3 Tips (and a bonus one) For Teaching and Learning!

Class picture 3 Tips (and a bonus one) For Teaching and Learning!

Teach me, master!

Master?

Where art thou, master?

That is the question!

Who do you learn from when you “move out” of your home dojo and open up your own school? Do you have to quit training in order to become a teacher? Say it ain’t so!

Well, good. Because it ain’t so.

Aside from the typical get up early/stay up late and make time to train, there are plenty of ways for you to improve your martial skills. And just as many, if not more, reasons for you to do so.

Let’s cover some of the important reasons for you to keep up with your training:

  • Your students get to improve more due to your increased ability and capabilities
  • You can teach better because your understanding of what you teach improves further
  • You can better relate to the students because you remain a student yourself

With all these great reasons under our black belt, let’s dive into how we go about it.

1) Train WITH your students!

I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t always possible. It is an excellent option if possible though.

If you are doing a drill where they are partnered together, you can grab a partner as well.

If they are doing something on your count, face them (or the mirrors if you have them) and do it too. Especially if it is an exercise or warm up drill.

Again, depending on the difficulty of what you are working, the skill level of your students, and the size of the class, you might not be able to do this. It’s easier for the students to make mistakes that slip by unnoticed if you aren’t able to be walking around the mat.

A major benefit about doing this is that it shows the students how the exercise or movement should be performed though.

Thing is…it forces you to be honest. As honest as a ganguro girl without any makeup. Your students get to see your skills, the good ones and the bad ones.

They get to see you sweat and realize that you aren’t a god.

If you are a good teacher, hopefully you will realize that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

2) Activate “Challenge Mode”!

Let’s use sparring as an example.

Maybe you are a tournament sparring competitor and you don’t want to get rusty.

You can always work with some of the students afterwards if you couldn’t train during class without losing focus on the student’s learning and safety. There are often students that don’t mind sticking around a little longer (sometimes even a lot longer) after class has finished, especially if it means working directly with the sensei and getting the chance to further improve.

Now the question is how can you seriously improve your sparring (or any other skill) when paired with a beginner student or someone else below your skill level?

Easy! Do you play video games?

When you complete a video game, are you done? Not really. Y’see, good games have something called replay value. Even when you “finish”, there is still lots more to learn, er, I mean do! Everything from a harder difficulty setting to knocking out that high score or best time.

In sparring, you can do the same. I’m not saying you use this as the time to turn part-shark and chow down on fresh meat. Rather, I recommend you use this time to train smarter, rather than harder. Focus on technical improvements.

  • You can try to primarily use one hand for offense and defense
  • Use evasion and footwork instead of blocks and redirections
  • Use blocks and redirections instead of evasion and footwork
  • Work in a different range than you are used to
  • Force yourself to be unorthodox and fight with your bad leg forward
  • Use the round to explore how to utilize new tactics
  • Use only your worst techniques and try to refine them

It is important to remember your goal is not to win the match but rather to learn.

3) Get to know your local martial artists!

Listen to your mom and “go out and makes some friends!”

If the problem is that it is no longer feasible to consistently train with your teacher because of distance, then look to the people near you. If there is a Muay Thai gym nearby, converse with the Kru. If it is a Kung Fu school, speak to the Sifu.

Get together with the other local martial artists to talk about tactics and training. Give a little, get a little.

There are too many times where teachers will ignore or even diss other schools. That is called having an ego, one of the most detrimental things to your growth as a martial artist and a living and learning human being.

To grow and learn something new means admitting you didn’t know something previously.

Ego has no place in a martial artist, especially not within a teacher.

3.5) Stick with it!

This. Is. Important! I can’t stress this enough.

You are blessed with one of humanities greatest professions: teaching.

And the fact that it is not just about surviving skills, but also life skills…

The fact that it can extend to all ages and ethnicities, that it can be taught to either gender…

The fact that it is sharing your passion and what you have dedicated a good portion of your life to

That is something to never to forget.

Teaching martial arts will help your own personal improvements and the longer you stick with it, the further those improvements extend. It’s taking the things the martial arts naturally taught you when you were only a student (discipline, courage, self defense, confidence, interpersonal skills, philosophy, body movements, control over yourself, etc.) and makes you learn them all over again, this time from the other side of the mat.

At least, as long as you sincerely keep up with it. If you give up, obviously you lose those benefits. Not cool.

Golden rule to avoid teacher burnout? Have a passion and remember why you have it.

