Teaching Karate
by Sensei Neil Prime
September, 1998

Teaching martial arts can be a very gratifying experience. It can also be a very intimidating experience to the apprentices who somehow decide that this is the thing to do.

Teaching martial arts requires the same skills as teaching anything. It not only requires knowledge of the subject that you are relaying but it also requires the skills to relay the message to be delivered. I don't believe for a second that everyone who wears a Black Belt should be an instructor, just the same as every licensed mechanic shouldn't be teaching shop in school.

Showing confidence in your actions and explanations relays a message of certainty and this will make people believe you.

Keep in mind though, articulating superfluously foregoing a persons cognitive efficacies can be pernicious and depreciative to the definitive aspiration.

Translation... confusing people with fancy words isn't a good idea. If anything it will make it will make it harder to achieve your goals.

Showing reservation and doubting your own actions will relay a message of uncertainty and people will question your ability, even if you are an expert in your field.

I was rather fortunate coming through the ranks as I got a fair bit of experience teaching without even realizing so. We were always encouraged to help each other along, especially aiding the lower belt levels with their katas and techniques.

The first time I was put into a situation where I was called upon to actually lead the class I thought I was going to die! Once things got going though, it wasn't as intimidating as I first thought it was going to be.

If I can give some advice to the willing, here are a few things that I find work for me when I teach.

1) Make sure you have a goal of what it is you want to achieve. If you don't have something in mind, you will find it very hard to stay on track.

2) If things are not going as planned don't overkill your point, make sure you have a back-up plan. You can't expect people, especially kids with shorter attention spans and beginners to digest all of what you might have originally anticipated.

3) Teach what you know best. Make sure that what you teach comes from experience. Don't try to dazzle people with fancy complicated techniques that don't work. Even a beginner will know if what you are teaching seems reasonable or not. If it doesn't, you will lose credibility and students.

4) Never assume that the student knows anything about what you are teaching. With beginners you must cover all basics and plant a foundation for future growth.

5) There are many different types of people and they all learn at a different pace and in different ways. You can cater to all these types of people if you are aware of what works for them. Some can learn simply by listening to what you have to say. Some need to see you demonstrate. Some need to try it themselves. Some need to repeat, even out loud at times what you have just said. Most of us need to go over this process more than once. Make sure your presentation of ideas covers these bases. It will not eliminate all questions but it does help.

6) Encourage feedback. As a student I ask all kinds of questions because I personally need to know every minute detail. Not everyone may be the same but you can judge if your getting through by the questions being asked. As an instructor I make sure I ask people if they understand, then ask them to show me.

7) Have fun. Even when you are teaching what you may consider to be very important, people will relate better and retain more information if they are relaxed. If your not having fun, you probably would rather be somewhere else and that will show. If you're having fun then it's more likely that your students are having fun and they will want to learn and come back to class next time, and so will you.

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