How to be an Effective Martial Arts Instructor

What is involved in being an effective martial arts instructor?

Over the years I have met, observed, and trained with, many instructors, I have learned from all of them. Here I will share with you the art of being an effective martial arts instructor.

Enjoy Teaching

Do you like to teach? Do you get pleasure from sharing your knowledge with others? If so, then you have the first ingredient; a teacher must love to teach and to share, without that, you are not a teacher.

My mother is a born teacher. Once while working in the bank, I took some time to explain to a fellow worker a certain financial principle. When she "got it" her face lit up, I felt great. I told my mother the story and she said, "That is the sign of a true teacher, you wait for that 'glow', the moment when they 'get it'. When you live for that moment, you are a teacher."

The first rule of teaching is to have to be passionate about teaching.

Have a Goal

What do you want your students to learn? What do you want them to walk away with? What do you want them to gain? In order to be a successful teacher you have to clearly establish your goals and objectives, then you can set about achieving them.

What are you Teaching?

Are you teaching point karate? Martial sport? Tournament competition? Exercise (aerobic kickboxing), Art? Meditation? Reality combat? Street survival?

Before you can teach you must decide what is it you are actually trying to teach. A focused program will be more effective.

Make Sure you are Qualified

Many people are in a great hurry to become instructors, but they have not yet paid their dues. To be an effective instructor you have to move up the ranks slowly, you have to pay your dues. If you become an instructor and then discover you don't really understand the technique, you can't really explain it, or you can't make it work for your students; you have jumped the gun and are really not ready.

Know your Audience

Whom are you teaching? Kids? Adults? Elderly? Women? What are their goals? What are their abilities? In order to be an effective instructor you must gear your program to the students.

What Are Your Sources?

Make sure you have access to accurate sources of information and up to date training. Just as you would not get a stock tip from an old newspaper, you don't want old self defense information. To be an effective martial arts instructor – Make sure you have access to up to date information.

Never Stop Learning, Always be a Student

Some instructors feel that what they learned is enough. The really good instructors know they must keep learning. Safety expert Arthur Cohen always stress to me the value of obtaining more knowledge; by reading, by training with others, by spending lots of money to travel long distances to attend seminars. He says it is always worth while. In the short term it may cost you time and money but in the long run you will gain much more than your cost.

Itay Gil said to me recently, "Remember, most of the time we are students, we are always learning, part of the time we are teachers. If you want to be an effective martial arts instructor – Never stop learning.

Be Enthusiastic

I recall training with David James on Chambers street in down town New York. Mr. James is a highly qualified, high ranking martial arts expert in the art of Vee Arnis Jujitsu, but what I remember is his warm greeting, his big smile, his affectionate hand shake, and, his enthusiasm.

Throughout the lesson David James kept moving around, encouraging us, working with us. His enthusiasm was inspiring. Part of being an effective instructor is – Be Enthusiastic about what you are doing.

Be Organized

David James had a large folder with detailed lesson plans. After observing this I began doing the same. To be an effective teacher – have a lesson plan.

Be Certified

Last but not least, in fact this should come first; make sure you are certified by some legitimate teacher or organization. Establish your credentials. You need someone to back you up. Being recognized by an organization can help you in terms of law suits, legality, and establishing your credibility with potential clients. People want to know what qualifies you to be a teacher. When I first starting teaching seminars I did not want to 'waste time' by talking about my own credentials and accomplishments. I considered it egotistical. My friend and teacher, Arthur Cohen, taught me otherwise. He said, "People want to know why they should be listening you, what qualifies you to teach them."