Promoted to Shodan and offered a teaching opportunity. Any tips?

ThatOneSyrian

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Got a temporary black belt the other day (the embroidered one is gonna take a while) and my instructor offered me an opportunity to help teach, with the idea that I am interested in eventually becoming an instructor.

First of all, how do I best go about learning how to teach Karate? Of course, my instructor will help me with this, but are there any resources I can read during my downtime?

Secondly, do any of you have any personal tips for a teaching beginner?
 

MadMartigan

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Congratulations. Few people ever reach that milestone.
First of all, how do I best go about learning how to teach Karate? Of course, my instructor will help me with this, but are there any resources I can read during my downtime?

Secondly, do any of you have any personal tips for a teaching beginner?
I have no specific book recommendations, but would say to focus on continual learning. Your real education really will start now. Teaching can give you an incredibly deeper understanding of how/why each move is designed. Finding new ways to explain something to a beginner is invaluable for bettering your own technique.

Don't restrict yourself to just Karate centric material. You're going to keep learning more Karate, and then be able to pass your technical knowledge along. The trick is learning to teach (Regardless of the discipline or subject matter). Seek out information on good teaching methods (how to interact and impart knowledge to children is vastly different than for adults). Your best education on this may or may not come from within the Dojo.

... oh, and don't shy away from being critiqued by your instructor as you learn to teach. We all tend to get self conscious when someone we look up to is watching us. Try to pretend they're not there, then seek out feedback afterward (advice I wish I'd taken during my early teaching days).
 

Buka

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Your instructor will probably let you know how he wants you to go about teaching. That supersedes everything else. That being said, some thoughts….

Teach what you know. If asked a question you don’t know, give the honest answer.

People learn differently. Some respond better to verbal commands than others. Some learn by watching you doing a technique as you face them, others learn better by observing it from behind you.

Watch their feet placement, their stance, it starts there. Sometimes when practicing a technique newer students will cheat their stance a bit in order to be more comfortable leading in to that particular technique.

Inspire your class, or a single student if teaching one on one. If you aren’t loving what you are doing, chances are, they won’t either. Students pick up anything and everything about the person teaching class, including their moods. Have fun, they will too. It’s important they enjoy what they’re doing. It’s the only way they’ll be able to eventually push themselves further than they ever thought humanly possible.

Relate to them. You are a student, they are students, it’s something you have in common. Don’t be afraid to admit you struggle with some things too.

Think back to your very first days as a student. Think about what might have confused you. Think back to the “if he had stated it this way instead, or he should have mentioned more about the knee rise…” Think about how you would have clarified something during your first couple months on the dojo.

Commit to memory what each student does best. Reward them in class with the practice of that technique when they need a lift. Encourage them, compliment them on….whatever….when it’s appropriate. (Also a good idea to commit to memory all their strengths and weaknesses because eventually you’ll be sparring partners with them all.)

Keep this is mind, too. YOU are about to become an instructor. This means you can never again mail it in, never be the slightest bit lazy. Not that you ever were, but now you can’t be. You lead by example.

Watch other people teach every chance you get. If there were ten dojos you could go to and watch a couple instructors teach in each one of them, you would pick up some things you like. So…..over the next ten years, well, you know.

Go get um, Sensei, have a ball.
 

isshinryuronin

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I'm feeling feisty today so will (not without risk from blowback) go in the opposite direction from the tone set by the two respected (and kindly) posters above. :)

First of all, ThatOneSyrian, understand that you did not set the bar at your school and it's not your fault you have gotten a black belt and yet have little idea of how to go about learning to teach karate.

I will assume (hope?) you have at least 3 years experience in being taught karate. This is a good place to start. Did you not learn anything during this time? Did your instructor not ever correct you? Did he not ever explain anything to you? Did he not ever demonstrate technique to you? Did he not ever lay a kick into your ribs when your elbow was sticking up in guard? (Okay, maybe this last one is a little old school,... yet effective.)

My point is that you should have a good idea of how to teach (or not to) from the experience you already have as a student. This is the first place you should look to. Buka had some good ideas in this regard. You should also have confidence in your skills and a desire to help others learn the art. This I think, is about 90% of your answer. Don't overthink it too much.

