Should an instructor help a student reach his goals or vice versa?

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by PhotonGuy, Jan 15, 2018.

  1. PhotonGuy

    PhotonGuy Senior Master

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    There has been some discussion not to mention some controversy on this forum about whether or not an instructor should focus on a student's goals or vice versa. My position on this is that a good instructor should at least listen to what a student's goals might be and should not be opposed to possibly helping the student reach their goals, whatever they might be. If the student has unreasonable goals than the instructor should do their best to inform the student that they're being unreasonable and perhaps unrealistic but that doesn't mean the instructor shouldn't perhaps try to help and advise the student to modify their goals to make them more realistic. People take up martial arts for many different reasons and a good instructor, in my opinion, should listen to the student's reasons and know the student's reasons. Communication is key.

    Headhunter has taken the approach that when he trains in the martial arts he has his own reasons and his own standards which might or might not be the same standards of the instructor. He makes some good points but Headhunter by taking such an approach you're going to face controversy and disagreement on this forum. That is not necessarily a bad thing, debate and disagreement can be good and I believe that if somebody disagrees with me about something its important to know why, I like to see their position. I just like to keep it civilized when that occurs.

    Anyway, Headhunter if you do have your own standards and goals in the martial arts, to be able to reach them that also includes having a plan to reach them. I take it you already know that as you come across to me as a relatively smart person. Also, people such as Chris Parker would probably strongly disagree with the approach you talk about taking in some of your posts. I think its good to debate and discuss such stuff, and remember all, lets keep it civil shall we?
     
  2. pgsmith

    pgsmith Master of Arts

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    It is pretty much impossible to make any sort of blanket statement about martial arts without first stating what particular martial art you are referring to. The arts, and the teaching philosophies and methodologies that go along with them, are so incredibly varied as to make your opening statement totally irrelevant.

    Since I like analogies, what you just asked is akin to asking if all gasoline engines should get better than 30 miles per gallon.
     
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  3. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    It really depends on the art/school. If I’m not mistaken, the goal of koryu arts seem to be to preserve the art as it’s been taught to you, and pass it along as unchanged as humanly possible. Koryu people here surely have more insight.

    Everyone’s got their own goals. The best thing someone could do in this regard is make those goals known to the CI at the beginning, and see if their own goals will be effectively met by the prospective school and teacher.

    Several people in the other thread commented along the lines of “I don’t care about the teacher’s goals, my goals are the ones that matter.” True. However, if your personal goals are counter to the school’s goals, or at the least detract from the overall flow of the school, then that’s no good. Let’s say I join a dojo that does kata, but I have zero desire to learn kata. If I go through the motions and do them with the bare minimum effort to not distract the group, no big deal. If I’m standing there and not participating during kata, basically picking and choosing what I’m going to do, that’s going to cause issues. Forget about promoting and ranks, as it’s truly irrelevant here.

    Should a teacher help each student meet his/her own personal goals? Absolutely. So long as they’re not outrageous goals and so long as they don’t change what everyone else is doing. Everyone shouldn’t have to do an hourlong cardio kickboxing class because one guy’s goal is to lose 20 lbs of body fat this month. The whole group shouldn’t have to slow down because one guy doesn’t think the pace of the class is conducive to his learning a specific thing. Someone shouldn’t consistently sit out of drills he doesn’t think are of any real value.

    Also keep in mind that people’s goals change. At 41, my current goals aren’t what they were when I was 21. And they won’t be the same when I’m 61. Hell, my goals this month aren’t exactly what they were last month. My teacher is supposed to keep up with my changing goals? And the ever-changing goals of everyone else? All at the same time?

    The teacher should absolutely try to help the student reach their goals. But not at the expense of everything else. Somehow, the people who try to please everyone by giving them all everything they want don’t get very far.
     
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  4. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    The more an instructor can identify and meet his students goal the more successful he will be.

    This is why fight gyms hold classes for soccer mums.
     
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  5. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    I like that ... soccer moms.

    The best way is for a teacher to know the students’ goals and know if they’re capable of delivering them. An honest and good teacher will refer people to someone who’ll better help those students who’s goals don’t align with what’s going on in his place.

    And “yes men” have this odd way of never satisfying anyone at all, and being complete messes. I’ve run into a few of them.
     
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  6. _Simon_

    _Simon_ 2nd Black Belt

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    Yeah some great points have been made. That's the thing, of course the student is training for their own reasons/intentions/ motives and goals. And it's silly to train for another's. But at the same time, it can be a bit arrogant to say what a dojo should 'give me', and to expect something that's outside of the dojo's standards and principles of what it's about. An instructor can only go so far, and will help as much as possible (usually).

    I'm attracted to martial arts for reasons I can't quite accurately describe, as it goes beyond the physical. And the physical is just an expression of that, so I can't expect any instructor to cater to that. But I can accept the help the instructor gives in perfecting the physical expression, and then how I contextualise that is up to me.

