Teaching Part Time – Part I

TeachingPartTime

In part one of our series on teaching we discussed the possibility of teaching part time at your current school. Today we will be looking into some of the specifics of this option, such as, when do most students start teaching, some methods for approaching your instructor about teaching, and what to do if your instructor says no.

When Are You Ready

Any martial artist who knows something, and is able to teach it correctly, can be a mentor to someone who wants to learn. The issue is that often students are promoted because of their ability to replicate material rather than to teach it. Maybe you can perform a kata or kick really well, but when asked to explain it to another student you go completely brain dead. You won’t make a great teacher doing that. In my own experience, a student who has six to ten months of experience doing any one part of the curriculum is capable of teaching it to another student.

If you plan on teaching a class of ten people, then you need to be capable of teaching everyone in that class,  six to ten months of experience over the majority of the students that you plan to instruct. Teaching new students is easy for someone with two years of hard work in a martial arts dojo, but it is difficult to instruct your peers when you aren’t comfortable with the material either! There were many times during the last decade that I may not have been the senior person in the class, but because I had gone to different seminars and classes I was capable of teaching my peers. As a non-black belt (mudansha), it will be rare that you have had a lot more practice than your peers in any specific concept since they go to the same classes.

In my specific style, any student 6th Kyu and higher can teach new students, 3rd kyu and higher can teach anyone below 3rd kyu, and 1st Dan black belts can teach colored belts. These are basic guidelines and as with anything are flexible, but just like any job teaching, the instructor or assistant instructor needs to be confident in their knowledge of the material. If you know your stuff, then you may be ready to start helping teach other students.

How Do You Ask

It is fairly uncommon for a dojo owner to not capitalize on potential assistant instructors, but if you feel like you are in that situation then asking may not be out of the question. What is important to consider, is your instructor and how they may perceive requesting more responsibility. In my experience there are two kinds of reactions you will see and they can be predicted by some simple cues.

Do you bow before entering your training area? Do you bow after your instructor gives you a critique? Have you ever performed a seated bow to your instructor? If this is sounding familiar, then you are probably training at a school who values eastern custom and courtesies and will not appreciate you questioning their judgment in not asking you. It may be better to approach this subject by indicating your excitement to “one day teach” or asking “when will I know if I am ready to teach”. These indirect methods will likely go over better in this culture compared to announcing “Sensei I want to teach”.

You don’t bow much? You call your instructor by his first name? Then your school might have a more western look at etiquette. This does not mean that etiquette is not important! It just means you may be able to ask your teacher more directly, “Sir/Ma’am, when will I be ready to assist with teaching?” Being polite and respectful is always a must, but directness in a subject is a difference in cultures.

What if your situation is different that the above two? That is bound to happen, the above guidance is only meant to help guide you to a good decision, but always consider your particular situation. If you still feel lost on how to approach the subject, leave a comment and someone in the community can give you a more specific response!

Sensei Says No, Now What?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if asking a question meant that you could get what you want? Sadly, sometimes we get told no in life. What do we do if our instructor says we aren’t ready to teach yet? Respect their decision! If you didn’t think they knew their stuff then you wouldn’t be taking their classes would you?

Learning to teach takes time and rushing into it could be detrimental to your potential students. “That makes sense, but I want to teach no matter what my teacher says!” If that is how you feel about it, then perhaps the real issue is your school not being a good fit for you? I wish there was more advice here, but if you trust your instructor and they say no, give it a few months and ask again later.

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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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