The other 10% is creativity. The same kind you use in sparring. Try different techniques until you find what works on the guy in front of you. Read him. Come from different directions, vary the target, use hard and soft approaches.

For me, being a black belt means you have the skill, knowledge, and maturity to teach. Not just teach others, but to begin to learn to teach yourself. MA is a hands-on thing. Learn by doing and teach the same way.
 
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ThatOneSyrian

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I'm feeling feisty today so will (not without risk from blowback) go in the opposite direction from the tone set by the two respected (and kindly) posters above. :)

First of all, ThatOneSyrian, understand that you did not set the bar at your school and it's not your fault you have gotten a black belt and yet have little idea of how to go about learning to teach karate.

I will assume (hope?) you have at least 3 years experience in being taught karate. This is a good place to start. Did you not learn anything during this time? Did your instructor not ever correct you? Did he not ever explain anything to you? Did he not ever demonstrate technique to you? Did he not ever lay a kick into your ribs when your elbow was sticking up in guard? (Okay, maybe this last one is a little old school,... yet effective.)

My point is that you should have a good idea of how to teach (or not to) from the experience you already have as a student. This is the first place you should look to. Buka had some good ideas in this regard. You should also have confidence in your skills and a desire to help others learn the art. This I think, is about 90% of your answer. Don't overthink it too much.

The other 10% is creativity. The same kind you use in sparring. Try different techniques until you find what works on the guy in front of you. Read him. Come from different directions, vary the target, use hard and soft approaches.

For me, being a black belt means you have the skill, knowledge, and maturity to teach. Not just teach others, but to begin to learn to teach yourself. MA is a hands-on thing. Learn by doing and teach the same way.
Thank you for the reply.

I might be misunderstanding the first part of your reply. Are you implying that I lack the skill to be a black belt? I'm asking because I have posted videos of me doing kihon/kata here before, and I can understand that I do have many flaws in my technique. Or am I misinterpreting this and you are instead simply telling me that so long as I have several years (5 in my case) being taught Karate, I should know how to teach it?

I do not mean to sound defensive, as I acknowledge my lack of ability in some areas. I just want to understand what you mean here.

To answer the question about the ribs though, I actually just recovered from a cracked one due to that same issue. :)
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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I think the biggest thing for me, is to not over "pick" them.

For instance, if someone is learning how to do a lead-front-kick, rear-punch combo, someone new is going to mess up a bunch of things during it. So if their guard isn't up high enough, one of their elbows is slightly out, they're kicking more with the heel than the ball of their foot, and their pivoting on the heel instead of the ball of their foot (or reversed if that's what your style asks for), you might notice all those little things. But for them, the important thing might just be getting good foot placement and balance, and telling them everything else will overwhelm them. That's a big thing for me, and I always have to remember their skill level when teaching something new/working with someone.

Outside of that, the biggest thing is listening to the students. Make it clear that you're humble and open to feedback, and when they give that feedback, listen to it. That doesn't always mean the feedback is right (if it's a kids class, and they want to replace kata time with playing ninja, tough noogies), but listen to it and decide if you need to change your general approach, or your approach with that person.
 

gpseymour

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Congratulations on being asked to teach - it's a show of confidence from your instructor. It's okay to feel unprepared; this is something new, and you're not supposed to be great at it the first day.

Some really good advice from folks here. I'll toss in a couple of thoughts about training/learning in general, in hopes they help:

As others have said, look to material beyond martial arts teaching. Adult learning is adult learning, and juvenile learning is juvenile learning. Within the school, follow your instructor's lead about what's important. Also look to attend seminars and workshops with other instructors, and see what they do well (and what they do poorly).

Adults, especially, need a frame of reference. Before you start showing steps, be sure they understand what they are the steps of by showing them the whole thing first, at reasonable speed, so they can see what it looks like and know what their end goal is. Without this, the first part of your teaching is mostly lost while they try to figure out what you're teaching.

