Be Both a Student and a Teacher

"Teacher teaches best what they most need to learn.”

A friend of mine shared this bit of wisdom with me many years ago and it has stuck firmly with me. I have often found as a teacher that the topics I am most adept at sharing with my students are often the ones that I am actively engaged in as a student. I am more present to that material and what my students' needs and struggles may be, because they are also needs and struggles I have been actively working within myself.

Learning While Teaching

The act of teaching is part of my exploration as a student:

  • Sometimes a student reveals some new approach through their own exploration that I hadn’t thought of.
  • A question could be asked that leads me to give an answer that I had not even given myself until that moment.
  • And having to organize my thinking to present it to others often leads me to new realizations that immediately affect my own practice.

For this reason I encourage you to:

  1. Always make time for your own practice.
  2. Share what you’re learning with others.
  3. Take time as both student and teacher.

Being a teacher does not mean that you need to have complete mastery. The act of sharing something with others increases retention, understanding, and personal fulfillment. The most important thing is to realize being a teacher does not require hierarchy or dominance. Be honest about your abilities and teach from a place of transparency without pretense.

Community Instruction

I recommend to our study groups that the members of those groups (who are all equal peers) take turns in a teacher or coach role. You might find this through allowing your less experienced members to orient newcomers. Nothing reinforces solid fundamentals like having to show them to someone else in a positive and affirming way.

Everyone should take turns being a coach (being the one who observes and gives helpful insights about someone else’s performance of a technique). It is an excellent way to develop your observational skills and when you’re spotting a flaw in someone else’s form you will often become aware of that same error in your own. Work with one another to improve how good coaching advice is given, and use this opportunity to reinforce a habit of being open to advice and learning from all sources.

I'd love to hear about your experiences as teacher and student. Please take a moment to leave thoughts in the comments.


Devon Boorman is the Co-Founder and Director of Academie Duello Centre for Swordplay, which has been active in Vancouver, Canada since 2004. Devon’s expertise centres on the Italian swordplay tradition including the arts of the Renaissance Italian rapier, sidesword, and longsword, as well as knife and unarmed techniques.
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