Producing Good FMA Instructors, pt V

This will be a short entry, because I have one small tip that really means a lot and I want it to have its own article.

I’ve discovered after 18 years of teaching the arts in my own school, and after over 1,000 students, that the best way to teach martial arts skills is in small, manageable bites of knowledge. When I was learning, I had traditional, patient teachers who demanded diligent, focused practice and perfection. While this may not be for everyone, for the teacher who wishes the best for his students it is the only path to this level of skill.

For my own students, I began them as advanced beginners by assigning them one technique to teach, demonstrate and explain during class. This got them to recall all of the details of a technique, and often opened their eyes to mistakes that they may not have been aware that they were making themselves. Another technique I used was to take the more advanced students, and give him a lower level classmate to tutor for a small number of skills. We have done this over the years with older students teaching younger students, having the better fighters lead a sparring class, and having students with better skill in one set of techniques (like kicking, or stick sparring) teach his method to his brothers. This leads to two things: 

  1. humility and respect–everyone realizes that someone may be better than someone else at one thing, but no one has it all. it also keeps the hierarchy of skills within my student body in check
  2. camaraderie–the students become closer brothers when they share information, and this is healthy for the growth of my school and my style

Teaching skill and fighting skill are by-products of this method.

When teaching students there are several philosophies about what method is best for developing skill in the shortest amount of time.  Here are my thoughts:

  • when explaining a skill, technique or strategy to the students, give them just the basic movements, and not too much detail. as they progress, add more details and variations, but only when they are beginning to develop proficiency at what they’ve already learned
  • it is not necessary to make every correction and micro-adjustments in the beginning. again, I advocate giving a few details at a time. this allows the students to retain more of what you say
  • always prove your point with actions, not words. students will understand better when they see it, than when they are asked to envision it. especially when a student asks, “will it work if… ?”  what better way to prove it than to show it in application
  • spar with a technique to demonstrate its effectiveness, and to test and rehearse their understanding of it
  • a good idea would be to spend an entire class session on one skill, one technique, or one strategy. it really gives the students a complete understanding of the material you are teaching by focusing attention on just that item, and giving them ample time to practice it
  • always utilize enough repetitions to drill the information into their memories, and then perform more. 10 reps is not ample.
  • i like to take one week, or several consecutive class sessions to spend time on many variations or parts of a technique. often one class alone, or a few minutes of a class, will not be enough time to properly convey what you want them to learn. we have actually spent 3 months developing one technique in my school.

These lessons should be built into your instructor candidates’ training, as they will be accepting students before you know it, and they should already be very familiar with these teaching techniques.

Of course, I have more on this subject, but I will expound on them in future articles. I hope you found this entry useful!

Thank you for reading my blog!


Author: thekuntawman

full time martial arts teacher, full time martial arts philosopher, and full time martial arts critic

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