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Bad Teacher

There are few better places to observe multiple martial arts teachers in action than at a competition. They parade around gyms like peacocks on display, all colors and logos and weird mannerisms. Like the guy who bows to everything; his peers, the judges, his belt before he ties it on. (No I am not making this up, I have seen this happen!) And the guy in the track suit. I mean really would it hurt to put on a button down shirt. Or at least a t-shirt with the logo of your school. And what about the guy who can't stop kicking and stretching, even though it is his student out there on the mat, not him. He has not competed in at least ten years. And then there is the guy I saw at a local karate tournament yesterday, who spent a hour judging kids point fighting, with one of those leg bands that boxers wear between their ankles to control their stance. While judging small children. As if he could not bear to miss one moment of his own workout. 

Don't get me wrong, I have observed many examples of fantastic coaching too. In fact most of what I saw at yesterday's event was nothing but good.  But who wants to read a blog post about that wonderful heart warming moment where the big muscled black belt wipes the five year old's tears and tells him that he can get back out there and be a champion. Not when there is this instead, overheard at a BJJ event recently:

"That was not the way we practiced it. If you had done the move the way I had showed you, you would have won."


Ok sure there may be some validity to this statement. But really????
Jiu-jitsu is hard. Losing sucks. Lets start with "good job for putting yourself out there!" And then, after you have stopped bawling like someone just stole your bicycle, we can discuss what you need to work on for next time. 

Unfortunately, I have seen this attitude in karate dojos too. If your student is having trouble learning that kata, she may be an idiot  But it may also be that you aren't spending enough time with her, or that you haven't figured out the best way to reach her yet, or any other number of problems that are actually your fault.

I teach karate to three and four year olds, a demographic notorious for wiggling and drooling and basically doing everything but paying attention to the teacher. But still, when my kids are having trouble getting it, I first point the finger at myself. Is there something I could be doing better? Was the move too hard? Did I talk too much? Is this drill actually boring them to tears? The best teachers are not afraid to stop a lesson midway through and toss it out the window when they realize that it is not working. This takes skill, and experience and the self confidence to be wrong and not care. But most of all, it requires paying attention to your students. 

And when those students lose? They congratulate them for trying their best and get right back to work.

Unfortunately no one likes to be wrong in public. So if you are judging a tournament in your 1982 Adidas track suit, while simultaneously shadowboxing in the air and cultivating your zen master pose, and your student loses, by all means blame it on their poor listening skills.

And then, when you don't see them in your karate class anymore?
Well you're so smart, you figure out why.


  1. Very true — and spoken from a position of real-world experience. Another fine piece of blogging, Sensei! Osu!


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