A great Karate Instructor is a mentor that has a knack for making people think they are better than they think they are...... They force you to have a good opinion of yourself..... . They let you know that they believe in you..... They make you get more out of yourself. And once you learn how good you really are.... You never settle for being anything less than your very best.... how good you really are, you never settle for being anything less than your very best.........– Anonymous
What makes a good Karate Instructor Great?
Sort of an important question, right?
I've seen Instructors who worked for hours on their lessons, who were Masters in the field fail miserably, and I've seen Instructors who, if you gave them five minutes before they walked in to glance over their material, they could run a class for three hour on any topic under the sun.
In the end, what makes a great Instructor? I wish I had a magic eight-ball that allowed me to figure this one out, but it's something I've really given some thought to... and I think what follows are at least some interesting ways to think about the Martial Arts.
So what makes a great Karate Instructor?
1) Passion for Martial Arts. This can manifest itself so many ways. I'm the "High energy - jump around the room" kind of Instructor, and sure, that comes from a lot of passion, but some of the best Instructors I've known have had a passion that students had to be quiet to catch onto. For me, when I was an assistance Instructor, watching teachers like Mike Anderson, Jeff Nitsche and Dennis Symington teach with their quiet passion and brilliance was important in my development as an Instructor.
2) Love of kids. You laugh, but it's true! I've seen people come in and talk about teaching and talk about how much they love their subject and know about their subject, but they never mention the kids. Worse, we had an interview once where the Instructor clearly knew his stuff, but he basically admitted that his classroom management style was fear and intimidation. Not the person I want teaching the kids I care about.
3) Love of their subject. Again... pretty important.... I spent years watching the class because to watch teacher explain Jujitsu, Judo Throws or Self Defense techniques, for me, to understand how you could have a passion for something that was always a mystery for me. Great Instructors not only love their subject, but they love to share that joy with students.
4) Understand of the role of a Karate school in a child's life. The Dojo is more than the sum of the classes your Karate kids take. It's a time to grow, explore, try on identities, and find joys that might just last a lifetime. Sometimes the best teaching happens in the lobby before or after a class, leading the warm up’s for the very first time or being singled out to demonstrate their jump front kick in front of the class. The best Instructors know that they are Instructors for much more than the time they are on the mat.
5) A willingness to change. This one gets overlooked sometimes, I think. I've written about this before, but it bears repeating. We talk about how Karate schools transform kids, but I think they can transform Instructors. If you expect kids to be changed by their interaction with you, it's got to be a two-way street.
6) A work-ethic that doesn't quit. It's a hard, draining job that will demand all that you can give sometimes. You've got to be able to have some balance in your life, but there are very few Instructors who can be effective by cramming everything they need to do into an hour.
7) A willingness to reflect. You've got to be able to ask why things went the way they did... both on the good and the bad days. And you have to be able to admit when the reasons it went bad were because of what you did, not what the students did. (Equally important is the understanding that often things go right because of what the kids brought to the table, not because your lesson plan should be bronzed.) Teaching Martial Arts requires a willingness to cast a critical eye on your practice, and yourself...
8) Organization. I have to give my wife Mrs. Candice Boggs credit for this. She keeps my life organized. I have learned to be good at this (Secret... Use your Calendar)... My staff knows what to expect, they know I am going to be organized and have a structure to our Karate School. We teach something different every day and we still make it creative and spontaneous and interesting. I can only imagine how much better of a Karate Instructor we would all be if the structure of everything you did was just a little more organized.
9) Understanding that being a "great Instructor" is a constant struggle to always improve. Goshin Karate & Judo Academy is beginning its 20th year. I'm pretty proud of what I've accomplished, and I think I've had some moments of great teaching in my career so far, but I also still see some the holes in my teaching -- and I still want to get better... I learn something new every day. The only thing constant is Change. And when I think I have got it perfect, just imagine what new challenges will face me on that day.
10) Enough ego to survive the hard days. The tough days will leave convinced that you can't teach or the world is too hard for these Karate kids or the work is too much or whatever the problem was that day... you have to have enough sense of self to survive those days.
11) Enough humility to remember it's not about you. It's about the Karate kid. If your ego rules your classroom, if the class turns into "Me -VS-. Them" or if you can't understand that a sixteen year old might be able to tell you something you don't know, then don't teach. Or at least, don't teach Karate here at Goshin Karate & Judo Academy.
12) A willingness to be part of the Community. Sure, there are some Martial Arts schools that cover the windows and keep their class a secret and do what they want, but I think that send a strange message to the kids and the Parents. Karate Instructors are part of our community, and a great Instructor should be willing to work to make the community a better place.
I wish I could say that I was good at all these things. I wish I could say that I even knew every place I needed to improve. I don't... but for me, to question my own sense of what makes a good or better yet a Great Martial Artist or Karate Instructor as some claim to be.
Someday I hope to be that person - but for now it is work in process
Mr. Boggs - Sensei
Goshin Karate & Judo Academy
6245 E. Bell Road #120
Scottsdale, AZ. 85254
Providing Instruction/Lessons in Martial Arts, Self Defense, Judo, Jujitsu, MMA and Karate, for Kids, Teens and Adults in the Cave Creek, Phoenix, Scottsdale and the entire north valley of Arizona since 1991.