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Thread: Martial Arts Instructors Should Learn To Teach

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    Default Martial Arts Instructors Should Learn To Teach

    There are lots of martial arts instructors around, but how many of them are really teachers? How many of them know anything about the science of teaching and learning (yes, there is lots of science involved). I think that anyone who wants to teach martial arts, should make an effort to learn how to teach. That's what I write about in this blog
    http://budobum.blogspot.com/2015/07/...uld-learn.html

    Do you think budo instructors should learn to teach, or are the traditional methods good enough?
    Peter Boylan
    Mugendo Budogu LLC
    Fine Budo Books, Videos, Clothes and Equipment Direct from Japan
    http://www.budogu.com

    Find my Budo Blog at http://budobum.blogspot.com/

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    As usual, good article. I enjoy reading them.

    I do think instructors can improve their ability to convey information to students by learning about how others learn. As is said in BJJ circles (and I'm sure many other places) one can be very good at BJJ, but be awful at teaching it to others.

    Mastery of a skill does not mean one is skilled at transmitting that skill to another.

    Assuming a teacher is motivated by the goal of instructing a student... I learned calculus twice. Once from an instructor who taught it the old-fashioned way and once from an instructor who adapted to my inadequacies as a student and found a way to convey the topic. I do not blame the former for my own inadequacies, but I am grateful to the latter for his adaptability and insight into communication and the art of teaching.

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    I agree

    I think there should always be a difference between ranking in a Martial Art, and being qualified to teach that Martial Art.

    So often I see that someone has attained 'black belt' and they start teaching others, that could be fine, or it could be disastrous for a number of reasons.

    The first consideration is what a 'black belt' signifies, as this will be completely different depending on what you are practicing, the organisation you belong to, your own dojo's customs and preferences. In my organisation for example, as with many traditional JMA, you receive a black belt at Shodan, and this is literally taken to mean Beginner Level, for some this may be their first grade - so in no way, shape or form is this seen as qualification to teach others, however this isn't the same everywhere you go, and I've seen other arts where the expectation for that first black belt is much higher, and the technical knowledge to teach has to be there, and is sometimes an actual part of the grading.

    Then consider the individual, what do they do for a living? What else do they do in their lives? How good are they at interacting with others? If their job involves training, they may be good at teaching others even before black belt level, I've found that 'hands on' parents are often good at teaching others, while at the same time I've seen people with great technique, who aren't good with other people, or at explaining what they are doing.

    In the end though, different organisations will continue doing what they do, it will always be clear what's what when people start training, everyone should just be sure that they go with an instructor they feel they can learn from..
    Guy Preston
    Moto-ha Yoshin Ryu, English Southern Region Branch Dojo (Farnham, Surrey)
    www.motohayoshinryu.webs.com

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    As usual, good read.

    Excellent questions BTW, there is a serious difference between being a good MA and being a good MA teacher.

    VERY BROAD GENERALIZATION here but I always respected the Japanese POV on giving plenty of respect to the latter. In the West there is often, not always but often, an "those that can't do, teach" mentality.
    Chris Thomas

    "While people are entitled to their illusions, they are not entitled to a limitless enjoyment of them and they are not entitled to impose them upon others."

    "Team Cynicism" MVP 2005-2006
    Currently on "Injured/Reserve" list due to a scathing Sarcasm pile-up.

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    I think there is some really good stuff in there. My Tai Chi teacher says the same thing as your dad and it's definitely true for me!

    But there are some other points that baffle me a little. Like notebooks? I can't imagine anyone in a martial arts class taking notes! Maybe I'm old fashioned, but it's not something I've ever seen. I've only ever been able to learn martial arts in one way: monkey see, monkey do. Personally I don't need - or like - lots of talk from my teachers. I like to feel the technique applied to me, and then attempt to repeat it. If my teacher says "no, try like this", then I prefer to just try like that than to scurry off and write notes.

    When I trained in MJER a few years ago, I did consider writing some notes when I got home, because there were so many fine points. But I found that as I came to write each note, what I actually did was practice the point repeatedly, to make sure I really understood what I was going to write...and then there was no longer any need to write it.

    I don't think that learning (or teaching) martial arts is like learning (or teaching) maths or history. I think it's like learning/teaching woodwork. And that leads me to another point where I have different thoughts than expressed in the article.

    If I wanted to become a master craftsman in the area of woodwork, I would want to apprentice under a master craftsman. I'd rather apprentice under a master craftsman who was not so good at teaching, than under a journeyman who was an expert teacher. Because I'm not setting out to learn to teach, I'm setting out to be a master craftsman. The journey man may teach in a very efficient manner, but he may teach the wrong thing in a very efficient manner. The master craftsman may struggle to get his point across - but his point will be correct.

    Also, I believe that as students, especially in the budo, we have to take a great responsibility for our own learning. Teaching is a form of communication, and as much as it is the teachers responsibility to try to transmit the knowledge, it is my responsibility as the student to make every effort to receive it. And this means being attentive, receptive, analytical, open minded etc.