When you correct, focus on correcting what caused the error, rather than fixing the ending position. I've seen otherwise good instructors very focused on fixing an ending stance, but ignoring the off-balance two steps earlier that led to the poor stance.

It's okay not to know something. It's even okay to admit that. It's also okay if you're not the best at something in the school (I've even had students who were better than me in some areas), as long as you are good at teaching those things to the folks who want to learn from you. That doesn't mean you don't try to improve and don't want to be the best - just acknowledge that someone else may have a natural advantage or work harder and get better at something. As you age, that chance goes up, but so should your knowledge and ability to teach.
 

gpseymour

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Thank you for the reply.

I might be misunderstanding the first part of your reply. Are you implying that I lack the skill to be a black belt? I'm asking because I have posted videos of me doing kihon/kata here before, and I can understand that I do have many flaws in my technique. Or am I misinterpreting this and you are instead simply telling me that so long as I have several years (5 in my case) being taught Karate, I should know how to teach it?

I do not mean to sound defensive, as I acknowledge my lack of ability in some areas. I just want to understand what you mean here.

To answer the question about the ribs though, I actually just recovered from a cracked one due to that same issue. :)
I suspect the poster is giving you a rather firm nudge that you already know a good bit about how to teach.
 
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ThatOneSyrian

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I suspect the poster is giving you a rather firm nudge that you already know a good bit about how to teach.
Hmm that's what I figured. I have been told before though that I do Karate like a very incompetent green belt, so I'm never surprised if someone tells me that.
 

isshinryuronin

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Thank you for the reply.

I might be misunderstanding the first part of your reply. Are you implying that I lack the skill to be a black belt? I'm asking because I have posted videos of me doing kihon/kata here before, and I can understand that I do have many flaws in my technique. Or am I misinterpreting this and you are instead simply telling me that so long as I have several years (5 in my case) being taught Karate, I should know how to teach it?

I do not mean to sound defensive, as I acknowledge my lack of ability in some areas. I just want to understand what you mean here.

To answer the question about the ribs though, I actually just recovered from a cracked one due to that same issue. :)
I have no idea of your technical skill level and meant no criticism on that. You are correct that I suggested you should call on and reflect on your previous experience to give you many of the answers you seek. Having good teachers, being a good student, and reaching a black belt level, I believe, should give you most of the tools to be a good instructor.

The fact you seem a little unsure of your ability to teach leads me to believe you either lack confidence in how you were taught, or, more likely, unaware of the totality of the lessons you learned. You may know more about how to teach than you think. Be confident without ego.

Unlike some others, I see teaching from a more intuitive approach (again, sort of like sparring when you don't really "think" too much) and don't believe that learning teaching methodology from books is necessary. Some good pointers, though, were offered by several posters.

Be in tune with and read the student - for example, why is he repeating the same mistake? Misunderstanding the purpose of the move, not noticing his foot position, imitating a flaw you are unconsciously showing, not understanding the proper body mechanics, or just being too rigid and tight (physically or mentally)? This last point also applies to the instructor.

I don't think you need to ask the student how you're doing as a teacher. The student is a mirror of you. By seeing him, you have the feedback of you.

Oh, I bet you'll not be leaving your ribs open anymore - lesson felt, lesson learned.
 

JowGaWolf

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First of all, how do I best go about learning how to teach Karate?
For the most part you'll look at how you were taught and that will be your reference for a very long time. The rest of it will be learn by doing with help from your teacher. Teaching forces you to look at martial arts differently.

Your biggest skill sets will be Patience, Listening, Looking, Observing, Communications, and Understanding. There will also be some problem solving along the way. But all of it takes time to find a good mix that fits your personality.

Don't overthink it.
 

_Simon_

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Just wanted to say, massive congrats on your Shodan :) that's awesome, well done and I'm sure so much work over the years went into that!

Great advice already given. I've only taught in the kids classes, and for that I'd say, keep it very simple, don't overcomplicate things :). Use humour where appropriate, and be sure to demonstrate what NOT to do. Do it visibly so they see that, then show it with the correction.
 

gpseymour

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Just wanted to say, massive congrats on your Shodan :) that's awesome, well done and I'm sure so much work over the years went into that!

