“The coach’s first task is to learn how to present his knowledge to his students in the best possible way”
– G. R. Gleeson, 5th Dan Judo
I never liked the term “master” and if you really dig into the Asian martial arts you find it is rather a pretty bad translation of the many terms associated with teaching the martial arts. I personally have always viewed myself as a coach, though I not always prepared to be one!
Successful coaches don’t fit one profile, but the following are some characteristics they all seem to share:
Knowledge of the material
To be effective, the teacher must have sound knowledge of the material. They don’t necessarily have to have been a great fighter or a champion; often the best coaches do not have such backgrounds. However, a good teacher will continually read, observe and attempt to further his or her knowledge. Continuing education is essential
A good teacher is an effective communicator. Good communication with their students leads to mutual understanding. Teachers who confront problems or obstacles head on avoid lasting misunderstandings and resentments.
Ability to understand and address the needs of the student
The ability to communicate is related to the ability to handle and address the needs of the student. A lack of understanding of a student’s motivations and/or problems is one of the major reasons for a breakdown of the relationship between a student and the school.
One common characteristic of all good teachers is that they are highly organized. They have put thought and consideration into their curriculum. They have designed a rotating curriculum that provides the student with a strong foundation. They have yearly, monthly, weekly and daily plans for their school, their staff and their students. They are prepared for each class.
Knowledge of training and conditioning methods
Perhaps the most distressing feature of the traditional martial arts community is how out of touch and out-of-date many instructors are! An effective teacher must have up-to-date knowledge of various training and conditioning methods. In competition, having the most up-to-date techniques and strategies certainly will increase your chances of victory. In your classes, being aware of advances in methods will not only help your students achieve the results they want, it will also help you prevent unnecessary injuries.
Knowledge of how the body works (exercise physiology)
Directly related to the previous point, a teacher should have a basic knowledge of exercise physiology in order to understand how the body works. This knowledge will allow teachers to understand the science behind various training methods.
Dedication, enthusiasm, maturity
Good teachers display dedication to the task. They show enthusiasm which motivates their students. Students tend to look up to and imitate their instructors, so it’s important at competitions that teachers act in a mature manner. A good teacher demonstrates good sportsmanship no matter what the outcome. Remember, the purpose isn’t to win a lot of trophies or to produce champions. The process is what is important. Every time you step on the mat, in a ring or in a cage, you will learn something and get better.
“Teaching is a constant revision and expansion of methods based on a training program which is systematic and progressive”
– Donn Draeger, 1962