February 8, 2006

A Good Teacher?

Okay, so what is a good teacher? Every martial arts forum and FAQ I've seen on the Internet tells newbies to make sure they find "a good teacher". Okay, great advice. How do you find one? How do you know when you have found one?

Well, as to how you find one...just keep looking. There is really no other way. As to what makes a good teacher, just ask any martial arts student. 99% of them will tell you that their teacher is a good one. Well, great! It's easy then - almost every teacher out there is a good one, so no worries! Oh wait...so why is everyone out there careful to remind you that you should make sure and find a good one? That almost makes it sound like they're not all good. That can't be true, can it?

Yes, it can. And it is. In fact, most martial arts teachers are not good teachers. Now this isn't to say they aren't good people. It is possible to be a good person and a bad teacher at the same time, and most fall into this category. Sure, there are bad people out there, too, but for the most part they are fairly easy to spot unless you go in completely blind and oblivious. If you're the kind of person that could inadvertently end up in a cult without realizing what's happening, take some friends with you. You need it. But for the rest, you should be okay.

A good teacher has to be good at what they do, otherwise they can't teach it. They also have to be able to teach, which shouldn't be assumed just because they're good at performing martial arts. They should be teaching you not only how to do martial arts, but also how to teach martial arts. It follows to reason that if they can't teach you how to teach, then they were never taught how to teach. See the problem? Good. Make sure you ask them about this! Ask how their style teaches people to teach and where he learned how to teach. Within the context of the specific martial art that he's teaching. Not from another style, and not how to teach math to elementary school kids that he took a course on while in college. Did somebody in his particular style explicitly teach him or her how to teach that particular style? Were they observed while teaching and received feedback? Find out!

A lot of people who say they have good teachers describe them as "nice" when I ask what makes them so good. Nice....hmmm, okay. That's good, I guess, but what does it have to do with teaching exactly? Well, it has something to do with it. After all, nobody wants an abusive teacher. But that is a personality trait and part of what makes them a good person, not really a good teacher. A good teacher will know what you respond best to so that they can teach you in the most effective manner. Some people responds best to a nice, relaxed, and informal atmosphere, while others respond best to a very strict, disciplined, and militaristic attitude. The trick is knowing which to use (the teacher's responsibility) and which you need (your responsibility). The irony is that most people that think they perform best with a teacher that is "nice" are people that actually do best with a teacher that is very strict. They think this because nice is comfortable. But the purpose of learning is to change. Without change, you wouldn't have learned anything. Change is painful and uncomfortable. Trying to stay in your comfort zone at all costs will lead to failure in martial arts (and most other things in life, too). A good teacher is one that knows how you respond best and uses it to make you grow and change into a better person. Not one that makes you feel happy and comforted everytime you are in class. A good student is one that overcomes their fears and allows a good teacher to do their job. It takes two - remember that.

So the good teacher should be:

  • Trained in how to teach

  • Still be a student and continuing to learn

  • Know when to do what is best for you, not what you want them to do

  • Teach you how to overcome your fears and get out of your comfort zone, even if you don't want to

Now go find a good teacher that can make you into a better person! :)


Post a Comment