A master practitioner is someone who can practice and demonstrate their abilities at the highest levels, from martial artists who can handle multiple armed attackers to Olympians who can defy world records and our imaginations at their feats of strength and speed. We admire these master practitioners for their skills that transcend technical competence to be true artistry.
Frequently, however, master practitioners are at a loss to explain their skills, to explain to someone not at their level how something works, how to learn something, how to improve. I once had a teacher of statistics in college who was an outstanding practitioner with many papers and publications to his name, but statistically, 90% of his class failed his course. Only grading on a curve saved the class from total defeat. Why? He was a master practitioner, but he couldn’t speak or teach to his 101-level students in the simplistic language they needed to acquire skills.
Conversely, there are plenty of teachers in the world who are proficient at the craft of teaching. We’ve encountered them throughout our lives occasionally, especially in our formative years. We look back with nostalgia at those teachers who succeeded at imparting the skills and knowledge we needed to progress, but realize that many can teach but not necessarily do. Some have out of date knowledge; others simply lack practical experience and can teach theory but not help us achieve our potential by putting that theory into action.
What is exceptionally rare is the master teacher who is also a master practitioner. I am fortunate to have met several in my life, two of whom I study with now, and one whose birthday I share in celebrating today.
The sign I have come to know as an indicator of a true master teacher is one who can present and demonstrate battle-tested information so that every student, regardless of skill level, walks away having learned their fill. So expansive is the teacher’s training that there’s something for everyone. Practitioners from the whitest of white belts to the eldest of senior master practitioners walk away with new insights, new ideas, and new things to work on.
Training at Stephen K. Hayes’ Fall Festival, 1998
It’s with that sense of tremendous gratitude and acknowledgement that I celebrate master teacher An-Shu Stephen K. Hayes‘ 65th birthday and wish him many more years of success in teaching, sharing, and guiding all of his students and his greater community. If you haven’t had the opportunity to train with An-Shu Hayes in his martial or meditation practices, I strongly encourage you to do so. Many of his meditation and mind science teachings have profoundly influenced my life for the better, and much of what I have to share is built on the bedrock of his material or sources he’s guided me to. He’s also teacher to my martial arts teacher, Mark Davis of the Boston Martial Arts Center, an equally important source of guidance for me in my life.
May you find as many master teachers in your life as I have found in mine, and may you have even greater opportunities to learn from them.
Happy birthday, An-Shu Hayes!
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