How to Be a Martial Arts Instructor

The key to being a great martial arts instructor is to be able to retain students, whilst developing quality martial artists and well rounded individuals. This article will teach you how to do that.


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    Present the same material in different ways. Students can drop out very quickly if their classes are monotonous. Developing skill requires lots of repetition. It's your job to make the learning process exciting and fun through variation. Be creative. Have students work with partners, on pads, in lines, circles, and facing the instructor. Keep things moving.
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    Focus on student progression in every class. The martial arts belts system is one of our biggest advantages over other activities. It helps set goals for students, and gives them something around their waist that tells them they are progressing as they succeed at each learning hurdle, which motivates and builds confidence. Make the curriculum the main focus of your school. In fact, make it your responsibility to help every single person be ready to take their next test. If you do this, 80% and above of your student body will be ready to take the test. We are not talking about reducing your standards, we are talking about refining your focus; encourage students to attend class consistently and practice at home. Introduce monthly assessments, awarding stripes to belts, to breakdown the testing phase into small chunks. Inch by inch, it's a cinch. Yard by yard, it's hard!
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    Praise your students sincerely. Students must feel they are progressing. We all thrive on someone recognizing our efforts and giving us praise, so, if your student's side kick has improved, tell them about it. It will make their day! Be honest and sincere, and learn to look for the good in your students.
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    Protect your students. Protect your students, especially beginners. Consider proper pairing of students. Teach correct use of equipment, pre-framed control at all times, and introduce sparring gradually. Make sure you can see and maintain control of the full class at all times. Be aware of any past injuries or medical concerns, and plan your classes accordingly to be within your students' physical limitations. Make sure that the floor space is clear, and that people are not training too close together.
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    Use an exciting curriculum. The perfect curriculum should be like a pyramid upside down, with less material at the beginning, and gradual increases at each belt level. Using this method will not reduce the standards of your black belts, but will dramatically increase the numbers that achieve this standard. Having too much material at the early stages of a curriculum just overwhelms students, and tells them this is too difficult for them.
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    Care about your students. Make the effort to learn and use all of your students' names every time they come to class. Make eye contact with all your students, and make appropriate physical contact, such as a handshake or high-five. Seek out the quiet ones that disappear without anyone noticing, making an extra effort to speak to those students. Take time to develop rapport, and show your students they are important to you. Be careful not to overdue it - be friendly, but not friends. Students don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care!
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    Use smiling, sweating, and learning. Try to achieve a balance to your classes so students can smile and enjoy themselves without losing discipline. They'll get a workout, as well as practicing the technical elements, and they'll learn something in every class, no matter how small. Using SSL will ensure your classes have a healthy balance that encompasses all your students' needs.
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    Help your students set goals. Never assume your students know where they are going with their training. Make every class encompass the theme of achieving the goal of black belt, as this will keep your students focused. When something comes up in their life, and something has to give, it will not be their martial arts training, as they will realize how important it is to achieve their goals. Help your students to visualize the mental and physical skills they will achieve through their black belt goal.


  • Never work a student too hard or past their limit or ability to do something.
  • Never treat a student differently from all of the other students. This includes giving a student "special treatment."

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Categories: Martial Arts | Sporting Careers