Teach me, master!
Where art thou, master?
That is the question!
Who do you learn from when you “move out” of your home dojo and open up your own school? Do you have to quit training in order to become a teacher? Say it ain’t so!
Well, good. Because it ain’t so.
Aside from the typical get up early/stay up late and make time to train, there are plenty of ways for you to improve your martial skills. And just as many, if not more, reasons for you to do so.
Let’s cover some of the important reasons for you to keep up with your training:
- Your students get to improve more due to your increased ability and capabilities
- You can teach better because your understanding of what you teach improves further
- You can better relate to the students because you remain a student yourself
With all these great reasons under our black belt, let’s dive into how we go about it.
1) Train WITH your students!
I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t always possible. It is an excellent option if possible though.
If you are doing a drill where they are partnered together, you can grab a partner as well.
If they are doing something on your count, face them (or the mirrors if you have them) and do it too. Especially if it is an exercise or warm up drill.
Again, depending on the difficulty of what you are working, the skill level of your students, and the size of the class, you might not be able to do this. It’s easier for the students to make mistakes that slip by unnoticed if you aren’t able to be walking around the mat.
A major benefit about doing this is that it shows the students how the exercise or movement should be performed though.
Thing is…it forces you to be honest. As honest as a ganguro girl without any makeup. Your students get to see your skills, the good ones and the bad ones.
They get to see you sweat and realize that you aren’t a god.
If you are a good teacher, hopefully you will realize that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
2) Activate “Challenge Mode”!
Let’s use sparring as an example.
Maybe you are a tournament sparring competitor and you don’t want to get rusty.
You can always work with some of the students afterwards if you couldn’t train during class without losing focus on the student’s learning and safety. There are often students that don’t mind sticking around a little longer (sometimes even a lot longer) after class has finished, especially if it means working directly with the sensei and getting the chance to further improve.
Now the question is how can you seriously improve your sparring (or any other skill) when paired with a beginner student or someone else below your skill level?
Easy! Do you play video games?
When you complete a video game, are you done? Not really. Y’see, good games have something called replay value. Even when you “finish”, there is still lots more to learn, er, I mean do! Everything from a harder difficulty setting to knocking out that high score or best time.
In sparring, you can do the same. I’m not saying you use this as the time to turn part-shark and chow down on fresh meat. Rather, I recommend you use this time to train smarter,rather than harder. Focus on technical improvements.
- You can try to primarily use one hand for offense and defense
- Use evasion and footwork instead of blocks and redirections
- Use blocks and redirections instead of evasion and footwork
- Work in a different range than you are used to
- Force yourself to be unorthodox and fight with your bad leg forward
- Use the round to explore how to utilize new tactics
- Use only your worst techniques and try to refine them
It is important to remember your goal is not to win the match but rather to learn.
3) Get to know your local martial artists!
Listen to your mom and “go out and makes some friends!”
If the problem is that it is no longer feasible to consistently train with your teacher because of distance, then look to the people near you. If there is a Muay Thai gym nearby, converse with the Kru. If it is a Kung Fu school, speak to the Sifu.
Get together with the other local martial artists to talk about tactics and training. Give a little, get a little.
There are too many times where teachers will ignore or even diss other schools. That is called having an ego, one of the most detrimental things to your growth as a martial artist and a living and learning human being.
To grow and learn something new means admitting you didn’t know something previously.
Ego has no place in a martial artist, especially not within a teacher.
3.5) Stick with it!
This. Is. Important! I can’t stress this enough.
You are blessed with one of humanities greatest professions: teaching.
And the fact that it is not just about surviving skills, but also life skills…
The fact that it can extend to all ages and ethnicities, that it can be taught to either gender…
The fact that it is sharing your passion and what you have dedicated a good portion of your life to…
That is something to never to forget.
Teaching martial arts will help your own personal improvements and the longer you stick with it, the further those improvements extend. It’s taking the things the martial arts naturally taught you when you were only a student (discipline, courage, self defense, confidence, interpersonal skills, philosophy, body movements, control over yourself, etc.) and makes you learn them all over again, this time from the other side of the mat.
At least, as long as you sincerely keep up with it. If you give up, obviously you lose those benefits. Not cool.
Golden rule to avoid teacher burnout? Have a passion and remember why you have it.
Enjoy what you do and never regret it! There will be days where you are dead tired and maybe class didn’t go as you hoped and planned it would. That’s ok. You’re ok.
The journey to where you are right now was never easy. If it were, everybody would have a black belt and teach classes (McDojo’s excluded)
Why expect things to get easy now? Always remember that just because it’s tough, doesn’t mean it’s impossible though.
Now you need to know EVERY technique, movement, and concept inside and out, because not everybody’s going to be able to learn or use them the same as you.
Now you need to be ready to answer questions you never even thought about before.
But now you get to fulfill the role your teacher had and experience what they did.
Enjoy it and learn from it as they did.