Tag Archives: Instructing

Karate And Me – Part 8 – Becoming The Instructor

KARATE AND ME

PART 8 – BECOMING THE INSTRUCTOR

As 1990 rolled around myself and Darren weren’t left completely on our own in running a karate club, I had just turn 16 and Darren 18, thankfully we had a bit of help from another instructor of a club local to us. Jeff ran the club at Bingham at that time, he would come and train with Alan and when I was able I would go over to his club at Bingham on a Friday evening to train. Alan had asked Jeff to be our advisor and just to help us through, so Jeff would train under us on a Tuesday evening and then teach for us on a Thursday evening, which gave Darren and myself chance to train, I would continue to train at his club on Fridays as and when possible.

I think there are four main types of good karate instructor, yet there are many bad ones.

There is the instructor who has great technique, but lacks the knowledge or personality to convey his message across, he can’t really explain it, you just watch and try to replicate, maybe great for bringing through lower grades, but not always good to give higher grades the knowledge they needed, at this point in my life I think this was about where I was, maybe lacking a little bit in technique though.

Then there is the instructor who is maybe struggling with injuries or older in their years, they lack the technical ability to show the technique the way they want, but can explain the technique is such simple terms that a good student can still learn from. Jeff was like this, he was in his 60’s, both his hips were gone and would in the coming years be replaced, but his knowledge was great, he could spot minor flaws in technique and correct them, I learnt a lot from Jeff, he was a quiet man, but you simply respected him, I owe a lot to Jeff in those early years, I think he taught me how to be an instructor.

There is also the all rounder, this is where Alan fell, he had good technique, very good technique, he had great knowledge which he could convey easily, he could also get that last inch of effort out of you when you really thought you had none left, he was a great instructor, not the greatest technique or knowledge, but still had covered all the bases and could inspire that last drop of energy.

Then there is the instructor who has everything, amazing technique, unequalled knowledge and can get his point across easily and also has that personality that inspires, these guys are few and far between, if you find one, train under them as much as you can and learn everything you can, you’ll love every minute of it.

At that point in my life, I guess I had good technique, I had good knowledge, I just had to get over my shy personality and find a way to put what I knew in to words others could understand without me freezing or looking unsure of myself.

One thing I decided I had to do was get my technique to level I wanted others to do it. I believed that in order for me show the technique and explain it the way I wanted them to do it, then I had to be doing it that way too. I couldn’t correct them on something that they had copied me doing, if I wanted them doing the technique the right way, as far as I was concerned I had to be showing them the right way too. Explaining wasn’t enough, it was all or nothing.

So in a way I became my own teacher, I had to analyse everything I was doing and make sure if I was explaining what I wanted, I was doing it also. It brought my technique on leaps and bounds, I learnt to trust my body to perform the movement the way I wanted it to, if it was wrong it would feel wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I still needed someone like Jeff to run an eye over me from time to time, along with other visiting instructors, I had to keep improving and keep analysing, it was a never ending circle and really, it always should be, we shouldn’t get complacent, shouldn’t think we know everything, nobodies perfect, if I became perfect would there be a reason to carry on training?

In time I would ask my students if they thought they were really knew their Kata for their next grading and could do it well. I know this might sound harsh, but follow me on this one, but they would always answer yes to both questions, so I would respond that they were better than me!

This got a look of consternation from them all, confused, perplexed, how could they be better than me, they looked up to me, parents would say their kids wanted to be as good as me and in truth every instructor should aim for their students to be better than they are, that’s the goal.
But I would explain, that I know the directions of the kata, I know the pattern, but I’m still learning it even now, I may win kata competitions, but I’m not the best in the world, I’m not world champion, I still do not know any of the katas I can do properly, so they should always look to improve, I can do them well, but I still need to study them and do them better, there’s always room for improvement, lots of room for improvement.

Sometimes we have to humble and realise we need to improve, maybe we are trying to help others improve and we are further along the journey in what ever part of life, be it karate or just life in general, then we still need to improve.

I would look at students mistakes and then look back at myself, if I was doing that the. I needed to correct myself and improve, with kids especially it’s a case of monkey see monkey do, even adults would do that to a certain extent, so as an instructor I strove to learn from my students too, you’re never to good to improve or be taught a lesson by your students either.

I found the adults interesting, when older adults came along as new beginners they struggled, we would get very intelligent guys and women come along, teachers, businessmen, all sorts, but they struggled and got so frustrated. I came to the conclusion that they had forgotten how to learn!

I suppose as a kid or young adult, you spend all your time in a learning environment, learning all the time and especially as kids with sports and maybe even young adults in new manual jobs where you are actually training your body as well as your mind, you will find it easier to learn karate. If you haven’t been in a learning environment or done any training where body coordination comes into play you will struggle. Don’t get me wrong that doesn’t stop anybody training, with the right mentality that can and will be over come, but the frustration of some of these guys was plain to see.

We had adults who just could grasp which was their left or right leg, they knew left and right, but getting the to move the right one, as well as say punch or block at the same time was hard work. They just hadn’t been in that kind of learning environment for such a long time and they began to show their frustration, they wanted to train hard and strong, they believed that’s what an adult like them should be doing, but in reality it was the opposite, I tried to get them to slow down, pay attention to their body, to feel their way through and concentrate on the basics, the speed and strength could come later, but no they were like bulls in a china shop, they had to go hard and strong.

Eventually I would get through to some, others we lost in frustration, some just wanted to fight and didn’t understand you have to do the basics first, over and over again, and keep doing it until they were of a reasonable quality and control to allow them to fight. I think people expect to come in and fight straight away, kids want to be ninja turtles or power rangers straight away, like on the TV and films, adults wanted to be like the higher grades straight away, they don’t understand the process to get to the level where they are, it’s a journey, not a quick fix, just like life.

Sometimes we all have to slow down and go back to the basics. Sometimes we all have to look at our life technique and reevaluate it, never be afraid to learn from someone at a different stage of the journey, whether that be ahead or behind us, there are lessons to be learnt from everyone.

BECOME WHO YOU ARE by MAINSTAY
So it seems that I’m wrong ’cause you said that
I would never want for anything again
But my eyes are set low and I’m holding
To the things I know I can’t keep

I keep on chasing the wrong things and coming up empty
This isn’t who I’m supposed to be
I keep on learning the hard way from every mistake
And I’m finding each time that you fall
You’re just becoming who you are

So it seems that I’m wrong ’cause I keep on
Searching for the answers that I don’t need
I know I don’t need

I keep on chasing the wrong things and coming up empty
This isn’t who I’m supposed to be
I keep on learning the hard way from every mistake
And I’m finding each time that you fall
You’re just becoming who you are

Becoming who you are
You’re just becoming, just becoming
You’re just becoming, just becoming

I keep on chasing the wrong things and coming up empty
This isn’t who I’m supposed to be
I keep on learning the hard way from every mistake
And I’m finding each time that you fall
You’re just becoming who you are

I’m finding each time that you fall
I’m finding each time that you fall
We’re finding each time that you fall
You’re just becoming who you are