Studying martial arts is not only a life-long journey, it’s complicated, twisted road that usually includes multiple obstacles and issues along the way. One of the biggest obstacles, is when one gets a teacher who pays no attention and doesn’t help their students. This can be discouraging and may result in the loss of many students who may have gone on to be skilled and capable martial artists. Not only is that not a good look for any dojo, it also contributes to the dilution of the style, as those capable students could have gone on to eventually pass on their teachings.
If you’re a student, new or experienced, an important thing to watch out for is a lack of teaching or instruction. This can be a sign that perhaps that dojo isn’t for you. Or maybe it’s a McDojo and all one is looking for is the monthly tuition payments. There are unfortunately a lot of those out there and they can be tricky to spot. Sometimes, the dojo in question just happens to be a stagnant environment. One good example I can give is a dojo I studied with for about four years. When I signed on with them, considering they were of a different style, I expected to start over at the white belt level.
However, it was agreed that since I had reached and earned the rank of black belt, I should continue to wear the rank and we’d fill in the gps as I got tested at each individual level. After four years, I was barely ever taught anything beyond the very bare minimum and even then, there was never a focus on any ONE thing. There was always a general sprinkling of a dozen different topics during one class, making it very difficult to learn and develop. Being as that I am an unusual hybrid, too advanced to train easily with the beginners and too new to the style to train with the advanced ones, it was a difficult few years.
The workouts were decent but I was never given any one-on-one coaching, instruction or learned anything beyond techniques that I’ve already been using for decades. Despite dropping subtle reminders (one does not DEMAND testing in karate), I was never taught anything or progressed within the style. It led to my departure, even when I got word that classes were continuing on. That’s me as a student. If you’re an instructor, you have even MORE responsibility. Although there are certain aspects that can be taught by some senior belts to help out the Sensei, a head instructor ultimately has the responsibility of ensuring that all students advance and learn in due course.
The success of each student, and ultimately the entire dojo, depends on the proper teaching and passing on of the knowledge. Unlike some classic kung fu movies, masters don’t hold back that one technique that gives them an advantage over everyone else. A proper Sensei dedicated to the art will not hold anything back and will teach everything they know in hopes that the art will continue to live on and be taught to others. That’s why, if you go to a dojo where they won’t give you any time, ever, you should probably go. Find a different school and pursue your martial arts elsewhere. It’s important to find a school where you not only feel comfortable but accommodates your journey. Food for thought…☯️
2 thoughts on “Unexpected Teachable Moments…”
Could you have become an assistant teacher in a beginner’s class?
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Potentially, and this is an interesting thought. Some differences in technique might still make it difficult for me to correct students of a different style, at least until I got a fulsome understanding myself. That being said, I have offered to teach a class of basically “karate cardio,” where I could take an hour and just put the students through drills, push-ups, squats and similar exercises to focus the strength aspect instead of something technique-specific. There are always ways, one simply needs to find it.