The Impact of a Teacher – Part I


8 Years of Teaching

This year marks my 8th year teaching karate and my 14th as a student of the way. Something that I don’t often think about is the number of people I have interacted with over the years and the kind of impact (hopefully a good one) I have had on their study of the art. In this first of a two part series, I am going to try to give some perspective on the enormous amount of interactions I have had as a karate teacher.

United Martial Arts Academy

Bill, Nidan and Mike, Shodan were two of my first students. We started doing a weapons class together on Saturday and Sunday which gradually digressed into us studying the bunkai of the various kata in much more detail than in the past. I credit these two for sparking my interest in more combative applications of kata.

Robert, Shodan was a young kid in the Tae Kwon Do class that I was participated in for a few months. He joined my weapons class on Saturdays and eventually switched over to karate. Now he is a full grown guy and always ready for a good sparring match when I am in town.

Tyler, Nidan really changed my perception of kids practicing karate. Tyler has laser like focus and would frequently out perform full grown adults despite only being 10 at the time. He has a long road ahead of him before he is comfortable teaching a class full of adults, but his technique is phenomenal and he is leaps and bounds ahead of his peers.

Some other names that stand out in my mind: Carmella, Charlie, Freddy, Sebastian, Mike, Gage, John, and Sage to name a few. There are easily another 70-100 names and stories for another time that go with each of them.

United States Air Force Academy Karate Club

Ben, 1st Kyu was one of my first students as the head instructor of the club and a friend of mine at the academy. I took Ben as a student of a very kata focused competition school and spent a year and a half teaching him to spar and constantly question his knowledge of kata application.

Warren, Shodan-Ho is a friend of mine and practitioner of Isshin-ryu. Warren joined the club with a unique perspective of kata application and quickly joined in my quest to learn as much as I could about combative application of karate kata. We have sparred on many occasions and exchanged a few bruises over the last two years.

Jeremiah, 4th Kyu was one of my most dedicated students and now my boss here. He came in with a very open mind and a constant reminder that he didn’t “care about the silly belts”. Having spent nearly six months doing nothing but Naihanchi, he helped cultivate my current teaching philosophy that focuses on the Naihanchi katas significantly longer than I have in years past.

A few more names I would love to talk about, but will have to save for another time: Ryan, Lauren, Corey, Ben, Ed, and Marcus along with another 25 students over the last two years.

Okinawan Karate-do Institute

For the last eight months I have been teaching in a very one-on-one manner with various friends and other cadets. My focus has switched from traditional karate to a blend of mixed arts with a heavy base in karate that I often don’t mention by name (“Open Hand Combatives” works). Some of my students include:

Nguyen was one of the first people to really push me into a more contact form of training with less focus on kata. We practice numerous drills from the katas, but will rarely practice anything alone. If I am going to take two hours out of my busy schedule to go down to the club, we are gonna work with each other – kata can be done in my room.

Jahan has become one of my most dedicated students lately. He is one of the first guys to have the weight advantage on me in a long time and loves to take our fights to the ground so he can make the most of it. Training with him open up the doors to ground fighting where we strike as well as grapple. It is probably because he was happy to take the beating, but it has fundamentally changed how I practice the art.

Dutch is a close friend of mine who tends to relate best to my stories of Army military school before the Air Force. Having only trained with me for about eight hours, Dutch is now running laps around his classmates in combatives class here and incredibly determined to get as many lessons in at the club before his matches for a grade later this month.

Some other great students include: Weston, Aaron, Rich, and Mike to name a few.

Your Success as a Teacher

This was some of my favorite success stories as a teacher and a way of letting me reflect on the kind of impact I have had as a teacher. The second part in this series will be about the people who have influenced my life and my study of the martial way. Expect to see a few names from around the online martial arts community!

Teachers, I would love for you to share some of your success stories! Can you name a student you are proud to have impacted?

Those of you who don’t teach, let us know about that instructor who impacted your life!

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Theodore Kruczek is the founder and head writer of the Okinawan Karate-do Institute. He is a 4th Degree Black Belt in Okinawan Shorin-ryu with more than 14 years of experience. This site was created as his way of both teaching his own Karate and learning about others.

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