Great advice already given. I've only taught in the kids classes, and for that I'd say, keep it very simple, don't overcomplicate things :). Use humour where appropriate, and be sure to demonstrate what NOT to do. Do it visibly so they see that, then show it with the correction.
This is a good point. And there's an extra bit of wisdom at the end. When you describe/show what not to do (whether to kids or adults), be sure to finish by giving them the model of what to do.
 

wab25

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For the most part you'll look at how you were taught and that will be your reference for a very long time.
This!!!

In the Karate class I take, Sensei leads the warm ups. He does the same basic warm up every time, with a few variations depending on what the class will focus on. After 6 months of classes, there should not be any surprises in the warm ups. When a student makes shodan, sensei will invite the student to lead warm ups. Most of the time, they get to the front and have no idea what to do. They will try to come up with new exercises, new routines, they will over explain what they want done and many times just freeze.

The last time this happened, I took the new shodan aside afterwards and explained that he had been training with sensei for 7-8 years now. He knows sensei's warm up patterns. Lead those. Lead those exactly as he does. Also remember, in most classes, you have the same students that have been training with you for years. They don't need any explanation for the exercises. Get comfortable leading sensei's warm ups first. Then you can start to make them your own a bit at a time.

When you start teaching... start teaching the same way your instructor taught you. He taught you that way for a reason... and look at what you are now. As you teach different people, and get different questions and solve different problems... you will develop your own way to teach. But, start with how your instructor taught you. Its ok to copy him exactly for a while. (for a long time actually...)

Hint: you can apply shu-ha-ri to teaching...
 

Flying Crane

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Unlike some others, I see teaching from a more intuitive approach (again, sort of like sparring when you don't really "think" too much) and don't believe that learning teaching methodology from books is necessary.
A couple of good posts, sir and I wanted to highlight this particular comment. I also am of the opinion that there is a certain intuition in teaching martial arts that I am doubtful can be learned from an academic teaching program. If one lacks that intuition, then i am not sure I believe they will ever get it from some kind of teacher training.

I have often been in class when a senior student has run the session because the head teacher needed to be away. It is always a bit of a shock when it becomes apparent that the senior student is unable to lead a coherent session. When someone has been attending classes and training for three or five or eight years, they ought to have no problem leading a training session, just by using the same drills and such that the head instructor does.

This is the same advice that I give people who ask about training at home, between class sessions. People are sometimes reluctant to do so because they feel that they don’t understand it well enough and are afraid of doing it wrong, and they don’t know what to do, in constructing a practice session.

First, do it even if you might be doing it wrong. You will get corrections in class, and it is vitally important that you internalize the training and take responsibility for your own development. Even from day one. Second, just practice what you have been doing in class. Do those same things at home. Eventually you will develop your own insights and will begin to create your own drills, but likely they will still follow the pattern and the general approach that has been set out by your teacher. But taking that ownership is really important.

As to my advice to @ThatOneSyrian, stick close to how your teacher runs classes. Don’t get radical or look to be innovative, at least not until you have been doing it long enough to gain insight to do it well. I will also say that as a new black belt, you might secretly doubt your legitimacy in all this, and it can take some time to grow into it and come to trust yourself. In hindsight I think it is a good thing that I was not in a rush to start teaching when I earned my black belt. I think the years of simply training and gaining experience has put me in a position to be a much better teacher now, than I would have been then. So teaching with your instructor’s oversight is a good thing.

finally, just be a bit cautious about simply becoming free labor for your teacher. You ought to be getting something in return, for your efforts, beyond simply, “well you get teaching experience and that is part of your training.” I think that can be ok for a limited period of time, but at the very least he should be coaching you on your teaching. But if it just runs on forever, and you end up doing all the teaching because your teacher decides he no longer needs to show up anymore, and especially if you are still paying him, there is something deeply wrong with that arrangement. You should not be paying him for the privilege of teaching his students. If you aren’t paid a wage, then at least your own tuition should be free and you should continue to get instruction as well.
 

