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Qualities of a Good Self Defense Teacher
One of the things I have been told for years on end is that I am incredibly hard on those I consider for becoming a self defense instructor under me. I prefer QUALITY vs Quantity. In fact, over the course of almost 20 years of professional teaching, I have certified only a handful of people. You could literally count them on one hand.
The reason is that one of the hardest things, I think, in the self defense world to find is a good teacher. Good teachers that have all the required skills are incredibly rare. In my opinion they must possess 15 skills and attributes. Any of my instructors must have all 15 to be able to become an instructor under me. So you can see why I have not certified that many.
In this article I would like to cover those certain skills and traits that make up a good and even a great instructor. If you are looking for an instructor in self defense, keep these in mind when choosing.
The first of all the skills must of course be the teachers own self defense skills. They must know exactly what, and why they are doing things. As well as when. This does not just include physical skills. We are talking about the ability to control the situation, diffusing tactics, ability to control their own emotions and mental state, etc. And of course their physical arsenal as well.
Desire to teach
This is also a big one. I believe that a good teacher has to have the desire to teach. I often see many teachers in the martial arts and self defense world that just do not want to teach. They either are doing it just to make a living, or are completely burned out and can not or will not take a break from it. Either way, for the information to flow out positively and make a true impact in someones life, the teacher must want to teach. It really shows if they don’t.
Ability to relay information
Now even if the instructor wants to teach, they must also be able to relay the necessary information to the student(s). If they can’t, whats the point of teaching? I have seen more than my fare share of teachers that know the information themselves, but have a very, very hard time teaching someone else.
Breaking information down
I also believe that the instructor must know how to break information down into bite size, manageable pieces in order for the student to as simulate the information properly. How many times have you seen an instructor say “we are going to do this technique”, then they show the technique and the technique has like 27 steps to it? Then they just expect you to either do it or just know how to do it.
Most people would be completely lost. I know I had been lost countless times in classes when some of my instructors would not break anything down and expect you to do it or know it. And for beginners and can do a lot of damage in their training.
Understanding how the student learns
Now this one, my wife actually brought up. And I think she is spot on with this. I didn’t even think about this one until she talked to me about it. She was saying that so many people learn differently that a good or great teacher should be able to know how they learn and adapt their teaching to that students style of learning. Some people learn by watching. Some by listening (maybe an explanation). Some by doing. And some by multiple ways. Do you even know how you learn?
Having quick eyes means being able to see the students mistakes and correct them. With many drills and techniques, the body can move exceptionally fast. And if there are multiple people in the mix, it can be even harder to spot mistakes. But a good teacher should be able to spot them and correct them quickly.
In todays society it is not excepted behavior to just do what is told. We need to know why we are doing something. And a good instructor must be able to explain every little minute detail of what and why you are doing something. To many times I see teachers just tell their students to do something and when asked to explain they either say “that is just the way it is done” type of BS, or they end up reprimanding the student for asking. I do not agree with this.
I think this one is pretty self explanatory. The instructor needs to be able to demonstrate whatever it is that is to be learned by the students.
Examples & Analogies
I think to learn new information examples and analogies are the best thing. And any instructor worth their weight should have plenty up their sleeve. For example, when explaining how to execute a knee strike, you can use the example of lifting the leg onto a bench to tie your shoe. This is the same movement as the knee strike. Get it?
I think that a good instructor of self defense should live the life they preach. I see to many instructors tell their students that they need to train so many hours and eat a certain way but they themselves dont. What kind of nonsense is that? So many instructors are over-weight, do not train themselves and then expect others to do it. I believe you have to show the way by walking the path. Not just by telling someone.
Put aside your pride
To often than not, I see a lot of teachers not teaching everything then know. This is out of fear that their students will become better than they are. I personally believe that your students SHOULD be better than you. If one of my students can’t hold their own ground with me in some seriously intense training in under 4 months of training with me, something is way the f*** wrong. I am not doing my job.
Desire to always test
It is one thing to learn some self defense, and it is another to know it actually works through experience. Most martial arts or self defense schools do not put their skills to the test. They simply “believe” the stuff works simply because they were told it does. Testing under extreme pressure, exhaustion, etc and always testing testing testing is the ONLY way you will ever know. And a good instructor (and student) should always have the desire to test what is taught and learned.
And this goes with what is above.. Questioning if the stuff works, how it works, why it works, we need to treat our systems like science. Always questioning, analyzing, and experimenting.
Always a “white belt”
A good instructor will always be willing to learn something new. The are forever students. Many times I joined schools in my youth and found instructors that thought, they knew it all. And the second I found that out, I left their schools. If you know it all, you stop learning. And you can always learn more. I have been in self defense for 31+ years now. And I consider myself a “white belt”.
And last but not least, I think a teacher needs to be dependable. No matter if they run multiple schools or run classes out of the garage. If you can’t count on them, find a new teacher.
STAY PRIMAL, my friends
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