In my last blog I talked about losing my 20 year student Merdy, who passed away. I wish to clarify. A dojo may lose students and a teacher may have students leave. But a true teacher does not lose students. Students move on.
Allow me to go deeper. Any teacher who teaches from the heart celebrates a student’s growth into the next level. While some students merely stop attending class, they should not be vilified just because they may not be able to handle their Sensei’s newer, or should I say, deeper levels of teaching. If the present environment is too stressful, a separation is called for. If the student’s understanding is coming too rapidly and the challenges not as forthcoming, a separation may be called for. Its called kicking the young bird out of the nest, telling him/her “go out, seek a new discovery or new understanding. Then come back and show me what you have discovered.”
And sometimes you experience a separation through the transition of death such as my friend and student Meredith (Merdy) Chaplin last week. As I said, growth requires separation, even though we miss that person deeply. Merdy is one of the most complete human beings I’ve had the honor of knowing. To be called Sensei by someone of his caliber, to have him as a student is both humbling and awe inspiring at the same time. His works of art are unique. The Kokikai summer camp tee shirts designed by Merdy always sold out. The figures on the 2001 shirt appear to be moving. He started a graphics design company but had to close it because he could not get many of his clients to pay their bills. These were some large, very well-known companies too. But that’s business these days.
It is a great responsibility to teach. It is humbling to teach. It is an honor to teach. And finally, there is an obligation to teach. Why? In what other way will the human race advance if one does not pass on what he/she has acquired? We truly are our brothers’ keeper.
Merdy’s large roll-outs were beautiful to behold for such a large man. AS one student put it, “I attempted to copy his rolls but could not.” As Merdy’s Sensei, I had the responsibility to teach him small rolls, back rolls and large rolls. Well, he ended up teaching all of us how to roll large and quietly.
As I’ve said before, if a teacher cannot learn from his students, he is not much of a teacher. This man also taught many of us how to apply our humanity. I have not met many whom everyone liked. Change many to any! Other than Merdy.
He will always be listed as Meredith Chaplin, 2nd dan, an active member still training in Wilmington Dojo.