I had a chat conversation a couple of months back with a fellow instructor from a different system of FMA. He put up his school and had just begun offering lessons in FMA. During one of his sessions a fellow practitioner was working with a newbie on some drills for a specific skill set. At some point the newbie's partner escalated and started telling the newbie to escalate and do some other technique not covered in the skill set. Seeing the deviation from the prescribed exercise my friend interrupts the set and tells them to go back to the specific drill where the guy begins mentioning that the home system's chief instructor does this, this and this in the seminar and that the technique in the drill can be countered by so and so… and then he proceeds to partner with my friend and "shows" the technique. In the end the instructor is forced to escalate and neutralize the guy.

Where does petty disobedience end and insubordination begin? What counts as insubordination?

I suggest looking at the extremes first before looking at the various shades of grey in between.

Filipinos have a very polite culture as pointed out to me by my foreign friends and I agree with them on this. Our speech patterns contain respectful responses such as "po" and "opo" and the polite "paki". Its ingrained in our being. It makes us quite sensitive and perceptive regarding polite behavior.

The Chinese and the Japanese have the most acute sense of politeness and respect, all the bowing and rituals, politeness and obedience to the point of servitude. Totally opposite of Western behavior regarding forwardness, speaking your mind and standing out. Factors such as these must be taken into account when defining what insubordination is. Gender discrimination also seems a factor. Much more when combined with ego. I've seen an assistant to the instructor get "told off" by a trainee that she was executing the "feeding" of an attack in the exercise "wrong" and that when the lady escalated the technique to prove her point and made a decisive hit on the guy he responds with a derisive "your sister is still tougher than you."

As an instructor, I think it is important to recognize the symptoms of disobedience. I'm all for giving students enough room to learn for themselves, but what safeguards can we establish to maintain order in the class?

Lets get back to disobedience and insubordination. I think these are some of the most extreme ways to disrupt a class. There are differences between the two though. Disobedience could come from a misunderstood instruction or a wrong assumption. I define Insubordination as malicious and willful disobedience.

Ok, so I'm not saying student should blindly obey their instructors, I'm just saying that student should follow their teacher's instructions within reasonable bounds. And I'm not saying that questioning is bad. Not at all, in fact it is good to ask questions. I have no problem with the act of disobedience per se. It's the intent behind the action I'm concerned about.

So, when does a student go too far?

For me it boils down to certain violations:

• Extreme disrespect to the Art, Teachers, Classmates.

• Unwarranted intentional harm to others.

• Malicious and Immoral conduct.

Its not very specific but I kinda like it that way so that students are always kept on their toes about the appropriateness of their conduct. Usually, I listen to feedback from their peer group to check their tolerance and acceptance of certain behaviors. I particularly look at how the ladies in my group react to potentially "offensive" behaviors, though I remind them that they are in a martial arts group and not in a convent.

All in all this becomes important to me because without a certain level of harmony and order in the group training programs cannot be maintained, training gets disrupted if not derailed altogether. That’s the whole point of having rules, to create an environment in which students can learn without distraction and disruption.

It soon becomes a matter of discretion for the instructor how he will classify an offense and its gravity and the accompanying punishment. It definitely depends on an instructors experience, cultural background and maturity to be able to judge a situation correctly and finally the discipline to act on it and the level-headedness to be fair in meting out punishment.

Now PUNISHMENT… that's another fun topic.