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I'm so proud of the fact that I have no ego. It truly makes me the most humble person I've ever met. Regardless of whether we admit it or not, we all have an ego. It's what we do with that ego and how we demonstrate it among our martial arts peers and students which determine how good and what type of instructor we are...
With over 36 years of martial arts experience I've seen a lot of different types of martial arts and self-defense instructors. They all, including myself, have their weaknesses and strengths...
Granted some ego, i.e. self-confidence, is needed in order to teach, but there are those who teach for themselves and those who teach for their students. In the few cases I've seen the god complex in a martial arts or self-defense instructor, it's generally been for the instructor. Even one very good combat veteran martial arts instructor whom I personally knew, seemed to teach for himself. Let's not confuse this with a military manner of teaching martial arts. The word martial after all means war and many of the martial arts taught have or had a military basis at some point in history. His students had a lot of self-confidence, but they also, I unfortunately noted when I asked a newly ranked advanced student his name, had his ego and pride as well. This, in my opinion is unfortunate since a martial arts instructor can, by example, offer so many positive traits to his/her students. If you're looking for a martial arts school or self-defense school, watch some classes and remember the above comments I made. Talk to the instructor, but talk to the students as well. Go with your gut as well as your cognitive processes.
I've personally witnessed this in a lot of instructors. The instructor gets gets hit, possibly slightly hurt, and is embarrassed by the fact that his/her student was able to hit him/her.
I really need to respond to this in this article.
WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO TEACH THEM?! Don't you think you should be proud of your student for being able to hit you?! So what if you just got a little boo boo on your nose and maybe on your ego if you think of it in a negative manner. One of your students lessons HAS JUST SUNK IN AS A LEARNED REFLEX! Isn't that what you wanted to happen?
Now, you have two choices, you can make yourself feel better by treating this in a negative manner. Demean your student for his/her control. Tell your student that wasn't part of the drill or why that technique wouldn't actually work blah blah blah OR you can help your student to feel great about his/her accomplishment. Here's what I've done and no I'm not perfect and yes I'm sure I have an ego otherwise I wouldn't be able to write this martial arts article,...
"DID EVERYONE SEE THAT! That's what happens when you train hard, GREAT job John! I even felt that a little, you're REALLY starting to develop some power. Now do that combination again so I can practice blocking that since I made a mistake and you can practice that effective combination."
Is that a perfect way to handle it? I'd need a big ego indeed to say it was, but at least my student feels good about his/her accomplishment.
This could be more of a teaching style. Traditionally, not a lot of questions were asked in old school martial arts training, but I tend to believe, in this modern teaching era, not wanting questions asked is a matter of ego or a matter of lack of knowledge. Even large classes should be able to have question and answer periods. Naturally I'll listen to any opinions on this anyone may have.
I presently recall two people who went through this phase. A new instructor a friend of mine and I tried to help and me.
There was a martial arts instructor who used to come to visit my class when I was teaching self-defense in college. As I was teaching I'd look to him for approval, he'd shake his head no, then begin teaching my class. WITH that attitude and that lack of ego, i.e. self-confidence, I should not have been teaching in the first place!
It was thanks to a professor in the Physical Education department, whom I was interning under, who helped me to think and act like a professional physical educator. In a letter of recommendation to the director of the Physical Education department I remember stating
"Whenever I want to act in a professional manner, I find myself asking, What would blank do?"
Later on, thanks to Methods of Teaching classes and education training itself along with more martial arts experience, when this same instructor came to watch my class and he began shaking his head no I ignored this. When he began realizing I wasn't responding he stated, "You're teaching it wrong"
I looked directly at him and replied, "That's something we can discuss after class."
I believe a good mentor would have been proud of me for stating that. Instead he seemed surprised and a bit insulted. This was many years ago but I recall after class telling him that this was my class and we can discuss teaching techniques after the students have left. He never came to my class again after that.
The other instructor my friend and I helped was in a similar situation. When I would go by myself to watch his class I found him looking for my approval. When I would inadvertently shake my head no he'd ask me what was wrong. I'd reply nothing at all sorry to disturb your class. I gave him some pointers after his classes, but it would have been very easy for me to step in a teach his class, thus questioning his knowledge and authority in front of his students. Thanks to my previous experience I didn't do this. My friend told me he did teach a few of his classes.
Regardless of the humble martial arts and self-defense instructors you see on television who take out 20 bad guys without breaking sweat and agree to train one student after six months of begging, ego, otherwise known as self-confidence, is a good trait. As with all of our personality traits and interpersonal skills, it's what we do with that ego, that counts.
About the Author
J. Richard Kirkham is a dual certified teacher specializing in alternative teaching methods and a martial arts instructor. He currently resides in Honolulu with his wife Jan and son Rylan.