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How to Give the “What” and the “Why” When Teaching Martial Arts

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white belt child kicks with instructor watching

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MATA Martial Arts Instructor Certification Course

Module 21-The Proper Use of Student Instructors

by Scot Conway, Esquire

The $25,000 Volunteers

Excerpt from the Martial Arts Instructor Certification Course:

Using upper ranks to teach classes has been a long-standing martial arts tradition. But, is it legal?

A California instructor had his black belts teaching under-rank classes at his studio. In exchange, he no longer charged them tuition.

This continued until one fateful day when the owner and a black belt student had a disagreement.

The vindictive student contacted the California Labor Board and reported that his instructor had been employing assistants by requiring that they teach classes each week.

This can constitute an Employer – Worker relationship. The only thing missing was payment for the workers and the taxes the government would collect if they were being paid.

The State of California investigators concluded that the owner, over the years, had a total of 25 black belts teach classes.

They defined them as uncompensated employees, which is illegal under the laws of California, and fined the instructor $1,000 per incident.

The final bill: $25,000 for the volunteers.

Lesson: Know your state laws regarding utilizing assistant instructors.

If you teach martial arts for a living, read this carefully.

As a parent, if you saw your child clearly underperforming in class yet the instructor proclaims he is doing “awesome!” would you trust that instructors’ feedback on how your child is doing?

I wouldn’t. Would you?

The skills of teaching martial arts have changed over the years. You would think that the process should be producing much better black belts than it is.

When I made black belt in 1978, my instructor hired me to teach for $5 a class. I was thrilled. By the standards of any era, my instructor was excellent and produced world-caliber students.

He made it clear to me that the number one rule of teaching is, “Never compliment a student.” 

His idea was there was always room for improvement and if you compliment a student, the student might think they don’t need to practice anymore.

Fast forward nearly half a century, the number one rule of teaching today is, “Never correct a student. Instead, praise everything.”

When it comes to individual skills like the round kick, any instructor being paid to teach the skill should be able help students improve that skill. That outcome requires honest guidance not shallow gushing.

Clearly, society and culture have created a highly sensitive and easily triggered population, but you can correct and encourage at the same time. 

Instructors need to give feedback that is constructive and motivating. This kind of feedback will help students improve their skills and confidence.

The key is to give your student the “why” with the “what.” For instance, “recoil your kick so your opponent can’t grab it.” 

“Recoil your kick” is the what. “So your opponent can’t grab it” is the why.

The “why” is a motivator. Proclaiming a kick as “Outstanding” is not.

The Solution

There are many ways that MATA helps instructors with this issue. The most popular is the MATA Instructor Certification program. 

We also have a Rank System that includes video reviews of your teaching and we’re creating a custom video review of your classes.

Of the four sections in the program, the Psychology of Teaching section teaches you: 

  • Martial Arts Student Discipline, Praise, and Punishment
    by Gianine D. Rosenblum, Ph.D.
  • Teaching Strategies for Martial Arts Instructors by Age Group
    by Dr. Derenda Timmons Schubert, Ph. D.
  • How to Instill a Sense of Purpose in Your Martial Arts Students
    by Joe Lewis
  • How to Create a Healthy Martial Arts Hierarchy System
    by John Donohue, Ph.D.
  • The Power of Motivation and Charisma for Martial Arts Instructors
    by Brian Tracy
  • Teaching Character Skills Responsibly to Martial Arts Students
    by Scot Conway, Esquire
  • Teaching Martial Arts Students with ADHD
    by Dr. Derenda Timmons Schubert, Ph. D 

MATA Certification Program

Sparring Skills-Counter Sweeps

This clip from my USA Karate TV show in the 1980s shows one of my all-time favorites counterattacks. These are super effective sweeps that are really easy to execute. Then we fast forward 30 years to a 2-on-1 drill in the COBRA-Defense Academy. MartialArtsWebsites.com...

Using Text to Increase Enrollments in Your Martial Arts School

Texting is instant and is opened 97% of the time, so it’s a real-time communication that helps to confirm to the parents that they made the right decision to choose your program.

Texts work great and MATA/Empower Kickboxing members have a free dedicated SMS marketing platform in their GenerateMoreStudents.com account that allows them to text up to 100 people a month for free.

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