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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

The Secret (in Teaching Martial Arts)

Eventually, after they've trained a while, a lot of people hit a point where they want to teach the martial arts.

I want to state up front that I don't think it's necessary or desirable for everyone who trains to also teach. Some of us don't have the temperament or the patience for it.

It's okay to just want to train and not be responsible for someone else's progress.

That being said, if you're like me and like teaching (I considered making it my profession at one point), the day comes, maybe faster than you'd imagine, where you're asked to teach someone else something.

Usually, you begin in the context of being a more experienced student working with a newbie because the main instructor(s) are tied up teaching more advanced material to other people, and it's not something you do all the time.

You might then progress to being at a rank where you're expected to teach all newbies. It's really common in some organizations where Brown Belts and 1st Degree Black Belts are expected - required - to help out in classes as assistant instructors.

Eventually, you may end up with your own classes and program - anything from a Meetup to your own school.

People fall into teaching for a variety of reasons. Again, you might be like me and just enjoy teaching a lot. Some people do it because they think that's the way you have to be in the martial arts - teaching is part of the natural progression of training to those folks. Some people do it for the pleasure of being in charge over other people and as an ego-stroke.

Whatever the reasons, one thing that you will discover as you teach is that you don't really KNOW the material in a really deep way until you teach it to several different people.

That's the secret to keeping growth going as an instructor, where you don't get to spend the majority of your martial arts time as a student.

Teaching IS instruction.

Me, re-learning the 12 angles of attack by teaching it.

You will quickly learn that the way you were taught and understood certain concepts isn't necessarily the best way to show other people. You will end up finding many different ways to demonstrate what you're trying to teach. The process of finding what will work for a given student means you have to really think and understand the concept you've been taught.

Another way you end up being taught is that you will "discover" connections or ideas that you didn't realize were there, either from a student coming up with it in a way you hadn't seen, or, you'll suddenly realize something as a "thing" while coaching or watching other people work.

It's the craziest thing. I get less time as a student now more than ever, but I think I understand certain things way better than I ever have. Better than I could have.

This is one big reason, other than free/cheap labor to help out the instructor, that some organizations emphasize that certain ranks also spend time instructing their style to lower ranked people. It's an accelerated way to learn.

Take that opportunity for what it is. It's not an interruption to your training time. It *IS* your training time.

Learning how to transmit your art to other people IS learning your art. Don't be that guy who is reluctant and grouchy when asked to take the white belts and show them something.

Do it gladly, and see what you can learn.

Do you enjoy teaching the martial arts to others, or do you prefer to just train? What insights have you gotten when teaching someone else? Do you agree or disagree that teaching others is an important way to progress in your own understanding of the martial arts? Let us know in the comments!

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