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gheinisch
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Joined: 09 Jan 2003
Posts: 2140
Location: Newnan, Georgia
Styles: Hon-Shin-Do - Shodan

PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2007 2:45 pm    Post subject: Traits of a Martial Arts Instructor Reply with quote

What makes a great martial arts instructor? Is it the knowledge of the art that they are teaching or the ability to perform the techniques with such precision to leave no doubt that they have mastered their art? I think any of us who have been in the martial arts for very long have all come to realize that a great martial artist doesnít always mean a great instructor as well. And being a great instructor isnít synonymous with a great technical martial artist. I have, as Iím sure many of you have, had an instructor who may be a fantastic martial artist but has a very hard time conveying the information in a way that his or her students can grasp and make their own.

On the other hand, there are those instructors who may not be the master of every technique but can break the different techniques down in a way that makes it easy for students to learn and remember the techniques to practice and become proficient. In this article, I will be addressing some of the traits and characteristics of a ďgoodĒ martial arts instructor. Iíll discuss some of the standards that we try to live up to and instill in all of our instructors at our dojo.

First and foremost is the ability for the instructor to conduct himself as a professional. What are some traits of a professional martial arts instructor?

Sincerity: the professional instructor should be straight forward and completely honest with all students.

Acceptance of the student: the professional instructor must accept students as they are, with all their faults and all their problems. Under no circumstance should the instructor do anything which implies degrading the student.

Personal appearance and habits: personal appearance has an important effect on the professional image of the instructor as does the personal habits of the instructor. The exercise of common courtesy is perhaps the most important of these. A martial arts instructor who is rude, thoughtless and inattentive cannot hold the respect of the students, regardless of their instructing ability. Of course, personal hygiene and cleanliness is very important as well. The use of alcohol in or around the dojo should never be tolerated. The smell of alcohol on an instructorís breath during a period of instruction is inexcusable.

Demeanor: the attitude and movements of the professional instructor can contribute much to oneís image. The professional image requires development of a calm, thoughtful and disciplined, but not somber, demeanor. A foreboding or imperious demeanor is as much to be avoided as an air of flippancy. Effective instruction is best fostered by a calm, pleasant, thoughtful demeanor which puts the student at ease and maintains the instructorís personal image of competence and genuine interest in the studentís learning tasks.

Safety: the teaching habits of the martial arts instructor, both during instruction and the observance of students in class, have a vital effect on safety. For this reason, the instructor must practice as well as observe the safety practices taught to the students. The habitual observance of regulations, safety precautions and the precepts of courtesy will enhance the instructorís image of professionalism.

Goals: as an instructor, you need to have your own personal goals as well as helping your students set goals for themselves. In our dojo, our Renshi came up with an acronym to help with this - S.M.A.R.T.

Here is what S.M.A.R.T stands for:

Specific: is your goal well defined?
Measurable: do you have a means to know when it has been achieved?
Attainable: is it realistic?
Rewarding: does the prospect of achieving this goal motivate you?
Time based: is it attainable within a short enough time period to enable you to sustain motivation?

Keep in mind some specific targets that you, as well as your students, may want to work on. i.e. kata, kumite, kihon conditioning, etc. Have an action plan to achieve the results you want. Have your students record their goals and tell how they propose to accomplish them. Make a copy for yourself and follow up with each individual student on their progress. Helping your students achieve their goals will not only give them a feeling of accomplishment but can help motivate them as well. And we all know that a well motivated student is a better student.

One very important thing that instructors must be able to know is when their students are becoming frustrated with their training or goal achievement. Here are some situations that you as an instructor may encounter from students.

Flight: students often escape from frustrating situations by taking flight, physical or mental. More frequent than physical flights are mental flights or daydreaming. If students get sufficient satisfaction from daydreaming, they may stop trying to achieve their goals altogether.

Rationalization: if students cannot accept the real reason for their failures or shortcomings, they must rationalize. Rationalization is a subconscious technique for justifying actions that otherwise would be unacceptable. When true rationalization occurs, individuals sincerely believe in their excuses. The excuses seem real and justifiable.

Aggression: everyone gets angry occasionally. Anger is normal; a universal human emotion. Students may ask irrelevant questions, refuse to participate in activities of the class or disrupt activities within their own group. If students cannot deal directly with the cause of their frustration, they must vent their aggressiveness toward a neutral object or person not related to the problem.

Resignation: students may become so frustrated that they lose interest and give up. They may no longer believe it profitable or even possible to work further; they accept defeat.

As an instructor, you take on not only the responsibility of teaching your students a martial art but also of a psychologist who can play a very important role in human relationships. Some of these following characteristics may help avert some of the problems mentioned above.

Keep students motivated: itís been mentioned more than once already but thatís how important motivation can be. Students gain so much more from wanting to learn rather than being forced to learn. A favorable attitude aids in retention and the feeling of accomplishment provides fuel for more learning.

