Wednesday, February 13, 2008

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Questions for Teachers

Who are we teaching?

Martial arts training attracts people for a very broad demographic. Kids, teenagers,
young adults, mature adults and the elderly are all taking up the practice of martial arts. The training martial arts population comes from a variety of socio-economic classes; the wealthy are training, the poor are training; and everyone in between. The people with the financial resources, tend to attend the more professional and up-market schools, while those who are struggling financially tend to train at small clubs running out of YMCA clubs and church halls. There are some great instructors teaching out of church halls, although more and more, the true professionals are teaching from full-time locations, offering a different kind of product.

What are we teaching?

The variety of martial arts styles and systems is huge, and ever on the increase. Over the last three or four decades, different styles have had their boom and bust periods. Initially, Judo and several root Karate styles held sway, then came the Kung Fu boom, followed by the Taekwondo upsurge after it was included as an official Olympic sport. The last fifteen years have seen a major trend toward more reality-based and practical systems such as boxing, kickboxing and more recently, mixed martial arts. The mixed martial arts phenomenon, in it’s various forms, holds place at the top of the food chain when it comes to effective one-on-one inter-personal combat. But it doesn’t end there. There are many important niche-fillers such as model-mugging, adrenal stress based training and weapons-defence systems that play their part. The mosaic is rich, diverse and ever-expanding.

Why are we teaching?

This is an important question that can only be answered by each individual instructor. The over-riding reason for many is simple – for financial reasons. Many martial artists are finding ways to monetise their passion. Often, the teaching of martial arts evolves from a small, part-time affair to a full-time occupation. Other instructors are driven by different forms of motivation; some for social reasons, some out of a genuine desire to help and empower others, some as a way of getting their own fitness fix, etc. More often than not, it is a unique mix of each of those reasons (and others) that provides the motivation for martial arts instructors to do what they do.

How are we teaching?

This is another very interesting question. Teaching methods at the grass-roots (amateur) level, don’t actually vary that much. This is the area in which the true professionals are shining. The truly professional martial arts instructor heads overseas regularly and becomes exposed to the way other professional instructors do their thing. There are emerging instructors who are specialising in delivering to very specific audiences and such people are beginning to really think about how they are doing their job. Communication technologies are always being developed; most martial artists are completely oblivious to the trends, which are mostly being taken up by professional speakers, motivators and sales-people. This aspect of martial arts instruction is a newly emerging technology that may filter down from a handful of professionals to the mainstream population of instructors, over time.

Where are we teaching?

We are teaching in full-time schools, out of church and school halls, in back-yard dojos or even in the local park (can millions of chinese be wrong?). Although the location from which we teach shouldn’t necessarily effect the quality of instruction, in reality, it often does. If we have a place to store gear and safety equipment, with a matted floor (that allows for groundwork/grappling, etc) and a place where people can get changed, buy a drink, etc – then we will more likely be able to offer a better level of service than those people teaching out in the park. However, there is a time and place for everything; some people enjoy the low-cost and ‘natural’ alternative of being in open-spaces. It’s a case of ‘horses for courses’.

When are we teaching?

Martial arts is being taught at lunchtime for office and factory workers; in the mornings for mums who have dropped their kids off at school and in the evenings for the larger portion of the working population. It is being taught as a part of the working day in the form of specialised training for law-enforcement, security and military personnel. It is being offered as part of the school day as part of the extra-curricula activities that many schools are now beginning to provide. It is being taught in seminar format on weekends. I even know of a couple of groups who have the ritual of training on Christmas day.


So what does all this mean?

This all goes to demonstrate how rich and diverse the practice of martial arts has become in modern society. There are a hundred ways to each martial arts and make a living. I know people who make a great living from teaching nothing but one-on-one private classes; I know others who have built themselves an empire of professional schools; I myself, make a living from taking a very diverse approach consisting of private classes, running my school, teaching professional law enforcement and military personnel, authoring books and DVD’s and maintaining my regular seminar circuit. I take a fully professional approach to what I do; continually investing in my own education and bettering my ability to deliver to a variety of clients, each having different skills sets, different needs and training in different locations. So I am constantly aware of the who, what, why, how, where and when of my chosen profession. All things considered … there’s a lot to think about.
Think well.
JBW

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1 Comments

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Mike Fooks 10:08 am

Nice post as always John.
As someone who's day job is coaching in the communication and influence arena for business professionals - the how aspect I find very interesting. I think there is a lot of ground that has been covered and is still to be covered in terms of how we impart information. Both to groups and to individual students.

I also agree with the self development piece. One of the things that has always pleased me about being a part of Will-Machado is the obvious level of R&D you are doing in terms of martial arts, learning frameworks etc. And always these things have a top down effect which is good for everyone.

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