Teaching & Leadership

Student Appreciation Moment – Ivette

Student Appreciation Moment - IvetteIt’s good to take the time to appreciate the little moments that make teaching such a pleasure. I had such a moment this morning. I received a text from one of my students, Ivette, who just received her yellow belt last night (she killed it by the way). I had used her as my demonstration partner last night, having delivered a knee strike to her lateral femoral motor point. The text she sent me today said this: “I’m so happy to have gotten my first belt… 😀 So excited still for some reason. I’m looking forward to learn new things. Also, I have a really good reminder of last night’s class… Every time I walk, I get reminded of what it’s like to get hit in the lateral femoral… hehe. So that’s two 1st timers from you, (being hit in the) solar plexus and lateral femoral… lol.” (more…)

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Potential Career Paths for Martial Artists

Potential Career Paths for Martial ArtistsWhen it comes to long-term practioners, martial artists can be a peculiar breed. When one falls in love with the martial arts, and you do it for years, you can’t help but want to give back in some way through your training, to share that which you love so much with the world. The ones who REALLY love it, try to find some way to make a career out of it. This is not an easy thing. Martial arts skills are highly specific and not in huge demand in a variety of fields. The obvious choice is to open a martial arts school, but if you don’t have other teachers to support the school, or you’re not interested in teaching children, it’s challenging to make a living solely from teaching martial arts. There are a number of natural career paths though that draw in martial artists, however. Ones that can complement teaching, even running a dojo. Here are a few: (more…)

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Managing Emotional Challenges in Kids Classes

Managing Difficult Emotions in Kids ClassesOne of the challenges of teaching children is that they are still learning how to cope with and express difficult emotions. As adults, we sometimes take for granted our ability to subdue strong difficult emotions until we are ready to deal with the causes of them in a productive manner. Because young children haven’t learned that ability yet, they often resort to disruptive expressions of the emotions like crying, yelling, sulking, etc. As a teacher, this can often be distracting and disruptive to you and your students. It’s important to have a solid strategy for helping children understand and deal with challenging emotions, which teaches them an important life skill while also helping your class run more smoothly. Here is the process I use with my own students:

1) Identify the cause of the emotion. If you have multiple instructors on the mat, it’s best if one of them can bring the child to the side so they can talk without distractions. In my classes, I usually take on this role. I then ask the child, “What happened that made you upset?” This past Saturday, I asked one of our Tykes who had gotten upset and he told me that one of the other students kept getting in his way when they were playing ninja dodge ball with the instructors and because he couldn’t see, he kept getting hit by the ball. He thought the student might have been doing it on purpose too. If the child is too upset to listen and speak, I might also take a few moments to guide them to take a few deep breaths to help calm down.


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How You Adjust Your Intensity Dial

How to Adjust Your Intensity DialThe other night I was having a conversation over wings with a few of our students. We were discussing the different martial arts instructors they have been exposed to at the dojo during guest instructor seminars. The topic of one’s personal intensity came up in the context of how intense overall the various instructors were. It got me to thinking about my own intensity and how I use it in training, teaching and life in general.

Intensity Defined

Intensity may not be the perfect word to describe what I talking about here. When I say intensity, I mean that fire you draw on when you are dealing with heightened circumstances. If you train in the martial arts, you may have already experienced it at some point, whether that was during a belt test, sparring or some form of intense training circle. This mental state is basically the controlled use of adrenaline. While in this state, your surroundings are more clear. Your attitude is more serious, more focused. You’re not thinking about all the steps before taking an action, you just act on the instincts you’ve developed for yourself. (more…)

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5 Recommended Books for Martial Arts Instructors (or Any Teacher)

4 Recommended Books for Martial Arts InstructorsIn a recent blog comment, I was asked to put together a recommended reading list for martial arts instructors. This list is far from extensive, but it covers a number of books I’ve read in the past year that have helped me better understand the psychology of the teaching process, which I applied to teaching martial arts. These aren’t directed specifically at martial arts instructors, but teachers in general. They are more about understanding the learning process and applying it to teaching strategies, not lists of exercises, drills and games. They have been incredibly useful to me to help me get inside my students minds, and to help them on a more personal level with their development. Without further ado, here’s the list. (more…)

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Why Pad/Bag Work Is Important for Developing Solid Striking

pad_work_bag_work_striking.jpgA while back, I wrote a blog post about why it’s important to make contact on a live training partner in order to develop good targeting. The problem with contact training with a partner is that you must exercise control and not use too much power on some targets. On other targets, you can’t make any realistic contact safely. To do this, we must use focus mitts, heavy bags and other types of striking targets. Hitting a target more solidly is not just about getting more of a workout while striking, though it does carry this benefit, it also gives us the opportunity to improving our striking technique.


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An Introduction to Nagasu Ryu Jujitsu

An Introduction to Nagasu Ryu JujitsuThis past weekend I travelled to New Jersey to visit Sensei Damien Wright’s dojo, Wright Fight Concepts, to teach a seminar. While I was there, I had the opportunity to train in one of his classes in which he gave me an introduction to the fundamentals of Nagasu Ryu Jujitsu. I also had the opportunity to meet and have a long chat with the founder of the style, Shihan Wayne Ford, who goes by his nick name, “Papasan” (seen in the photo with me on the right). Between my time with both Sensei Damien and Papasan, I learned that our styles are quite similar in principal, but with interesting stylistic differences that are easy to incorporate as a Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu student. I’ve divided up this article into a few of the many Papasan quotes that characterize his teachings.


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How to Offer Effective Praise or Criticism

How to Offer Effective Praise or CriticismWith the new semester of Ready-Set-Kiai for (3-4 year-olds) and Jiu-jitsu Tykes for (5-7 year-olds) classes in full swing, lately I’ve been doing a lot of reading on effective teaching methods for children. While the books I’ve been reading are oriented to children’s teaching, for the most part, the suggestions offered are good advice for teaching any age student. In particular, I read about how to offering praise and criticism that motivates them to learn and helps them improve. (*The book I learned this info is featured at the bottom of this post. Be sure to check it out.) (more…)

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The Inherent Conflict between Teaching Martial Art vs Self-Defense

The Inherent Conflict between Teaching Martial Art vs. Self-DefenseI was reading a fascinating book about skill development called “The Talent Code,” which delves deeply into the psychology and physiology that helps people to do this effectively. One of the most interesting chapters talks about the difference between the teaching styles of a soccer coach vs. a music teacher. The author claims that an effective soccer coach sits back and stays silient, allowing players to learn through open play, giving feedback in between sessions of play. Meanwhile, the effective music teacher interjects and instructs frequently to produce the specific results that constitute good playing. I believe this is only half the story. (more…)

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Martial Arts Teaching Tip: Going Out on a High Note

Martial Arts Teaching Tips - Going Out on a High NoteDid you ever see that episode of Seinfeld in which George manages to curry favour at his office and in his life by saying something during a meeting that gets a good reaction then leaving the room immediately after? The theory was that if he stayed around long enough he might say something stupid that counteracts the earlier effect, which then leaves a bad lingering impression of him. I’ve taken the liberty of providing a clip from that show below. While taken to a ridiculous extreme, there is research in psychology to support this theory.

The truth is that the way something ends is more likely to be remembered, even if the entire experience the whole way through gave an opposite impression. There is a great TED talk (see below) that goes into more detail about this. This concept is important for martial arts instructors to remember. (more…)

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