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If you want to become a successful and influential instructor, you will have to become a master of not only the martial arts but also of interpersonal skills with your students. The Art of Effective Feedback will become a cornerstone of your relationships with your students and of the ultimate success of your students within your program. Practice this advice and reap the benefits, ignore it at your peril!
Be sure to give feedback to students in the class on a regular basis. Try to make all feedback either positive or constructive, and avoid any negative feedback if possible. Negative feedback should only be used as a last resort when there are behavioral issues, rather than issues of poor technique; and even then, there are steps you should take before resorting to negative feedback.
Positive feedback is obvious. Comments such as "that was a great kick," "nice stance," "that's the best I've seen you do that kata (form)," "you really looked like you were trying hard in sparring today" go a long way towards creating a positive atmosphere and a comfortable environment in which to learn.
When you add the student's name to any of the above types of encouragement then your relationship to that particular student will improve almost immediately. The importance of using your students' names when giving feedback cannot be understated. If you get nothing else from this article, please remember that personalization of your feedback is often more valuable than the feedback itself!
Constructive feedback should always have the objective of giving the student some new information from which they can learn. Comments such as "your stance is terrible," "your punches are way off target," and "why do you even bother coming to class?" are inappropriate and should be avoided, even if they are true.
It would be better to say things like "Johnny, your kicks are really good today, you must have been practicing at home. When you go home today practice the same kicks from a deeper stance and your karate will look fantastic next time you come back to class"; or, "Mary, your punches have a lot of power, if you can deliver them on target every time you're going to be extremely strong"; or, "James, it looks like you're having a bad day and that's OK but do you remember that time you came to class and you were doing an awesome job and trying your best. I was impressed. I'd love to see that strong spirit again."
These kinds of comments are not going to work every time but they certainly have more of a chance of encouraging a change in the student's output in terms of effort and technical competence than a short one-sentence put down.
These approaches are very simple ways to break the ice between you and your students and show them not only that you are serious about helping them progress in the martial arts, but more importantly that you care about them as a person and as a valued member of your club.
Gone are the days of the Prima Donna instructor who plays the role of an indifferent and unaffected demi-God. Here-to-stay, are the days of realistic and honest feedback from an expert in the arts to his or her esteemed and paying members.
Your ability to relate to your students will make or break you in creating a successful and sustainable school.
Also see: Lesson Planning For Karate Instructors: Four Main Components Of An Effective Lesson Plan and How Karate Instructors Can Motivate Students In Three Easy Steps
Paul A. Walker, is a 5th degree black belt karate instructor with over 25 years experience in the martial arts. He trained at Master Hirokazu Kanazawa’s Headquarters Dojo in Tokyo for three years from August 1996 to July 1999. In 2008 he was awarded his 5th degree black belt by Master Hirokazu Kanazawa.