EXCELLENCE IN THE MARTIAL ARTS BY KJN RICHARD HACKWORTH
In the martial arts we often use the term “Black Belt Excellence” as a motivator to students to always try their best and to make excellence the goal of our lives not just in our training. A martial artist who understands this will achieve better results because they expect more of themselves and their desire is to always be an example of “Black Belt Excellence.”
Excellence is our way of life. Students should strive for excellence mentally, physically, and spiritually in their training and personal lives. Excellence is a trait that we develop from our habit of choosing to be excellent in all facets of our lives.
To achieve “Black Belt Excellence” as a martial arts teacher we must develop certain qualities. There is no single correct way to teach a student. Many martial arts teachers have their own unique coaching and teaching style that works and that no one else can replicate. Nevertheless, there are some traits that are common to all great instructors, no matter how they are applied. Here are ten attributes to develop so that you have “Black Belt Excellence” as an instructor.
UNDERSTANDING THE ART
To be able to teach effectively, you must have an in-depth understanding of the art from the fundamental skills to advanced tactics and strategy. You may even have experience from a career in law enforcement, security or even in the military. Instructors must plan for the long term, know the progressive nature of training adaptation, know the principles, and provide a simple, structured environment for students to succeed.
EAGERNESS TO LEARN
While a good instructor knows a great deal about the arts, you must continue to learn and develop new training techniques. Staying up-to-date and informed of new research, training and everything which supports the teaching process is a sign of a great instructor. Attending classes in a range of subjects such as sport psychology, nutrition and exercise physiology is a great idea and is readily accessible for any instructor who wants to grow and improve.
Obtaining knowledge is important but having the confidence to share and seek others’ views, especially those outside of your martial art, is a key quality. The best instructors clearly understand they are there to educate the students. Most students spend most of the time training on their own, so the more they really understand what they are doing and why they are doing it the better they will train and practice.
A successful instructor is a motivator with a positive attitude and enthusiasm for their art and the students. An instructor who can motivate is able to generate the desire to excel in their students. When motivating a student, a good instructor stresses trying to reach performance goals, not outcome goals. Enjoyment and fun are the cornerstones to successful teaching. Students who don’t enjoy the benefits of their training will not train long term.
KNOWING THE STUDENT
Being aware of individual differences in students is an important ingredient in teaching excellence. Emotional displays may work for some students but could have a devastating effect on others. Individualizing communication and motivation to specific students is vital to successful teaching. Paying attention to your student’s emotions, strengths and weaknesses is the responsibility of a good instructor.
An effective instructor communicates well and exudes credibility, competence, respect, and authority. You should be able to explain ideas clearly. Clear communication means setting defined goals, giving direct feedback, and reinforcing the key messages. Acknowledging success is also essential for good communication. Language is a key part of teaching martial arts and keeping everything simple and easily understood can be vital.
Part of communicating effectively is listening. You should be compassionate and welcome a student’s comments, questions and input. An effective instructor will actively seek out information from students, and work in an environment where students are encouraged to present ideas and thoughts.
In the martial arts we understand that great instructors are an example of disciplined lifestyle, and this motivates students to adhere to a reasonable set of rules both on and off the mats and if these are ignored you are responsible for discipline. Trust between student and instructor is always of paramount importance and essential for successful teaching. An effective instructor clearly states a code of conduct up front and adheres to it. Evidence supports the idea that for discipline to effectively change behavior, it must be mild, prompt, and consistent.
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
An effective instructor also leads by example. Leading by example will help you earn and keep the respect of your students. You should adhere to the same rules you expect of the students. An instructor who wants respect should also show respect and an instructor who wants students to listen should also listen to the students. This will lead to excellence in the learning environment.
COMMITMENT AND PASSION
The best instructors are in the profession because they love it. Besides being strongly committed to their martial arts and success, the best instructors display a clear commitment to looking out for the best interest of the individual students. Being an excellent teacher is an around the clock job, as top instructors live and breathe teaching their martial art.
About the author: Richard Hackworth is a multi-arts Grand Master and the USA Director for the World Martial Arts Congress. He is a noted expert in the areas of martial arts leadership and character development. Visit their page at https://www.worldmartialartscongress.cn
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