"Free" tuition

I am sometimes surprised by how those in Generation Y expect things to be given to them for free, rather than appreciating that the world doesn't owe them everything.

Consider this young fellow who, in relation to one of my Youtube videos, asks me to "please make a video explaining how to master that footwork step by step".

You'll see in the comments that I politely declined, citing the difficulty with "video teaching". However I don't think he got the hint that his demand for even more free information was quite cheeky (ie. "Your existing free video isn't detailed enough - please give me much more. For free, of course.").

All this from a person whom I couldn't differentiate from a bar of soap.

The video in relation to which the request for more detailed free instruction was requested - click on the video twice to access the comments.

I note that in the comments on a related clip someone else has offered to give him free tuition over the net. I wondered if I should say something, but I decided that I shouldn't labor the obvious. If the other person wants to offer free tuition to an unknown and cheeky Gen Y, then so be it. I don't think it should be encouraged, but each to his own.

Why should a prospective student expect me or any other martial arts teacher to give them knowledge for free that cost a great deal of money (never mind blood, sweat and tears) to acquire?

As it happens, I am happy to give information for "free" in many circumstances. But as my good friend Narda says, it isn't totally "free" in some respects if I feel I am getting something from it (eg. satisfaction in doing something well, enjoyment in teaching or helping etc.). If I don't get anything like this back, I don't give. I don't get any satisfaction from giving to someone who takes selfishly. Nor does this entitle a prospective student to say: "You enjoy teaching, therefore you ought to enjoy the privilege of teaching me." That is simply outrageous!

In a teacher/student relationship (or indeed in any relationship) there needs to be yin and yang - a balance.

We have always had a policy at our dojo that no one is turned away on financial grounds. If a student can't pay in money, he or she can give back in other ways. With any such arrangement there is a necessary precondition that the student must train with dedication and sincerity - so that the instructors at least have some "reward" for their investment of time and effort.

On the topic of balance, I often think you can destroy a friendship in 2 ways; giving too little and giving too much. I've found over the years that you need a balance in any relationship for it to be sustainable. I remember I had an impoverished friend for whom I often paid small amounts when we were going out (parking, a beer etc.). One day he turned up at my house and gave me a handful of notes and coins that approximated what I'd paid for him over the preceding couple of months. He was clearly agitated. "There," he said. "Please don't lend me any more money." I took the money and the balance was restored. We never spoke about it again and I was careful not to make him feel indebted to me (which was never my intention, by the way) from that time onwards.

Copyright © 2009 Dejan Djurdjevic


  1. I don't think video learning is impossible. I haven't of course attempted to do this, but with the right close ups, camera perspective, and annotation/notes, followed up by return video feedback from end user - it may be possible to get a particular point or skill across. However a lot of people fail to appreciate that muscle dynamics and posture are difficult to observe on video screen. It is also difficult to understand the human condition of the student as he/she tries to figure out what you're saying. So while there are instances where I think it may work, there's so many more issues preventing correct instruction through video technology. That's my 5 cents - provided for free, of course. :-) Colin

  2. I agree - video instruction is possible, particularly for a senior student who is going to follow up the video tuition with proper correction.

    The Gen Y character was not in this category - plus I can't see why I should work hard at preparing an instructional video for a person I don't even know, just because he feels it would be convenient...

  3. I actually majored in TV production, and have some technical knowledge of how to communicate effectively using video. I've always thought it was possible to teach via video/distance learning. One can communicate concepts, and show video examples...depending on how it is done. (Yes...I think I could have done a MUCH better job of 'Human Weapon'. LOL!) But most martial artists don't appreciate the work that needs to be done BEHIND the camera to get it right.

    But like Dan says, 'balance'. Too much on the internet is too much to sort through for the newbies, and advanced students don't NEED those videos.

    I'm reminded that my most memorable Goju classes have been where learning occurred instantly when a technique was peformed on me. No words...and yet a new concept would be introduced and I'd be standing there in a daze...with a whole new horizon.

  4. I think it's interesting the way many Westerners feel entitled to have answers to all their questions.

    Even when you're clearly giving 'free tuition', some students will still want all the answers and want them now. This is after all much faster and easier than figuring things out for yourself.

    Sometimes I think we need to show respect for our seniors by being attentive and learning with our eyes and ears. At least in traditional dojos it's worth trusting that the answers will come if and when our seniors think we're ready for them.

  5. So true Krista.

    Many students want to be "spoon fed". They want to be "taught" when in truth no one is ever "taught" - rather we "learn" and our teacher facilitates this process. By this I mean that we need to discover things ourselves for them to have any real meaning to us.

  6. I recently read this funny quote on another forum.

    "When you give something to a man, or do something for him, the first time he will kiss your hands, second time he takes his hat off, third time he bows, fourth time he fawns, fifth time he nods, sixth time he insults you, and the seventh time he sues you for not giving him enough."

    - G.I. Gurdjieff

  7. He's 100 years too early to be able to use that information.

    TFT has only been able to do video online courses because people have proven, simply by observing the DVD coordination sets, that they can get it together. The TFT instructors themselves weren't convinced, until they saw the videos of the DVD watchers practice the free form. Not for everybody. You must first understand internal body movement principles and then go towards very simple applications of body momentum mechanics until you have the foundation down, before ever getting into fine muscle coordination techniques or sets.

    I would never be able to understand as much as I have just by watching videos, if I didn't understand the principles of full body momentum.

    If I'm average, that applies to the other averages. If I'm an above average observer, then the barrier to others is even higher.

    By watching the student practice sets at slow speed and normal speed, they can be corrected online. But this takes more initiative on the part of the student to be motivated and analyze their own forms. People who can be self-taught and are self-motivated, can get it. People that need a hand carried along, should attend a more personal type of instruction.

    Nothing ever had worth to a human that they didn't get through sacrifice and hard work. Basically.

    It is precisely because it is free that many will not value it. But then again, not all humans play by that little social conformity trick.


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