A great Martial Arts class challenges the students while teaching a lesson that connects with them and improves their skills. When teaching Martial arts to a large class it's important to rotate the groups through different drills and to divide them by skill levels so that you can spend time improving the areas that need the most work. Standing around in the Best Karate Gi isn't going to cut it.
A big pitfall of a legacy martial arts studio is that the highest ranked teachers don't feel like spending time on the lowest ranked students. This ends up causing a few potentially disastrous effects. The student may not improve or may learn bad habits from those in their group or a junior assistant instructor. The student may feel discouraged and want to quit. Last, the student may become resentful and feel ill will towards the school.
The best way to make a change and increase the number of martial arts student retention onwards to black belt is to ensure you are dividing your time equally among the belt rank groups and to offer private lesson session blocks to anyone who would like to book this time.
You may have been teaching Martial Arts for many years and forgot how frustrating learning something new can be. Often, I find myself talking at a million miles per hour trying to pour all of my knowledge into my students in one class. More often than not, the students come to the next class completely fresh, because an information overload leads to brain shut down.
Martial Arts is a fantastic way for anyone to learn by repetition because we promote the use of ROTE memory. By doing something over and over we build the reflex response that is needed to actually use our martial arts in a real scenario.
Nobody is going to stop punching you in the face long enough for your to remember that new combination you learned in Karate class two days ago.
Don't overload your students. Build you lesson plan to teach one key focus and then structure your class around it. Break it down into drills, perform it, do a group exercise with it, use it in self defense application, and make a fun activity or game with it. These are all great ways to get students engaged while stimulating their brains to retain the information forever.
Do you remember the dread that arose in your heart whenever the math teacher said "pop quiz" in high school? Well, being a martial arts student isn't much better. You'll save yourself from hearing "Will this be on the test?", from troublesome students during multiple classes each month by test prepping your martial arts School.
Consider posting the testing dates on the door or wall, and providing an online calendar so that the information is easily accessible. Then, use a class each week to explain the test and what will be on it. Do some practice testing to get students comfortable.
Remember to put yourself in the shoes of your most timid student. Build their confidence by familiarizing them with the test, because performing solo in front of their peers and students can cause a lot of anxiety as it is now. When it comes time to test, if they are prepared to succeed they will feel accomplishment and congratulations from their peers and parents and it will change their life.
Test prep is also crucial for your students looking good in front of ol' mom and dad.
Nobody wants to cringe as their child flops through a horrible piano recital on stage and then lie to them about how great they did. If mom and dad see their kids blazing through the karate techniques and doing awesome, their more likely to encourage little billy to keep going. After all, papa is shelling out the big bucks to keep those belts coming, so seeing the value is sometimes believing.
The hardest part of being a martial arts instructor is how you treat your students.
The golden rule is to become impartial, to be fair, to be strict, but to also be kind. It's really hard and we're all human so we slip up and that's fine. Becoming friends with your students is a big no no, but being friendly to them is a must.
Be a great teacher who cares about their students, but also be their leader and coach who will crack down on them when they slip up or need improvement.
These are big shoes to fill Sensei, and I know it all too well.
Remember to check your attitude at the door and leave your personal life outside the dojo. Separate your Sensei role from your home/ relax role and you'll be happier and your students will respect you for it.
Don't be like Johnny Lawrence from Cobra Kai and yell at your students and date their mom. Not cool man.
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About the Author:
Colton Woodard is a 7th Degree Black Belt in Kuniba Kai Karate Do and holds the title of Kyoshi as well. He loves to teach Karate, Kobudo, and Iaido and considers himself a lifetime student in pursuit of self improvement in both Martial Arts and in Character. Colton loves to visit Japan and speaks conversational Japanese and can write quite a few Kanji. He is a Karate competitor and coach and loves to exercise and make new memories with people all over the world.
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