Yesterday, I held a brown belt test for two students at my dojo. One of them had been training with me pretty much since I first started teaching in the Vancouver area, just over 7 years. The other had started less than 2 years ago, having come to the dojo already holding a black belt, with 9 years of training in another style of Japanese Jiu-jitsu having studied on the east coast. I am happy to announce that both students passed, but there is so much more to it than their test results.
After the test, the student who had trained with me since the beginning presented me a gift he made himself, which you can see in the photo below. When he presented it to me, he gave a short speech. It was along these lines: “When I first started training it was to learn self-defense, but I gained so much more. Training with you gave me the confidence to go after my dreams.” One of his dreams was to work in law enforcement and now he works as a BC sheriff, as represented in the gift he made, which I’ll be hanging prominently at the entrance to our mat area. I couldn’t help but tear up at this meaningful gesture.
Martial arts seminars have unique characteristics that differentiate them from standard ongoing classes in a school or club atmosphere. They are usually not your own students who will benefit from building on the knowledge base you offer over time. They may not even be from the same style as you, or even the same martial art. As such, I take a different approach to teaching them so that students make the most of the experience.
In my first style of Jiu-jitsu with the Jitsu Canada organization we have a series of courses that you are required to take as your progress through the ranks in order to lay the foundations for teaching. It begins with an assistant instructor course which is required for purple.
I was covering the BCIT Jitsu Canada class on Tuesday and after the class I was talking to some of the students that were eligible to take the Assistant Instructor course that is being run this weekend. Several of them were a little apprehensive about taking the course, with one who was so nervous, she was tempted not to attend. Her argument was that she still had so much to learn, and she didn’t have the confidence in the techniques she already knew to pass them along. To put her mind at ease, I better explained the course, and the purpose of the course.
A recent Time article called Why Floundering is Good I read suggests that trying to figure out something on your own produces better results than having guidance from the beginning. The article is written in the context of intellectual learning, but I do think there are some takeaways for people learning or teaching martial arts or other physical skills, even if some adjustments need to be made for practicality and safety.
Obviously you don’t want to let students practise martial arts techniques in a way that is unsafe to themselves or their partners. They may learn from the injury, but at the cost of their well-being and the ability to train, which is not a worthwhile trade-off. Once certain foundations are laid, however, and students are able to do the techniques safely, it’s a good idea to give them “puzzles” to work out once in a while so they better understand the when to use what they’ve learned effectively. (more…)