JowGaWolf

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because they feel that they don’t understand it well enough and are afraid of doing it wrong, and they don’t know what to do, in constructing a practice session.

First, do it even if you might be doing it wrong. You will get corrections in class,
I see a lot of this. That desire and ego to be correct all the time. One thing I've notice in the past week with a group of Sifu's. Many are starting to move away from "This is the correct way" and now use "My understanding of the technique is..." This mental shift leaves room open for being wrong, which is important. There's an assumptions that "Masters know EVERYTHING that they train."

I like this new shift that I'm seeing and I hope the mentality will pass on to current and new students. I think it's important for people to be comfortable with being wrong (incorrect). Especially within martial arts where beginner and intermediate training is full of getting things wrong. The best thing a student can do is as you say.

"First, do it even if you might be doing it wrong. You will get corrections.." Think of it like science. Science isn't perfect correct and accurate answers are always a work in process. I'm pretty sure something as simple as the Wheel has had a lot of corrections since Version 1.

It's ok to get stuff wrong. The trick is accepting the corrections and that's where most people screw up with teaching anything.
 

JowGaWolf

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A great teacher isn't great because he or she didn't make mistakes. A great teacher isn't great because he or she was was never wrong. Great teachers are great teachers because they are are always striving to be great teacher, which include accepting corrections about things that they originally thought they were doing the right way.
 

drop bear

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Study how to teach. As well as learn to teach karate.

It is a skill that not many people put effort in to because they assume one is the other.
 

Flying Crane

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I see a lot of this. That desire and ego to be correct all the time. One thing I've notice in the past week with a group of Sifu's. Many are starting to move away from "This is the correct way" and now use "My understanding of the technique is..." This mental shift leaves room open for being wrong, which is important. There's an assumptions that "Masters know EVERYTHING that they train."

I like this new shift that I'm seeing and I hope the mentality will pass on to current and new students. I think it's important for people to be comfortable with being wrong (incorrect). Especially within martial arts where beginner and intermediate training is full of getting things wrong. The best thing a student can do is as you say.

"First, do it even if you might be doing it wrong. You will get corrections.." Think of it like science. Science isn't perfect correct and accurate answers are always a work in process. I'm pretty sure something as simple as the Wheel has had a lot of corrections since Version 1.

It's ok to get stuff wrong. The trick is accepting the corrections and that's where most people screw up with teaching anything.
I think it is less about leaving room to be wrong, and more about recognizing that there might be more than one way that is right.

And I absolutely agree with recognizing that each of us are doing things that are to the best of our own personal understanding of it, which may change over time. What and how I understand something might differ from how my Sifu understands it. That doesn’t automatically make him right and me wrong. It isn’t a zero-sum game. I am not my sifu. I cannot understand things exactly as he does. But I can still make good use of the stuff.
 

WaterGal

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Got a temporary black belt the other day (the embroidered one is gonna take a while) and my instructor offered me an opportunity to help teach, with the idea that I am interested in eventually becoming an instructor.

First of all, how do I best go about learning how to teach Karate? Of course, my instructor will help me with this, but are there any resources I can read during my downtime?

Secondly, do any of you have any personal tips for a teaching beginner?

Does your instructor have an instructor training program or manual? That would be the first place to start.

If they don't, you may have some challenges ahead of you. Teaching someone how to do something is much more difficult than doing that thing.

First, I think, make sure that you know your school's color belt curriculum frontwards and backwards, inside and out. Practice narrating the forms and techniques out loud. If your teacher normally teaches techniques and forms while facing the students, practice doing them that way (mirrored).

Second, remember to be positive and not overly nitpicky. For every correction you give a student, try to find at least one thing to praise them for (even if it's just "good effort"). Keep your energy up.

Also, work on making sure you know how to explain the techniques clearly. Not "do it like this", but "pick up your right knee, and snap your foot out so the ball of your foot hits the target" or whatever.

Also, just... keep it professional. Come to class on time, wear a clean uniform, don't be alone with a minor, don't try to date the students or parents of students, don't curse or make dirty jokes in class... you get the idea.
 

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