    I think that's what's most important, the context in WHICH you train. That then sets up the how, what, where etc, as in quantum mechanics, the field you're aligned with determines the 'whats'. But then what you're already drawn to was set before that happening anway via where you're coming from. But anyways, interesting topic!
     
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  7. Midnight-shadow

    Midnight-shadow 3rd Black Belt

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    I don't know what was said in this other thread the OP mentions, and honestly I don't care (I can't be bothered with forum drama), so I'll stick to the core question. Should an instructor help a student reach their goals? In an ideal world, yes, but this isn't always possible in a group environment. Let's say you have 10 students in a class, all with slightly different goals. Some want to compete, others just want to get fit, and others just want to socialise. It is almost impossible to make a program to cater to all these different goals simultaneously. So what do you do? Most instructors I know will focus on the goal that they either consider to be the most profitable (i.e. the goal most people share) or that they have a personal interest in. So let's say Instructor Jim sees that most people come to the classes for fitness, and so focuses on that. Then along comes Student Carl who wants to compete. Yes there will be some crossover but it will get to the point where Carl's goal will fall outside the limits of the class. At that point what do you do? From a business point of view, if 9 people in the class just want fitness and 1 person wants to compete, it makes sense to just focus on the fitness side, as that will keep more customers. At this point it is unreasonable for Instructor Jim to cater solely to Student Carl's individual goal, as he will be neglecting the goals of the 9 other people in the class.

    In my personal opinion, it is important that the instructor listens to the student and knows the goals they want to achieve. Then, the goals should be discussed and the instructor should inform the student if their individual goals cannot be met by the instructor. There is no shame in admitting that a class wouldn't be suitable for a particular student, and the student shouldn't feel like they are being abandoned by the instructor. It's just business.
     
  8. gpseymour

    gpseymour Sr. Grandmaster

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    I don't think anyone would argue (okay, surely someone would - this is MT, after all) that a student should train for the goals of the instructor. Most instructors are open to making small adjustments to accommodate the aims of the student (I've had students who were working to improve their primary art by cross-training, and I adjust to that, for instance). As someone else said, the instructor has to be aware of his limitations. If someone came to me asking to prepare for an MMA bout, I'd suggest they find an MMA gym. I can give them some skills toward that (and would be open to cross-training them in some specific areas, perhaps, if their coach thought it would be helpful), but I'm not the right guy to prepare someone for that bout. Likewise if someone wants to become fantastic at kicks. There are things I can adjust to, and things I should defer on.

    And the student should be looking for a school that somehow automatically at least comes close to meeting some of their goals. I put some emphasis on getting exercise in class (during warm-up, by working hard in non-technical classes, etc.), so that would fit if one of their goals was getting a little more fit. If the student and instructor are both looking for a match between approach and goals, and agree they may have one, then it's go time.

    The one place the student probably should be looking at the goals of the school is in helping build the school. More students keeps the school open, helps keep fees low, maybe makes more classes possible, and gets more partners to train with. The only down side would be less individual attention from the instructor, but I think there's a positive side to that (up to a point).

    The discussion in the other thread was really more about standards, IMO. Some feel a student should work to meet the instructor's standards. In general (there are easy exceptions), I think this is a good approach. If the student's standards are higher, then by striving toward them, the student will easily meet the school standards. If the school's standards are higher, it's a good stretch for the student to reach for those as a growth opportunity...but not necessary. For instance, part of my standards includes learning the classical forms of the techniques and being able to perform them for testing. If a student focused on the applications and didn't bother to learn the classical forms, he'll get stuck at whatever rank (white, if he never learns/tests even the first 10). He might get really good, and become one of my most trusted students for helping in some areas, but he'd always be that lower rank, because he won't meet the standards for the test. I'd be okay with that. I wouldn't agree with his decision (if you don't want to do that, why did you pick a school that has it?), but I'm not going to do more than nag him about it.
     
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  9. Midnight-shadow

    Midnight-shadow 3rd Black Belt

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    What is your opinion on insisting all students compete? I know a spring board diving coach that expects all their students to compete at least to a regional (state) level in order to be in their class. I personally feel they are setting an unreasonable expectation and shooting themselves in the foot from a business stand point.

    The sad reality is that a training school or club of any kind needs to make money, and to make money you need students. If you set your standards so high that you don't get enough students, you aren't going to survive.
     
  10. oftheherd1

    oftheherd1 Senior Master

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    The bolded and underlined, imho, is the only and correct answer.

    But I don't think I quite understand the question. Is it should a student be able to come in and demand teaching that helps accomplish a goal that is against the teachings and philosophies of the school? As gpseymour said, why would you pick a school you know doesn't supply that, and then insist they violate their principles or concepts?