    Maybe I'm just a traditionalist, and maybe I'm thinking too much about my own personal experience in learning the martial arts (small class or one on one), but I would dread seeing in martial arts what I have seen in other areas: the imposition of modern teaching practices such as strict lesson planning, goal setting, yadda yadda. As a student, I find this just makes things stale and lifeless.

    Give me a crusty old 6th Dan who has internalised his art any day of the week. Even if we don't even so much as speak the same language.

    Of course, other peoples experience may vary wildly, and it may be that a great many people would benefit from modern teaching practice. I guess the best situation would be if all approaches in teaching were available, so the student can choose one they like and learn from best.
    Phil Lewis

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    You learn how to teach partly from watching your teachers and partly from doing it yourself, like every other thing in the martial arts.
    Neil Gendzwill
    Saskatoon Kendo Club

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    Not learn from someone who has no teaching qualification? That just about disqualifies 90% of Japanese Sensei. Best not go to Japan anymore. There are few that work in education and do Budo with exception to Kendo and Judo as its a PhysEd subject. I might be a good idea however for students to study more Japanese.

    The traditional method is to show something to someone, no speech involved. Let them do it for a few weeks then say 'Dame if its wrong and show them again. Asking questions is Western concept that is now encourage. One needs to work in Japanese education to see that teaching methods even now are still different to the West. Japanese students still do not ask questions and are required to shut up and take notes.
    Last edited by hyaku; 19th August 2015 at 00:21.
    Hyakutake Colin

    All the best techniques are taught by survivors.


    http://www.hyoho.com

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    We had a guest instructor at our dojo, Hayashi Kunio. He is a kinesiology prof at Chukyo University, former Japan women's team coach. It sure was a pleasure being taught by a guy who is so strong technically (hanshi) but also is a professional teacher. He had a clear plan for the 3 days of instruction and a specific set of concepts he was teaching, along with some drills that were decidedly not the usual. It was really good. I only wish I could be so organized and focussed in the same situation.
    Neil Gendzwill
    Saskatoon Kendo Club

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    The Japanese way is to observe and try to copy. When you don't speak the same language this works up to a point. I always remember my sensei telling me he had been instructed by Oasa Yuji Judan but was at that time too low a level to understand. The objectives of some arts are established by ones age. It sometimes pays to try and find an instructor a few grades above you that will draw you up.
    Hyakutake Colin

    All the best techniques are taught by survivors.


    http://www.hyoho.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by hyaku View Post
    The Japanese way is to observe and try to copy.
    That is the old Japanese way, I think there is a trend to more explanatory teaching. I note that for kendo, there is a wealth of written technical information, if you can read Japanese. Hayashi-sensei certainly bucks the trend of simply demo and then copy, as do a number of other instructors I've had.
    Neil Gendzwill
    Saskatoon Kendo Club

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    Yes is has changed especially when Japanese are teaching gaijin and are aware that methods are different. Everyone was shocked when I took Iwata Sensei MJER to the UK for a seminar some years ago and he said, "Ask me questions". But even now this is not how the Japanese education system works. You sit, listen and take notes, period. Daily tests and lots of exams are use to make sure that you have absorbed what you have been taught.
    Hyakutake Colin

    All the best techniques are taught by survivors.


    http://www.hyoho.com

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    Some groups seperate teaching credentials from rank credentials. In my Karate group you could theoretically be 7th or 8th dan and not have a Renshi license. The teaching licenses are issued through a seperate exam process.
    Ed Boyd

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    An excellent article.

    I first learned about teaching in the NCO Academy at Ft. Bragg. Of course, very structured and disciplined. Then, after I was out and back home, I applied those lessons as a Sea Scout leader when teaching about sailing. When I moved and ended up running a dojo...not my intent BTW, I started reading textbooks on education and methods. Eventually, I went back to school and earned a teaching degree. I have gone back again and am working on a Masters in education. My wife, who has 4 masters degrees in theater related arts, looked at one of the textbooks and couldn't believe what I had to learn to be a teacher! It is so much more than just showing what you know.

    As to the rank and teaching, normally one does not equal the other. As Ed Boyd mentioned, some organizations keep it a separate process. I agree with that philosophy, although I don't follow it. As a one man shop, sometimes as many as 3, but usually one, I make a large part of the brown belt ranks learning how to teach. I want my black belts to be able to fill in for me without a worry.
    With respect,
    Mitch Saret

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    The dojo that I spent of most of my training time at, you started learning to teach after about a year of training. Not strictly, but once you had two or three grades, the instructor would ask you to help out with newcomers. Under close supervision.

    By the time you were 2nd kyu equivalent, you'd be teaching people who were up to the equivalent of fifth or fourth kyu fairly often, and would be used to leading warm-ups, maybe leading sections of the class.

    The "hard core" of the students also used to spend a lot of time training outside the dojo, in groups in our own homes. The higher ranks would train with some of the lower ranks on evenings and weekends, and would help out with informal instruction and guidance at these sessions. Pretty much every night this would be happening somewhere in town. Even on the night when there was week-night training, after it ended at 8:30PM, we'd decamp somewhere to train together until 10 or 11.

    The "real hard core", two or three of us, used to meet our teacher when he finished work on Friday night, and stay with him over the weekend. There were classes at the dojo 12-4 Saturday and Sunday, but these few of us would get instruction from about 7-11 Friday night, then crash on his living room floor. Then we'd get up around 6 on Saturday, and train hard till about 10, have breakfast, then go to class.

    After class finished, we'd (the two or three of us) come back to our instructors house, and help him cook light dinner. Then we'd train again 7-11 PM, and repeat the whole thing on Sunday.

    I had no idea at the time, but I suspect it's about as close as it was possible to get to "traditional" training without actually being in Okinawa 50 years earlier (this was the 80's).

    I don't ever remember being taught how to teach. And certainly there was concept of modern education theory. We were just immersed in training. Learning and teaching - and understanding that teaching was learning!

    There's no way I'd trade that experience - which went on for a couple of years, training maybe 40-50 hours a week - for anything.

    I'm traditional all the way...
    Phil Lewis

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    In our dojo, we are constantly reminded to take notes, and most of us in our dojo have extensive notebooks going back years. Not having and using one's notebook is considered a sure sign one will not be an effective student. Taking notes during class is almost always acceptable, and people have their "sudden realizations" when they have them.

    I recently began going through my notebooks and codifying into an organized whole, and have found a great many fine points mentioned by sensei, often less about a particular technique, and more about the general approach to increase effectiveness of all techniques. But, also, a great many subtle points in technique as well.

    Particularly over a very long time, with multiple teachers, this can be invaluable. Particularly if you are going to teach, these reminders can be the difference between teaching what you remember, and teaching ALL that you were taught (i.e. about a particular technique or subject).

    In martial arts, I find two broad divisions of instructors: (1) those who want to retain authority, power, etc., and thus don't really intend to fully convey their knowledge. They personally require an edge (usually much more) over any student, and would be dismayed if a student's skills matched or exceeded their own; (2) those who feel their knowledge is a trust and responsibility given to them, to be faithfully and fully conveyed to the best of their ability. They want their students to be able to use everything as effectively, or more so, than themselves.

    I think the former are responsible in large part for the decay of some ryuha, although not always intentionally. One such teacher can produce many later teachers who, because they NEVER were given the full system, and at best can teach it only partially, even if those later teachers themselves are of the second classification above. That one self-absorbed "teacher" can irrevocably lose important parts of a ryu to all who come later in that lineage.

    And all this doesn't take into account a person's ability to teach. In Japan, and here in Los Angeles, where there are some traditional Japanese teachers, the old school way is very difficult. I've seen this type of teacher a number of times - one rapid showing of a technique, and then the class is to reproduce it. NO explanation - just a showing. The teacher then does little more than walk around, occasionally grunting displeasure and moving a student's hand just a bit. It is pretty well known that one can be told one is doing the technique wrong when one is not, or even told "that's it" when it isn't. I've had this explained as an actual teaching technique, such as "even if correct, tell them it is wrong, so that they will continue to seek perfection."

    Such techniques work with a tiny percentage of students, in my experience. And, so I'm told, this is actually intentional. It brings foreward the best students (for this style of teaching), and quickly identifies those who will not be getting serious instruction. Some few students pick up on what is commonly called "Mitori geiko", which I hear translated somewhat as "to steal with one's eyes", or basically, to learn by careful observation. Students are expected to figure out for themselves how it works. This does have an advantage - IF you do figure out the technique, the knowledge is deeply one's own. The "if" is pretty big, however, particularly for the modern student.

    I could understand, under such situations, that note-taking would not be helpful. Also, where the teacher is of the first category, I suspect notebooks and note-taking would be actually belittled or made fun of.

    Modern students seem to do better with explanation, breaking down of technique into component principles, practicing raw principles, deconstruction and analysis, as well as careful observation and, always, practice. Teachers often use various forms of visualization or even "slogans" for techniques that help cement a concept in the students mind. And this information is valuable, serves to deepen understanding and effectiveness in use (when also properly practiced). I see note-taking in such cases, and review of notes, to be invaluable for the modern student.

    Now, that's me, and that's the arts I study. They do tend to be arts I consider to have an "intellectual" component - i.e. they benefit from personal reflection and careful analysis. And it may be that this simply is because my major teachers have all been of this first type. I have certainly had the other type, but they are not "major" in my experience, because I recognized the poor teaching quality, and sought other instruction. Perhaps I see these arts as "intellectual" because my own teachers viewed them that way - particularly Adams Shihan and Shimabukuro Hanshi were of this ilk, and they knew and recognized this in one another.
    Richard Berman
    Hakkoryu Jujutsu & Koho Shiatsu Igaku
    Shihan #3362, Hakkoryu International
    www.hakkoryu.com

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