A few recent events and conversations at the dojo inspired me to write this article.
The first event was during a sparring session when one of my students delivered a lovely, spot on, spinning back fist that nearly took my head off. The second was during another sparring session where I had a good rear naked choke on a student. As he was doing a good job of getting out from it I allowed him to escape.
I didn’t think that either of these situations were unusual until we started to chat about it afterwards. I have to mention here that many of my students are already experienced martial artists and so have backgrounds of training and gaining achievements in other clubs.
What was surprising for me was their reaction to these events. In the first instance, after this lovely back fist my student got scared. I was puzzled, why would she be afraid? So I asked “what’s wrong?” She replied “I’m worried that now you’ll punish me like my old sensei did.” I replied “why would I punish you? I’m congratulating you as you delivered a perfect shot at the right time, it was superb.” She asked me if I was not embarrassed that a student had hit me in front of the rest of the class? Well we’ll get to that a bit later.
The second situation was similar. The student had a previous background in martial arts and he was puzzled, asking why didn’t I finish him? I had the opportunity to do so. His previous teacher had always done that, showing him that he was a lesser fighter than the teacher.
I don’t attempt to criticise other instructors as everyone has their own methodology of teaching. My view on this is that as a coach I try to point out the best in my students, and the way to do this is to support, motivate, and praise them but to also be honest. If they do something incorrectly I let them know. If something is done properly they are always acknowledged. This applies to all training aspects from kihon to sparring. As a coach I have to leave my ego outside of the dojo for the benefit of my students.
My approach is to get the best out of students. When I see that they have an opportunity to execute a correct technique no matter if it’s a strike, kick, lock or choke, I allow them. It doesn’t make me weak or embarrassed and gives motivation to my students that they can get me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not easing off but I make it possible with effort to achieve. Always making sure that I praise them for their achievement. I don’t get upset if a student, regardless of their grade, will catch me with a great punch and I don’t need to get revenge or punish them. I enjoy their progression as it shows me that I have taught them correctly.
As someone who suffers with anxiety, this is one of the few areas that I feel confident that I know my value and I don’t feel embarrassed or a lesser man if a girl with a white belt will choke me out, she simply did a good technique.
This approach builds trust between a coach and a student. Students know that no matter what they will be treated with respect, building the right behaviour model when they spar with someone else in my dojo. No one is trying to show superiority and all of the students and instructors respect each other. This attitude makes me proud to be a part of a great team of like minded people.
About the author: Les Bubka is an experienced martial artist, personal trainer and therapist who specialises in posture, mobility and Karate. Les works with a wide variety of clients including martial artists and athletes as well as those suffering with postural dysfunction or those who wish to improve their fitness and wellbeing