Qualities of a Good Teacher

Being a teacher is a skill.  Being a good teacher requires even more.  Since I am a martial arts instructor I have seen many teachers of the martial arts who have been horrible teachers, and I have seen those who have been great teachers.  Also, being a college graduate (Bachelor of Arts in Writing with a minor in Sociology) I have had some great professors and some not so great professors.

My entire life through school I have had some awesome teachers who were great role models as well as those who were just there for a paycheck. Since I teach martial arts to all ages (4 and up), this article is going to be focused on martial arts instructors and what it takes to be a great teacher of the martial arts.

The reality is, just because you are a black belt doesn’t mean you can teach; and just because you can teach doesn’t mean you are a “good” teacher.  The five primary things required to be a good martial arts instructor are: passion, charisma, personality, patience, and education.  Aside from those five, the instructor must lead by example by being a good role model.  There are other things that will certainly help, but if the instructor doesn’t have all of these, he will not be a good martial arts instructor.

Many instructors take on the “bow down to me” attitude where their ego is so large they can’t fit through the Dojo doorway.  Although respect is a must in the martial arts, many instructors get on power trips.  If you are thinking of joining a martial arts school, avoid those ego maniacs.  They are phonies.  If an instructor thinks he is the toughest person on earth and everyone should bow down when he walks by, that person has issues and there is no way he can help you in your life.  That person will only brainwash you and could get you seriously injured someday, if not worse.

To be a good teacher of the martial arts, the instructor first and foremost must have passion.  She must be passionate about teaching the martial arts.  If she doesn’t love the subject that she teaches, neither will her students.  Without passion there is no way an instructor can be successful at helping martial arts students reach their full potential.

Charisma and personality tie in together.  It’s the instructor’s personality that has the most impact on whether or not he has charisma.  Charisma means that he has that quality that draws people to him.  He’s very likable and vibrant.  Just by talking with him, he is motivating and enthusiastic.  That is charisma. His personality (or character) must be positive and understanding, kind, and empathetic.  He must truly care about those he is teaching and must provide the motivation to assist students on their journey.  He needs to be humble, real, down to earth, calm and a good sense of humor.  He must also be a good communicator, which stems from communication skills and social skills.  He needs to be positive, think positive, and live positively. A good martial arts instructor is open minded and creative.

Patience really ties into personality as well, since it is a personality trait.  If the instructor doesn’t have patience, she shouldn’t teach.  It’s not the profession for her.  In the martial arts, if your instructor doesn’t have patience, get out of there.  Part of learning the martial arts is to learn how to have patience, self-control and self-discipline. Children learn best by the social learning theory (modeling behavior) and they will automatically look up to their martial arts instructor.  If the instructor lacks patience and clearly shows disgust or anything close to that, it is sending the wrong message to the children.  Another part of martial arts training is to improve self-confidence and self-esteem.  If the instructor makes people feel like they are inadequate or are failures, the students’ self-esteem and self-confidence will become even worse.

Education is vital. In martial arts an instructor must be fully educated in the particular style of martial arts he is teaching.  That’s just a start.  That education he received needed to come from a fully qualified instructor – not the internet, a DVD, or belt by mail program.  Although the internet and DVD’s will help educate an instructor, going through the long process of hard training as a student provides the appropriate experience one needs to be an instructor.  It’s important to research and know your instructors’ background.  If your instructor can’t provide valid evidence of his background get out of there. An instructor must also be educated in the different types of learning.  Not all people learn the same.  Some are visual learners, some are audible learners and some are tactile learners.  In other words, some need to see it to learn, some need to hear it to learn, others need to feel it to learn.  It’s vital for an instructor to teach according to all three learning styles so that each student can learn appropriately.  Being educated in child development is also a plus.

Martial arts instructors play the role of educator, leader, role model, counselor, therapist, disciplinarian, coach, friend, mentor, and more.  It’s a very important role to have and if the instructor doesn’t have passion, charisma, personality, patience and education he will not be able to fulfill all the roles a martial arts instructor needs to fulfill.

About the author:

Michael Miller is an expert in self-defense, personal protection, personal development, and fitness.  He has been involved with martial arts for over twenty years and currently holds a 4th degree black belt in American Kenpo (one of the leading systems of self-defense), and also studies and teaches boxing, kickboxing, Joe Lewis Fighting Systems and Gracie Barra Jiu-Jitsu (no Gi).  He has been featured several times in Inside Kung-fu and Black Belt magazines as an authority in his field.  He runs the only full-time martial arts studio in the history of Bradford, Pa (Miller’s Kenpo Karate Dojo), which is also the only full-time studio in McKean County. He can be reached through his web site at www.millersdojo.com, through e-mail at michael.miller@millersdojo.com or by phone at 814-368-3725.