Keep students informed: students can feel insecure when they do not know what is expected of them or what is going to happen to them. Instructors can minimize the feelings of insecurity by informing the students what is expected of them and what they can expect from you.

Approach students as individuals: when instructors limit their thinking to the whole group without considering the individuals who make up that group, their effort is directed at an average personality which really fits no one. Each group has itís own personality which stems from the characteristics and interactions of itís members. However, each individual within the group has a personality which is unique and should be constantly considered. This may be difficult in larger dojos but its importance remains the same. A student called by name or given one on one attention from the instructor has a greater sense of being, as opposed to the one lost in the back row of a large class.

Give credit when due: when the student does something right, let them know. However, praise given too freely becomes valueless. But, when deserved, it pays dividends in student effort and achievement.

Criticize constructively: to tell students that they have made errors and not provide explanations does not help them. If a student has made an earnest effort but is told that the work is not satisfactory, with no further explanation, frustration occurs. And as mentioned above, a frustrated student may soon give up because their best efforts have gone unnoticed.

Be consistent: students naturally want to please their instructors. The instructorís philosophy and actions must therefore remain consistent. This doesnít mean to become complacent in your teachings but consistent in the way you convey your teachings.

Admit errors: if the instructor tries to cover up or bluff, the students will sense it. If in doubt about some point, the instructor should admit it to the students. Good human relations promote more effective learning. Admitting mistakes will go far in winning respect just as hiding them will eventually cause you to lose respect.

Perhaps the most difficult task in teaching a martial art is to instill a belief in the moral aspects of the art. Most students are interested in the immediate results of fighting techniques and care little about morality, which is the foundation behind them. This raises the question, ďIf we are fully aware of the violence inherent in manís nature, then are we not turning out killers? Are we not teaching an art that enables man to destroy man?Ē The answer must be yes, we are fully aware of the violence inherent in man and that the art embraces, within itself, techniques to kill with the empty hand.

But, there is morality involved, woven in the fabric of the martial arts, which controls the violence and use of the art except under one condition - absolute necessity and dire peril. Morality may be, as instructors, the most difficult thing to teach and instill in our students. We must never forget that as instructors we bear a great responsibility in teaching an art that can take someoneís life in an instant.

This by no means covers everything that is needed to be an effective instructor. We could still talk about the difference in learning skills, human behavior and needs and the elements of the communication process. I hope. in some small way. this helps those up and coming instructors as well as those who have already been passing on their knowledge for years.

Reference: Instructors Manual for Hon-Shin-Do
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Patrick
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Joined: 01 May 2001
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Location: Kitty Hawk, North Carolina

PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2007 2:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for the submission.
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bushido_man96
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Joined: 31 Mar 2006
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Location: Hays, KS
Styles: Taekwondo, Combat Hapkido, Aikido, GRACIE

PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2007 11:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great article! Lost of good points for those aspiring to teach.
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ninjanurse
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Joined: 13 Feb 2003
Posts: 6154
Location: Upstate NY
Styles: TKD;Shotokan;JuJitsu;Tai Ji

PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2007 8:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very nice, well said!



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shogeri
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Joined: 16 Jun 2005
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Styles: Instructor in Internal, External, Mixed Styles

PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2007 8:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ghein ~ Awesome!
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cardinal95
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Joined: 17 Jul 2014
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 18, 2014 7:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know this is a considerably older post, but I truly enjoyed this piece Greg! The part where you target "praise given too freely becomes valueless" really struck me. So often in this artform/sport we encounter the notorious "ego" which is so ironic considering the emphasis on kenson ("humbless") in this sport. I've seen it before where students are put on this pedestal only to either get knocked down or end up impacting other students' ability to learn. So many awesome points here. I love the incorporation of the SMART goals in the dojo. I use this as a guideline at work, but what a great idea bringing it into the dojo.

Thanks for sharing!
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sensei8
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Joined: 23 Feb 2008
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Location: Houston, TX
Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]

PostPosted: Sun Jul 20, 2014 10:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great article, Greg; my hat's off to you!! I echo what everyone here has said thus far; solid, and I wholeheartedly thank you for your insightful words, through and through!!



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gheinisch
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Joined: 09 Jan 2003
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Location: Newnan, Georgia
Styles: Hon-Shin-Do - Shodan

PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2014 11:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the kind words guys!! Mallory, glad to see you joined KarateForums. I think you'll find some great martial artist here who have a wealth of information ready to share.
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cardinal95
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2014 12:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the recommendation Greg! I've already found so many insightful and intelligent karateka on here, its been awesome! I can't believe I didn't join sooner.

PS Sensei Ed is talking about us making a trip down there maybe next year, we'll keep you posted on the details.
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DWx
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Joined: 17 Jan 2007
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Location: UK
Styles: Tae Kwon Do & Yang family Tai Chi

PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2014 1:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great article Greg. I especially like the SMART acronym.. would certainly help focus lessons and training goals.
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