“Expedient means”

29 Dec

Most martial artists are not familiar with the term “expedient means” but it is a term used in Buddhism. In Buddhism, it is the concept which emphasizes that practitioners may use their own specific methods or techniques that fit the situation in order to gain enlightenment. In martial arts, we aren’t necessarily interested in “enlightenment” but I have found inspiration in how I run my classes, programs and school.

The Lotus Sutra contains a famous story about using the expedient means of white lies to rescue children from a burning building. Each child is promised something different to get them to leave the burning building but in the end they all get the same thing. In one sense, they were of course lied to but most would see the greater importance of saving their lives.

In the martial arts, instructors of course can rattle off many benefits. They also know that the biggest challenge is getting a student to stay long enough to experience those benefits.

Similarly, we must realize that students arrive to us in different conditions of ability to practice. Physically you have 20 year old people in great shape, but you also have 40 and 50 year old people whose entire reason for coming to you is that they are in poor health. Mentally, you have a few ready to dedicate their lives to the martial arts, but you have far more who have trouble committing to even a 3 month membership.

Think of this. A student who does 3 out of 10 push ups, only 20 out of a hundred kicks and only makes it through 25 minutes of an hour class might be disappointing to YOU. However, that exercise that they DID do is still better than sitting at home, on the couch, eating snacks.

Do your classes have enough “room” for those who are struggling? How to you help them through class, encourage them, and keep them attending?

Do you offer memberships that are flexible enough for the average person? How about the commitment phobic?

Do you expect everyone to fit the same mold?

Or, is this the first time you’ve even considered these questions?



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