The teaching of advanced martial arts students is very different from teaching beginning students. I want to start this article with this simple statement, because I think many teachers treat the advanced level the same way they treat the beginner levels of the martial arts. It involves more than just “advanced” curriculum. The whole method of instruction is a skill, and it is a separate skill than the way you teach beginners. Some teachers are better than others at teaching basics. Others will excel at teaching intermediates. Others will master teaching the advanced. And then you have the teachers who can only teach teachers, and their skill at teaching beginners is not very good.
This is the reason you find schools that are bottom-heavy with low belts and very few intermediates and advanced students. Yet in other schools you will find few beginners and few advanced students, but a lot of intermediate students. And perhaps the most common situation you will find with Asian teachers in America: Nearly no beginners at all, a small following of intermediates, and many advanced students. And further, with mostly older masters, you will find no students at all, and all of his “students” are instructor level students of other masters, or former students who are now teachers that hang around the master.
Each of these levels of students require a different kind of training and instruction, and the teacher must know how to address their needs, how to produce results, and how to prepare the students for the next level.
The Advanced Student
The advanced student does not require so much a formal class (unless he is naturally lazy by character), nor does he need to have his basics checked. I should hope that by the time your student reaches the advanced level, his basics are solid and he is able to execute techniques at a flawles level. He also does not require a lot of instruction of fighting strategy, as this knowledge should have been studied at the intermediate level. The focus of the advanced level student should be three-fold:
- refinement of perfect basics
- alternative applications of techniques learned at lesser levels
- learning to apply one’s fighting skill against any opponent
In some systems, little to nothing new is learned at the advanced level. In my Eskrima style, for example, all techniques are learned before completing the intermediate level. The advanced level is where those techniques are perfected. Yet in my Kuntaw system, I teach very little before the advanced level, and most of the techniques that are unique to my style are only taught to my instructors and instructor candidates. And in my Jow Ga system, most of the advanced students learn something new all the way to the end of the curriculum. Every style will be different. Yet the focus should fall into these three things: perfection, alternatives, and application.
refinement of perfect technique
The advanced student should be striving to perfect the skills he learned at the beginner level. This is accomplished through individual practice. Students do not need to come to class and have repetitions counted out for them. They also do not need to come to class and have the teacher explaining how to throw techniques. If they are doing that, then they don’t belong in anything labelled “advanced”. Perfection is what they should be striving for. At the beginner levels, student may practice to “get” their basics. At intermediate, they may practice to “get gooder” at their basics–becoming faster, stronger, more accurate. And at the advanced level, their basics should be flawless, and you should be able to throw accurate, quick and powerful techniques from any position, anytime you wish. The advanced student, therefore, should never be caught off-balance, or miss shots thrown, or anything else. To practice with this in mind requires that you do little more than casually practice; not even “rigorously” practice…. you must train.
He can either practice alone or with a partner. He must have things to hit. He must drill his techniques with an insane number of repetitions, and do each strike, each punch, each kick as if he were trying to kill someone. Because at this level, the student is no longer striving for “good” skill; he is striving for lethal ability. He must train as if his life depended on those skills, because in reality, it does. If he wants to use a partner, he should not train with a weaker classmate or one that is too new to be a good partner. He does not want a partner who is weaker or afraid of him. The advanced student must have a true partner, not a target-holder. He needs to be challenged, and forced to give his all with every rep. As the teacher, you must ensure that this happens. Not practice at one’s leisure–but they have to train with a sense of urgency, and the intensity of a champion fighter preparing to defend his title.
This kind of training will ensure that the so-called “advanced” student walks away with “advanced” skills, and they are apparent each time he throws a punch, kick or strike.
In part II we will look at the other goals for teaching advanced students. Thanks for visiting my blog.