Enjoy what you do and never regret it! There will be days where you are dead tired and maybe class didn’t go as you hoped and planned it would. That’s ok. You’re ok.

The journey to where you are right now was never easy. If it were, everybody would have a black belt  and teach classes (McDojo’s excluded) 

Why expect things to get easy now? Always remember that just because it’s tough, doesn’t mean it’s impossible though.

Now you need to know EVERY technique, movement, and concept inside and out, because not everybody’s going to be able to learn or use them the same as you.

Now you need to be ready to answer questions you never even thought about before.

But now you get to fulfill the role your teacher had and experience what they did.

Enjoy it and learn from it as they did.

About the author…

Hi! My name is Cup of Kick!
I know what you are thinking and no, that’s not the name that you’ll find in my school yearbook. It is the name I go by for the purpose of martial arts blogging though. I am simply a martial artist. Now, if you are thinking “That’s it? Why should I trust this dude/dudette?” then that is good! Excellent even. The answer is…you shouldn’t trust me. I could say I’m a master martial artist with black belts in five different arts and 1st place trophies from many world tournaments who has been at it for fifty plus
years. But I’m not. Don’t just instantly take my words in as the gospel. Do your research. Do your OWN thinking. I’m just Cup of Kick

How to train harder in 5 easy steps

DSC07173 835x1024 How to train harder in 5 easy steps

In order to progress in the martial arts, we have to train and train well. Not every session should feel like you’ve just done 12 rounds with Mike Tyson as you emerge bloody, broken and physically exhausted, but some hard training that puts you under pressure occasionally is a great way to test your skills. Harder training where you get a good sweat on, take a few knocks and really see how you cope with the pressure should be built up to, not started with. New students entering the gym or dojo can be intimidated enough without being repeatedly punched in the face the first class! It’s not character building, it’s mean! So here are 5 steps to get you into the mindset of training harder and upping your skill level.

1) Improve your fitness levels

Regular training will gradually improve your fitness levels, but if you’re really looking to up your training levels you’re going to have to put some hours in outside of the class too! Training harder in terms of sparring or pressure testing can REALLY take it out of you, FAST, and there is a world of difference between repping a technique in class and trying to make it work for real. Preparing your body for this is therefore essential and so it’s time to get fitter! High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is fantastic for martial arts and involves short periods of intense exercise followed by periods of rest. This not only sends your cardiovascular endurance levels through the roof, but also builds lean muscle through employing fast twitch muscle fibres. This means you become a lean, mean, ass-kicking machine, fast!

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2) Find a good training partner

I’ve spoken before about the importance of finding a good training partner to progress in the martial arts and this is especially true when it comes to upping the intensity. Having someone you know and trust won’t take your head off immediately is essential to building up your training. A good partner will know your limits and take you just slightly beyond them when you’re ready to be pushed. The same can be said for both sparring and pressure testing in the reality sphere, build it up and find a partner you can push it with!

3) Do your research

Unless you’re seriously committed, you’ll normally be training around 2-3 hours a week. This isn’t a lot over a week long period, but it’s necessary when you start out to avoid burn out and condition your body to get used to martial arts. You can still research and expand you’re knowledge even when you aren’t physically training however. Study the best martial artists out there, the innovators and the specialists and look at their movements, angles, positioning and striking or grappling. There’s a wealth of information on platforms such as YouTube (some good, some bad) all at your disposal if you look for it. I study, train and teach mainly in Defence Lab now, but still watch Aikido, Jeet Kune Do, Ghost, and Boxing among other systems to see power generation, positioning and movement. Learn what you can, regardless of style.

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4) Ask your instructor

Your instructor is your instructor for a reason and hopefully they’re open and approachable enough to talk to. If you want to train harder in class let them know and chances are they’ll know the right way to give you that progression and they’ve probably been there and done it themselves. Hopefully they can advise you if you’re looking to step it up to the next level so ask and see what happens!

5) Enjoy the journey

Martial arts are a marathon, not a sprint so don’t rush the journey, enjoy it! There is always more to learn, even when you become a `grandmaster` or some other egotistical title. Let natural progression occur. You’re system should have a syllabus that progresses individuals step by step so that when you reach your black belt level you should have a fairly high degree of competency (note I say should!). Training is meant to be fun and push you both physically and mentally but never forget to enjoy the journey, movement, exercise and friends you build along the way, piecing together the jigsaw puzzle that is martial arts.