Catch What is Right, Correct What is Wrong

Many years ago, there was a standard style of teaching martial arts. Stand at the front of the class, and bark commands.

As the number of martial arts schools expanded and schools began competing over a small number of students, different styles of teaching emerged. Some had benefits, others did not. Of course, there are still those who cling to the drill instructor method as well.

What I want to focus on here is teaching like a teacher.

In order to do this, you have to make a slight change in your focus. Many instructors are teaching with the thought that they need the student to be motivated to come back to class again. Obviously, you really do need the student to keep showing up for class – an instructor with no students is hardly an instructor. But this focus on please keep training here has brought up many questionable practices, like the feel good martial arts.

The excuse given for saying every technique looks great and everyone gets a black belt is to keep students coming back and paying.

I want to suggest a better idea.

You can still give students the pat on the back, the thumbs up, and the verbal praise, but make it authentic. If a student is doing a technique wrong, they need to be told that it is wrong. If you praise an incorrectly performed technique as being awesome then you are reinforcing poor performance. This should never be acceptable. Incorrect techniques will be ineffective and even carry the risk of injury to the student if there is long term practice of a technique with bad mechanics.

Encourage the student by letting them know what they are doing right, by acknowledging the improvements they are making, or even the effort they are showing. But it has to be real or you are doing damage to the student’s potential as well as to your own authority when other students notice you are saying everything is great.

Catch what they are doing right, and correct what they are doing wrong. This will cause them to see that they can do something right and that they need to keep training to get better.

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