Criticize Once. Praise Twice.

As teachers of martial arts we need to be able to readily identify an error in technique. We also must be able to communicate the correction to our students effectively,  in ways that make them feel good, so they stay involved in their learning process.

Failing to correct effectively, or in ways that make them feel stupid or inferior, does little for their development. And at the same time does little for our teaching and communicative skills.

There’s a saying, “Criticize once. Praise twice.”

I believe this is a good concept, and  a good starting point with the following caveats.

  • It’s important that before your criticize, let your student know something good they are doing with their technique.

“You’re making a lot of power with that punch Joe because of the way you use your body. Nice job!”

  • Now ask for permission to help further and add your constructive criticism.

“You’re making a lot of power with that punch Joe because of the way you use your body. Nice job! Would it be ok if I showed you how you can make it even better?”

Stubborn instructors might argue, “Why should I ask my STUDENT for permission??! They should listen to me and do what I say! I don’t need to ask for permission. I’m the sensei, they’re the student!”

Well, remember if you’re feeling like that, that’s your ego talking. Teaching is not about you being the bigger, better, stronger alpha male! Teaching is about coming from SERVICE. It’s about developing your students skill sets.

  • Praise again after your student shows an improvement, so long as there is improvement.

“You’re making a lot of power with that punch Joe because of the way you use your body. Nice job! Would it be ok if I showed you how you can make it even better?”

At this point teach the correction, and have your student repeat and reproduce with improvement.

“That’s it Joe. Do you feel the difference in your technique? Nice work!”

Do you see how this method eliminates ego, makes Joe feel good about himself and has Joe develop his skill in a positive light?

It’s a higher level approach to teaching rather than saying something like:

“Don’t be so stiff Joe… that’s why your technique lacks power. Try to relax.”

Wouldn’t you agree?

How to Make Lazy Students Work Hard!

If I were to tell you right now, that your laziest student could inspire the rest of your class to try harder, you’d probably think I’m nuts, right?

What if you could make that happen by saying 11 simple words? Would you believe me?

I want to show you EXACTLY how this is possible using a little trick I employ regularly. It gets my laziest students to pick up their pace, and it works so well it almost *guarantees* improved performance of ALL of your students, instantly!

In fact, you might just see the laziest student make an immediate shift in their efforts, and start setting the standard for all of  the others.

It’s important however to understand why this method works so well.

First, let’s ask ourselves why are lazy students, lazy?

4 main reasons why students are lazy!

  • they don’t feel well, so their bodies don’t respond well physiologically (sluggishness)
  • they’re physically and mentally tired, so they don’t put in the effort
  • they’re unmotivated because they don’t have a goal, or
  • they don’t feel significant due to lack of recognition, so they don’t try their best.

Now that we understand why students can be lazy, it’s much easier for us to fix it!


Contrast this to not understanding why they’re being lazy and simply yelling at them to try harder like an angry drill sergeant. This is a low-level intelligence solution and might work on some students temporarily, but often negative assertiveness makes students resentful. And resentful students in turn don’t feel good. Students who don’t feel good, don’t try. It’s a viscous circle.

Hmmm… but it seems counter-intuitive to praise a student for being lazy, right? Because then they learn that being lazy gets reward. This in turn promotes more laziness!

So, what’s the solution?

Glad you asked because using 11 simple words you can make even your laziest student work to the best of their ability in an instant! And at the same time, raise the effort of EVERY student in the class.

Here’s how:

Imagine you are counting basic reps for punching, kicking, whatever. You count, students punch. Now as you walk the lines you notice one or two students half a beat behind the rest of the class. It’s the same students every time. You know the ones – they respond slowly (mental bluntness!) and punch slowly (physically slow).

Fix that immediately by saying these 11 words:

“Let’s see who can do their technique as fast as Johnny”.

All of a sudden Johnny has been given recognition because you called his name. You also just gave him a challenge so he now has a goal – to be fastest in the class. Johnny’s mental state has gone from virtually unconscious to high ALERT! The shift in the mental state changes his physiology, which in turn allows his body to respond and perform at a higher level. Plus Johnny’s now feeling the heat because EVERYONE in class is competing against him! He’s now got something to prove!

Do you see how POWERFUL this is??

You can adopt this method the very next time you teach and see immediate results in the effort and energy level of your class. This technique works particularly well with teens and younger kids. Who would have thought 11 simple words could motivate your laziest student, who in turn could raise the bar for your entire class?

The words we choose can be VERY powerful, so I have a closing question for you to ponder. Let’s take a look one more time at the EXACT 11 words I use:

“Let’s see who can do their technique as fast as Johnny”

compared to say,

“Let’s see who can do their technique faster than Johnny”

At first glance they appear almost identical, but there is a subtle and important difference in the meaning and it will have a direct impact on your results.