teacher bears a great responsibility towards his students. The first thing they need to learn is to mostly rely on themselves and not only on the techniques they learned.

Hatsumi sensei says that, even 30 years after Takamatsu sensei’s death, he still feels his spiritual presence. Such a close relationship between student and teacher requires love, respect and loyalty. Whether or not the bond between student and master endures is up to the student who, after years of training, might have become a master himself. Every master remains a student towards his former master. Some students will never cease to look for the “perfect master”. Unfortunately, there is no such person because the master himself is just human, makes mistakes and thus is not perfect. As a result the student will be disappointed time and time again.

A student might disappoint his teacher, but the latter remains silent, waits and knows that there is no such thing as a perfect student.

A teacher can learn a lot from his student, however, the student should never try to instruct his teacher.

Nikolaos Stefanidis, Daishihan. 31.01.2010 © 2010

“I do not teach, therefore you are not supposed to teach what I teach.” (Quatation: sensei soke Hatsumi, April 2006)