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The Beginning of Being a Great Martial Arts Instructor

Updated on February 13, 2015

The 8 Steps to Success

There is a lot of information out there about how to be successful and what steps should be taken to achieve it. These particular steps are what helped me when I was first starting my teaching career in martial arts going from a really shy and socially awkward assistant instructor to being the director.

unfortunately it won't be as easy as climbing these
unfortunately it won't be as easy as climbing these | Source

Step 1 - Have A Great Attitude

Everything in life is 99% attitude and only 1% ability. People are able to do things because they believe they can and have the confidence to see them through to the end. Being able to look at a negative situation and finding something positive as an come out of it is a great skill for anyone. For instructors, how much we know doesn't matter, at the end of the day people remember us because of how we made them feel, so, smiles can be the difference between lifelong students and a fleeting idea.

I like to pretend I'm Tony the Tiger when I think of the first step
I like to pretend I'm Tony the Tiger when I think of the first step | Source

Step 2 - Be on Time

Think of this as if you're not early, you're late. People want to learn from someone who is excited to share their knowledge, how does it look when an instructor walks on the mat right at time, or worse after. We, as instructors, are in the field of edutainment, meaning as soon as students walk into the school we are putting on a show. Always expect to see students coming in ready to practice at least 30 minutes before class starts. For back to back classes, have a plan for students to follow, this prevents people from interrupting your current class and also encourages early attendance.

Step 3 - Be Prepared

There are two different ways you need to be prepared: Mentally and Physically.

Mentally: You need to have all classes planned out from start to finish. What helped me was to follow the who, what, when, where, why and how of the classes. Who, indicates the age and level the students. What, is specifically what the students will be doing and detailed steps to the maneuver you're teaching. When, means how long and at what point in the class will the students be working on the maneuvers. Where, is what part of the classroom will the students execute the technique ( I've found teaching from different parts of a classroom provides different perspectives to the students rather than always teaching from the "front"). Why, is the most important aspect because it helps provide the students a better understanding of the function of the technique. How, this provides you, the instructor, the method you will be teaching/demonstrating the maneuver (pads vs partners) it also allows for you to make notes about assistant instructors and how they play into the classes.

Physically: Have classes set up and ready to go 30 minutes beforehand ( this may mean having assistant instructors or students of the next class help with set up). Being able to do what you're expecting of your students, whether that be a flying side kick or triangle push ups (the bane of my existence), I find it rather hypocritical of instructors who demand students to preform for them rather than being the example for students to follow. This also means stetting time for you to train and practice the maneuvers you have set up for classes.

Class Outline

Headline + Time
Prep/open class 2min
Gather + get excited
Warm up 10min
Prepare the body
Main part 30min
learning phase
Close class 5min
Ending with a positive
Doesn't have to be this but it's a good start

Step 4 - Work a full day

If there are specifics tasks and goals you needed to reach for the day it doesn't hurt to take an extra 15 minutes to get them done correctly. This applies to everything in your day from training, to marketing, to cleaning, to reaching out to prospective students (don't do this past 7:30pm they don't like that).

Step 5 - Every Person, Place, Nook and Cranny

This is you, as an instructor, reaching out to your student base. Communication is one of, if not the, most important thing you need to be aware of especially in the age of technology. Everyone has multiple methods of contact; phone, email, and Facebook being a few of them, and it is important you make yourself available to questions and concerns (remember you're a mentor not just a leader in an extracurricular activity). If you haven't seen a student for a few classes call and check up on them, make sure they're OK. This is also important for renewals and upgrades.

This works wonders
This works wonders | Source

Step 6 - Protect Your Attitude

Yes, attitude is so important it's on here twice. Not everyday will be a good day, but the moment we step out onto the class floor it all has to be put away. If you have any doubt or negative emotion students will pick up on it and it will impact the class. The floor should be where anything could have happened to you that day but once out there it doesn't matter only the students do. Will this be hard at first? Absolutely, but seeing the students excited and ready to learn or practice something that you've taught them will help.

Step 7 - Set Goals

Goals help to give you a focus and will help to keep you accountable for what you want to accomplish. Start with simple daily goals: doing just one more push up a day (again triangle push ups are the bane of my existence) talking to just one more prospective student, adding just one more business to your network. Then, build upon these goals. I found it easier to start with the end in mind and work backwards from there. How many students did I want in class? 30. I need to create more exposure to the school, to do that I need flyers (or another form of information) and etc..

Step 8 - Take Control

Being an instructor, in anything, is being able to show confidence in what you're doing. There are three areas that you need to take control: Situations, Customers, and the Future. With situations that means look for solutions rather than just trying to pass off a problem to someone else. If you need help that's OK, just have at least three possible solutions to offer when asking for help. It's easier for a team to solve a problem when expanding on an idea. Taking control of customers is not you telling people what to do, it's not allowing yourself to be the person reacting to something but rather the person who is leading, whether it be conversations or in the classroom. Last, but not least is the future, and not just any future but yours. You have the ability to give someone a skill set that will last them their entire lives and leave them excited to be doing it! Take pride in that because the only person who can determine what you can accomplish with that is yourself.


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