You have been training in a martial art for a few months and now you are thinking that you would like to be a martial art instructor. After all, it cannot be too difficult to do since there are so many teenager instructors; as a matter of fact, there are more teenage instructors than there are adult instructors but that is the subject of another topic. Before you make your decision, here are some things to consider.
First a few definitions
- Martial Sport. A martial sport is a fighting game played for the purpose of competition. Participants pretend to fight but every precaution is used to preclude them from receiving even the slightest injury. Just as with playing paintball, participants like to think of themselves as actual warriors, but they do not have to deal with any of the emotions or physical dangers that an actual warrior may face. This is pure sport, with no relation to combat. Martial sport is mutual fighting with no intent to harm the opponent.
- Combat Sport. A combat sport is a more physical version of a martial sport where participants actually fight using full-power physical contact. To enable the participants to able to keep competing, there are strict rules to prevent injuries that may cause serious injury or preclude future competition. Therefore, while the fighting is physical and painful, it is still not realistic combat. Combat sport is mutual fighting with the intent to harm the opponent.
- Martial Art. A martial art is the way of the warrior; it is a system of study where participants learn the ways of the warrior. Being a warrior means learning to avoid combat, being mentally and physically prepared for combat if it is inevitable, having combat skills, and being able to apply these skills if necessary, and being able to deal with the aftermath of having to use, or not use, these combat skills. Being a warrior is a way of life, not a sport to be played periodically. The reward of a martial art is not the winning of the fight, but the enlightenment that comes from preparing for the fight. Depending upon the style, a martial art may be as close to actual combat as possible without being in combat. A martial art is unwillingly fighting for the purpose of self-defense. A martial artist does not willingly enter a fight; a martial artist fights because he or she is attacked or is about to be attacked.
- Commercial martial arts. These are martial sports that are taught as businesses, the primary purposes of which are to obtain and retain students, and to extract as much money from them as possible.
- Combat martial arts. These are the combat sports that are used in professional, semi-professional, or amateur fighting. The primary purpose of these arts is competitive fighting.
- Traditional martial arts. These are martial arts that are taught in ways that are as near as possible to the original arts. This is not the 19th or 20th century, so 21st century martial arts cannot be taught in exactly the same way as they were originally taught. However, rather than being watered down to something other than a true martial art, they have just adapted to the fit modern threats and the time constraints on students’ time. Sometimes traditional martial arts are taught commercially, but the schools still try to maintain the integrity of their martial arts and they usually struggle just to break even.
Now for some things to consider when deciding whether or not to pursue becoming a martial art instructor:
- What are you going to teach? Presumably, it will be the martial art in which you are currently training. If you are in a commercial martial art, this means you will be teaching children mostly, which means you will be teaching an even more watered down version of the martial art than it already taught to adults. Your main responsibility will not be to teach the martial art, but to keep students in the system and thus bringing in the money. If you are in a traditional martial art, you will still be teaching children, but your primary responsibility will be teaching the art more than with just keeping students in the system. If you are in a combat martial art, you will teaching mostly adults and will not be too concerned whether or not they keep training.
- Teaching children. In the martial arts business, the money is in teaching children, so commercial martial arts are mostly devoted to teaching children. Therefore, if you teach these sports, you must enjoy teaching children and have the patience and skills required to teach them. Traditional martial arts demand discipline and dedication, so, while there are certainly children in the system, there are not as many as in the commercial martial arts, so you must be more skilled in teaching adults.
- Martial art skills. To be a good teacher, you must be able to teach others to be skillful at the martial arts. This does not necessarily mean that you must be skillful at the martial arts or that you ever were skillful at the martial arts. While people may be initially attracted to you by the martial art skills you can perform, they will not stay with you as a student unless you can teach them the martial art skills. As you build a reputation in teaching, people may also be attracted to you by what you have taught others to do.
- Appearance. As stated above, people are not paying to see you do things; they are paying you to teach them to do things. If you have a reputation as a good teacher, people will be attracted to your school even if you are a fat slob. However, if you are just starting a school, people will be attracted to the school by what you can do and by your appearance. You must look the part of a martial artist; this means being fit, trim, and athletic.
- Monotony. Teaching the martial arts, or teaching anything else for that matter, involves teaching the same thing hour after hour, day after day. Since there is such a high turnover in martial art students, you will be teaching the basics more than anything else. After a few months, you will be able to anticipate questions because you know the questions students usually ask at this point in the curriculum. In an effort not to say the same thing over and over, you will start looking for different ways to say the same thing. This will usually lead to student confusion since the best way to say it was probably the way you originally said it. This means that over time, the quality of your instruction will diminish. When you first start teaching, you are an enthusiastic idealist; however, after a few years you may become a monotonous, monotone bore.
- Compromise. If you are a traditional martial artist who wants to become commercial martial art teacher, you will have to compromise the integrity of your art to be successful. There is a high student turnover rate in commercial martial arts, but the rate is even higher in the traditional martial arts. This means that if you teach according to your traditional training, you will lose more students and thus, more money.
- Long hours. Teaching may be enjoyable when done for one or two hours a day, but it is work when done six, eight, or more hours a day. When you first start a school, you will not have any help, primarily because you will not be able to pay them. This means you will have to do everything, such as publicity, public relations, sales, accounting, cleaning, etc. Actual teaching will just be a part of the business.
- Rewarding. If you enjoy teaching, then your reward will be seeing students with no confidence become confident, seeing awkward students become graceful, seeing angry students become calm, seeing meek students become aggressive, and seeing younger students grow into adults. In addition, you will know that you had a part in their metamorphosis.