3 Rookie Teaching Mistakes to Avoid

So you’ve been practicing karate for some time now…

You’ve put in thousands of hours of blood, sweat and tears and achieved levels that only a few ever realize.

Technically your technique is excellent and you inspire others to push further and train harder. But, just because you’re technically proficient doesn’t automatically make you a good teacher.

Knowing your subject matter is only half the equation. