From the MATA Professional Martial Arts Instructor Certification Course
Module 1-Lesson 1: Four Keys to Giving Clear Directions
1. Specific. Effective directions are specific. They focus on manageable and precisely describe actions that martial arts students can take.
2. Concrete. Effective directions are not just specific; they involve clear actions that any student knows how to do. When directing a student to pay attention, he/she may or may not know how to do that. But if the instruction is to, “Turn your body to face me. Look at me with your eyes. Listen to me with your ears. If you have a question, raise your hand.”
These are real things: physical, simple, commonplace. There is no gray area or prior knowledge required to comply.
3. Sequential. Effective directions should describe a sequence of concrete specific actions. In the case of the student who needs help paying attention, the martial arts instructor might advise him, “John, turn your body to face me. Look at me with your eyes. Listen to me with your ears.”
4. Observable. The instructions give John actions that the martial arts instructor could plainly see him do. This is important. The instructor provided him with a series of steps that were specific and simple enough that any student could reasonably be expected to do them. That leaves John with little wiggle room to stray.
What to Do allows you to distinguish between incompetence and defiance by making your commands specific enough that they can’t be deliberately misinterpreted and helpful enough that they explain away any gray areas.
However, it’s important to distinguish between incompetence and defiance. If I ask John to pay attention or sit up or get on task and he doesn’t, knowing whether he will not or cannot matters.
If he cannot, the problem is incompetence. If he will not, the problem is defiance. I respond to these situations differently.