I was first introduced to Modern Arnis in 2008 , and I've studied with my current instructor since 2010. If you're curious, yeah, I still consider myself a newbie.
I am very lucky. Most of us who study my style don't have teachers with the experience my teacher has near them. Usually, we have to travel to seminars and camps, acquire a little bit here, a little bit there, and then come home and practice.
Sure, we have videos and stuff to help us, but we all know that in-person training with someone who knows what they are doing has no substitute.
That usually means that we are teaching someone else what we just learned in order to retain it.
I started with my first teacher in Mississippi this way. His teacher was hundreds of miles away, and my husband and I started with Arnis in the first place because he needed somebody to teach in order to learn himself. At the time, he was the equivalent (in Modern Arnis) of say, a green belt in most other arts.
But he learned, and so did I.
We moved to Texas, and found Mark Lynn, a teacher we could study with full-time, and for a few years, all we did was absorb everything we could. When he promoted us to Assistant Instructors, the nature of how we learned things changed dramatically.
Having to show somebody else something you have learned requires you to really think about what you are doing, and why. Sometimes, you find gaps in your own understanding that you didn't realize were there. Sometimes you find out you learned something the wrong way, but didn't realize it because it's not always obvious until you have to explain it to somebody else. Sometimes a student asks a question that never occurred to you, and you have to think about it.
You may not aspire to be a teacher - many of us do not and that's okay - but I believe you have to do some teaching, even if it's just one-on-one with a friend, in order to really understand what you're doing. Different people react different ways, and there are so very many creative and interesting minds in the martial arts that you learn something from most of them.
The process of teaching others is just so valuable and so illuminating for your own progress. I think there must be a point where you have to teach, because you can't learn what you need to learn any other way.
There will always be people who know more than I, are far more experienced than I, and definitely far more skilled than I. But, I believe that my own ability accelerated (from "holy crap that's bad" to "meh") once I started teaching others, and if I want to be the martial artist I can be, I need to continue teaching.
Because that's how I'm going to continue learning.
Modern Arnis instructor Brian Johns told a story on Twitter on this very subject. You can read the thread HERE.
What have you discovered as a martial arts teacher? How has it made you a better martial artist? I'd love to know!