This is a continuation of this post, entitled “Learn to Teach Everybody“. If you hadn’t read it already, please go and check it out.
One of the most difficult skills in teaching, is learning to teach the awkward, the physically challenged, and the cowards. I am going to skip talking about those with personality flaws, as I consider this a different kind of skill. (Btw, in saying those with “personality flaws” I am referring to the lazy, the arrogant, the cocky, the know-it-all, overly aggressive, the careless, and those with issues such as anger issues) Instead, these are the students that many teachers do not enjoy teaching because those few students bring a desire to learn but do not have the so-called “natural talents” for the martial arts that others more athletically inclined have. These are the students I once rejected, erroneously thinking they were “not cut out” for martial arts training. I’m sure many of you have said the same things I have.
First, let me emphasize that any man or woman willing to learn and endure the rigours of harsh training can be developed into a fighter. That being said, “courage” is not that which a man is willing or able to do, but what things he fears and brings him pain, that he is willing to do anyway. For a martial arts student to be successful, he must bring courage to the table–and without it, he cannot be a true martial artist. Regardless of what his fitness level is, or what type of job he works 9 – 5, or how big, how cut, how aggressive he is. Mike Tyson is an example of a fighter with all the tools–but not the heart–to be a great fighter. As long as he is fighting weaker, lesser skilled fighters he looks good. But when faced with a fearless, stronger and better-skilled opponent he cowers like most men. I consider a great fighter to be a man like Evander Holyfield–one who fights bigger, stronger, younger men–yet defeat them or fight to the finish even when losing. We want our fighters to carry this quality. Yes, they should be strong and fast. But what good is that when they lack the courage to continue when they believe they are beaten?
So, this first quality must be instilled in your students: It will not be easy. As your teacher I will push you until you feel that you cannot do any more. You will suffer occasional injuries, You will suffer some aches and pains. But continue working hard and one day you will be one of the leaders of the pack. Quit and you will never see those goals achieved. If a student perseveres while learning, works hard when he doesn’t feel like it, and does not give in to embarassment or fear or pain he will be among the best.
And being among the best should be your goal for your students. Strive for them to reach Superman status and they will excel. But expect their limitations to be just that–limitations, including how far they will go–and your teaching will be in vain and your student’s time, money and effort will be wasted. If they are diligent and hard-working, they will learn and develop.
Secondly, the students will probably develop strength and mobility before anything else. The easiest thing to learn is to how to hit and how to generate power, so I suggest working towards that goal first. Strength and balance (mobility) are extremely important to fighting skill as one cannot win fights without power, and one cannot defense without the ability to move, evade and catching the opponent. You can help your students build their muscle easily, just through calisthenics and punching and striking practice. I suggest using a combination of striking practice (even standing in a horse stance and throwing karate style straight punches), target practice, and push ups. This alone will develop the ability to break a nose, break a jaw or knock a man out. And this alone will help your students defend themselves without any other skills or weapons. The second part, though–mobility–is not that easy to teach. Starting with basic footwork and lots of movement, your students will eventually learn to capture and evade as easily as learning to dance. (LOL) Okay, that isn’t easy at all for this group of students! However, you must be consistent, persistent, and patient with them while they learn. Footwork should be incorporated in almost all their training–kicking, blocking and striking. It will take longer, but do not give up as their teacher; anyone will eventually learn it.
I believe many teachers dismiss some fighters as simply having “two left feet” and do not emphasize footwork. They are guilty of believing that footwork is not a developed skill but a natural skill and it is not. Anytime you find a fighter with poor footwork, you will find a lazy teacher. While some men will get it easily, many will not. However, once they are able to manuever, a smaller, weaker man can defeat a larger, stronger one. This is one of those equalizers that make all fighters level.
When these two attributes are developed, your students will enjoy more confidence and you may see many of the “faults”–timidness, weakness and fear, even awkwardness–disappear. It will take longer than it does for most of your students, but if you are a good teacher–everyone ends up with good fighting skill, regardless of what they originally brought to the table. You’re the teacher, so TEACH!
And let me close with this: The quickest path to developing self-confidence–not confidence that you are a great fighter, but confidence that you can learn and are learning (so they can learn more)–is for the martial arts student to see his body and his strength increase. When I get a fighter, regardless of what style I am teaching him, I will have him do a good mix of strength training and fight training. Within 3 months, every students–male and female–will feel his power increasing. He will see his muscles grow stronger and get harder. Others will comment on his improving physique. This, my friends, is the source of realized and achieved confidence. He will see that, “yes, this is working!”; and this is the fuel that will drive his progress forward in his training. It will not come from patty-cake drills. I will not come from certificates. It is from the knowledge that “If I hit someone with these fists, I’m going to ruin their day…” It is the comfort in himself, that he is safe because of what he carries in his body. Not knowledge, but ability. This is the proverbial gun in the back pocket. Any man or woman is capable of this. Your job, as teacher, is to make sure it happens.
Thanks for visiting my blog. If you like this article, you’re sure to enjoy my book, Mustafa Gatdula’s How to Build a Dominant Fighter in 12 Months. Check it out on our “Offerings” page!