Many people go to a martial arts instructor wanting to learn a new skill, improve their fitness, and learn to defend themselves or simply to try something new. While the student learns the skills, movement and philosophy of that chosen art, what many don’t realise is that the instructor is also learning a whole lot from their students. So, as a result of that it’s time to flip thinking on its head and highlight a few ways students can teach and inspire their instructors.
1) They can teach different teaching methods
People learn in different ways and a common mistake for instructors can be that they teach every persona that walks into class the same way. People enter into the martial arts for different reasons, learn in different ways and pick up things at different paces. It can be difficult accommodating everyone in a class of 30 people, but every effort should be made to. Some learn from seeing a technique and analysing it, others learn from hearing how the technique or strike works, and some need to simply give it a go therefore learning by touch. Students can be a fantastic way of improving the teaching skills of the instructor, especially if there is a wide variation of learning methods within the class. A good instructor should be able to tell people’s preferred method of learning and adapt to it through observation, which is another key trait students can teach!
2) Observation skills
Observation and awareness skills are important aspects of the martial art or self defence. Being aware of your surroundings and aware of any potential issues are essential to self defence and even in a regular class, being aware of the people around you is a great habit to get in to. But how aware are we as instructors? Can you tell if someone is struggling or not picking up the material well? Do they feel uncomfortable with the person they’re training with? Can you spot the signs they’re ready to give up and has their attendance gone down? Being aware of every potential threat on the street is great but unless you sideline as a drug dealer, your instances of being placed in a violent situation are hopefully fairly few and far between. Far more important is your ability to be aware of the people you are around and in tune with their feelings, body language and mood, both in training and general life. Teaching your students can be a great way of developing this and if you have a high drop-out rate, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your own awareness skills!
In addition to this, students can be a great way to help you develop awareness about yourself and how you are interacting and transmitting your style. Awareness of your students is a must have skill, but awareness of yourself is also crucial, and students (especially kids) will be the first ones to let you know if you’re being inconsistent or chatting shit!
3) They can test your skill and knowledge
Students can sometimes ask some pretty tricky questions and call you out if they ever think you’re bullshitting. A beginner can sometimes ask the simplest question but it will leave you stumped! Your knowledge could be vast and have the Dalai Lama scratching his head, but if you can’t explain the reason for something as simple as your stance, it’s all irrelevant!
Your students can also test you physically. I’m around 5ft 6 and about 72kg, but some of my students are over 6ft and over 16 stone! Some have door work experience and so if something isn’t working for them, they’ll let you know! Demoing with different students not only helps them grasp the technique better, but also allows you to work with people of different sizes and weights to test your techniques.
4) They can be an example to you
Do you have that one student who is always early to class, always enthusiastic and always trying their best? That’s the inspiration. Instructor’s are human and will sometimes have a bad day and not be in the best mood to teach. We’re imperfect. It’s important not to let your day enter the class however and leave any trouble back at home for a few hours while you instruct. This is where we can find inspiration from our students who always turn up with a smile, willing to help and enthusiastic to help you pack away after class. These are the students who will eventually become instructors themselves and run their own classes and be inspired by their own students. Keep them!
So there we have it, 4 reasons why students can sometimes be the ones teaching the instructors a thing or two. As instructors we can sometimes become so focussed on transmitting knowledge that we forget to take information in ourselves. Your students can be a perfect way of doing this. So learn, enjoy, and instruct with passion!