A Parent's Guide to the Martial Arts  p. 6  
     
 

In fact Sang H. Kim, in his book, Teaching Martial Arts, says, A teacher must be an expert in the subject he teaches.  In the field of martial arts, this expertise should be based on solid professional knowledge and experience in the arts being taught." (Kim, 37)  This sentiment is echoed in all teaching vocations.  For example, Herbert Kohl in his book, On Teaching, states "Teachers have to have some mastery of the subjects they teach," (Kohl, 9) and Gilbert Highet, in his book, The Art of Teaching,  states, "The first essential of good teaching, then, is that the teacher must know the subject." (Highet, 12)  This brings us to a disturbing, yet common practice found in most modern martial arts schools.  This practice involves the adding of classes to the curriculum based on current trends in order to make more profit. 

In the early to mid-eighties, ninjutsu, which was popularized by the fictional movies from Hollywood, was the hottest trend in the martial arts.  In the late eighties and early nineties, it was Aikidō, which was popularized through the movies that featured Steven Seagal.  The early nineties also saw the advent of the cardio kickboxing craze, which was popularized by Billy Blanks with his introduction of Tae Bo.  The tremendous popularity of Tae Bo caused many schools to add some form of cardio kickboxing to their curriculum in order to increase profits.   In the early to mid-nineties, Brazilian jūjutsu, which was popularized by the no-holds barred competitions, became the hottest trend in the martial arts, and as a result, many schools rushed to add grappling skills to their curriculum.  Today, there seems to be a rash of schools now offering classes in swordsmanship due to the popularity of recent movies such as The Last Samurai.  In most cases, the instructors in these schools take a short training course or seminar in order to add a class to their curriculum and in other cases, information is borrowed from books or videos.  Unbelievably however, sometimes the classes and content is just purely fabricated.  This goes completely against the expertise required in order to teach a subject, as mentioned earlier by Highet and others.

Moreover, Highet gives an explanation of the qualities of a good teacher in the following example:  "If a girl chooses the career of teaching French in school, she should not hope to commit the prescribed texts and grammars to memory and then turn her mind to other things.  She should dedicate part of her life to the French language..... You may ask why this is necessary.  There are two answers to this.  The first is that one cannot understand even the rudiments of an important subject without knowing its higher levels -- at least, not well enough to teach it.  Every day the grossest and most painful blunders are made not only by teachers but by journalists and radio commentators and others who have the public ear, because they confidently state a half-truth which they have read in an encyclopedia article, or because they lay down as gospel a conjecture once uttered by an authority they admired.  And many teachers, trying to explain certain problems in their own subject, fall into explanations suggested to them by a colleague or thrown up by their own imagination, which are nevertheless totally wrong, and which an extending knowledge of the field would have corrected long ago.  ..no one knows, no one can even guess how much knowledge a child will want and, if it is presented to him in the right way, will digest.  Therefore it is simply useless to teach a child even the elements of a subject, without being prepared to answer his questions about the upper ranges and the inner depths of the subject." (Highet, 13) 

The preceding example also brings to light an important point that can be applied to your potential instructor in the form of a question.  Has your potential instructor dedicated part of their life to the martial arts?  "This is a critical point too many junior yudansha fail to think about.  They rarely stop to consider the fact that a master instructor has probably spent just as much time learning to teach his art as he did learning to do it.  "In the case of martial arts, teaching an art is much more difficult than learning for one important reason.  In most cases, the student seldom realizes that learning can only take place when the correct conditions are present.  Students need to be prepared to learn before the actual process of learning can take place." (Furuya, 44)  Basically, you should have an absolute minimum of ten years of intensive training before you should even attempt to start teaching without supervision." (Lovret, 3, 1)  This is a far cry from the shodan level.  In addition, "being a good fighter or martial arts practitioner does not automatically mean you can be a good teacher.  Without a certain degree of experience in all areas of the martial arts, it is difficult to teach." (Kim, 37)

 

 

 

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