    If it is a student wants to gain more stamina and asks the instructor for help, that probably wouldn't be a problem, as long as it doesn't take an inordinate amount of the instructor's time. Or how to perfect stronger hitting, kicking, sparring, form execution, or whatever, the same answer.

    But money paid to an instructor/school isn't buying a seat of the board of directors.
     
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  11. gpseymour

    gpseymour Sr. Grandmaster

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    I don't have a problem with that being the stance for a school/instructor. If their purpose (as they see it) is to teach for competition, then they should only be teaching people who want to compete. When I was coaching soccer, I wouldn't have allowed someone to practice who wasn't planning to play on the team.

    Now, as to whether the level required is realistic or a good business decision, I can't say. I know nothing of MA competition. I would assume a really good instructor/coach would draw enough students they'd need to draw the line somewhere on who they wanted to spend their time with.
     
  12. Anarax

    Anarax 2nd Black Belt

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    Interesting question. The instructor finding out the students motivation to why they want to study is a good idea. However; I don't think the instructor should be expected to tailor the training for the rest of the class for that one individual. There's also a reasonable approach people need to take when searching for an instructor. For example; I'm not going to a mcdojo to train for a professional fight. There's is a certain level of communication that should be expected between student and instructor. Meaning if I want to improve a certain aspect of my training(self-defense, kicks, blocks, punches, etc), and the instructor teaches a style that teaches those aspects, he/she should be able to help with that. Teaching you drills, giving you pointers on your technique, etc.

    People have different motivation for studying martial arts, thus there's an instructor for each type of group. Knowing what group you belong to and knowing the characteristics to look for in an instructor for that group is the challenging part.

    Speaking from experience, I've had instructors that I eventually realized weren't for me. Realizing that and moving on is the best thing you can do. Now I have an instructor that I know is perfect for me. If I stayed with my previous instructor I would have missed out on the great training I've received from my current instructor.
     
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  13. Andrew Green

    Andrew Green Grandmaster

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    As coaches / instructors we are here to serve our students. It's our job to help them reach their goals, we work for them. In doing so they may help up reach certain goals as well, but success in our roll as coaches should be dependent largely on helping others reach their goals

    That said we also deliver a product, if our product does not align with their goals then we shouldn't sell it too them.
     
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  14. skribs

    skribs Master of Arts

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    To me, it entirely depends on the dynamic. In a smaller class or private lesson, the instructor should definitely cater the lesson plan to your goals. If it's a setting where you can go and train, and the instructors can give you advice on what you're working on, definitely cater to you. If it's a larger group, or you're ranking up within a curriculum, then your goals are secondary to the class.

    To put it another way, if I hire a math tutor and say "teach me calculus," I expect he will teach me calculus. But if I go into a geometry class and say "teach me calculus", the teacher would be justified in calling me a boneheaded dolt.
     
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  15. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    Excellent analogy.

    I attend a small dojo. There’s been a handful of nights where I was the only one in class. My teacher has always asked “what do you want to work on?” in that situation. We’ll warm up, stretch, and go through some basics as usual, but then we’ll do whatever I want to focus on. On those nights I just like to focus on the syllabus and have him pick apart all of our standardized stuff. I had one of those nights a few weeks ago. We went through every kata, one-step, prearranged sparring, and standardized drill I’ve been taught. Had I said I wanted to hit the bag and pads, he’d have went that route instead. Add 10 other students, and it would’ve been business as usual.
     
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  16. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    Students don't always know what their goals are, don't always know why the heck they joined a Martial Arts school in the first place. A lot of times it's something they always wanted to give a try, something they were always curious about, a fascination even, sometimes it's because their buddy joined, and a lot of times it was just something to do.

    My first goal - is to make them want to come to class. I don't care what their goals are. Yet.
    My second goal is make them want to work their tails off.

    The rest is just ice cream.
     
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  17. Midnight-shadow

    Midnight-shadow 3rd Black Belt

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    That certainly applied to me. I joined the Martial Arts out of a fascination from watching various Martial Arts films, but I didn't have any specific goals in mind. While training I swapped between various goals. First I did it just for fitness, then my focus switched to weapons, then I wanted to compete in kickboxing. This all happened in the space of a year and I know I probably infuriated my instructor with all the times I changed my mind about things I wanted out of the training. After trying to focus on so many different things I still couldn't find a good goal for myself and lost interest completely. Maybe if I had been at a different school I might have found a goal worth pursuing more, but I don't know for sure and I don't want to blame my instructor for my own self-delusions and eventual loss of interest.
     
  18. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    My favorite kind of student. [really] Explore it all, as much as you can, fitness, weapons, kickboxing, whatever. You'll find what segment of the Arts you love, then run with it.
     
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  19. Midnight-shadow

    Midnight-shadow 3rd Black Belt

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    Yeah, except I couldn't quite find any part of it I really loved and so quit :(
     
  20. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    Maybe. But I think you're just on hiatus. Know why? Because you love Martial Arts.
     
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