I read this guy's stuff and am continually impressed. I wish I had the resources to take greater advantage of what he does.
I've had time to read, re-read and somewhat digest the comments (both here and e-mail) on Toning Down. Time for some philosophy.
I have no evidence that I'm better than any of you. There is nothing to say that I'm stronger or smarter or quicker or tougher or wiser or more sensitive or any of a hundred of the things that people sometimes use to differentiate themselves. Any difference that exists is that I have done things that many people think about. People who firewalk are no different than people who don't... except that they firewalk. I have learned some things in my own personal firewalk, but there is nothing that leads me to believe that each and everyone of you wouldn't have learned even more than I. Would not have discovered more and spoken of it better. Would not have excelled me in every way.
I like to think I am special. I can be downright vain. There is just no evidence to support that.
So when I am faced with a group of students, they aren't students. They are bundles of potential and insight and skill and power. The same as I was, the same as I still am. Each has the capacity to be better than me. They are, each of them, already better than me at many things.
Further, and this is a hard leap for many people who teach martial arts and self-defense, I'm not interesting in teaching them what to do or even what I did that worked. Because even in the hairiest situation, whatever I did wasn't the key to getting out of it. The key was always in what I saw. (Then, of course giving myself permission to do what I saw needed to be done.)
And all of the students, in every class, already know how to sense the world around them. They can drive. They can identify friends and tell when something is wrong. They can feel a cold draft of a window that shouldn't be open or feel the body warmth of someone who shouldn't be there.
They see stuff and they know stuff, if the blinders aren't on.
If the blinders are on they will trample each other at a door to get out of a burning building and not think to throw a chair through a window. They will hide from gunfire behind a gypsum drywall that won't stop a bullet. They will follow their social conditioning even when they know in their gut and their brains that something is wrong.
There's some teaching in here-- few people have enough contact with predators to understand how predators manipulate, but actually it's not that different than the way that car salesmen or even some parents work.
My ideal for teaching is to give the students permission to see, and then teach them how to teach themselves. People can constantly improve. They can get better, smarter and more efficient each day. Especially if they are working on themselves, in their own way, to become the smartest, strongest most efficient version of themselves that they can grow into.
My gut feeling, is that this can only be hampered by a traditional teaching model. If you decide someone is the ideal and your goal is to imitate him, you have set a bar and you will get there through successive approximation. Not only will you never quite achieve your goal (because even a perfect imitation is an imitation) you take the worthier goal, to be better than the best you have ever seen, right out of your mind.
There is nothing stopping you from this worthier goal... and if you glitch on it, that is one of the first things I would look at.
This post has really rambled. Let me try to sum it up:
You have the potential to be extraordinary. You might need help to see how, but it is right in front of you. You might need permission, so here it is: It's okay to be extraordinary. If you are my student, extraordinary is my minimum expectation. You will get there by teaching yourself. Teaching yourself is simply practice at seeing things as they are, doing something to make them better and then putting some thought into whether you could do it a better, more efficient way.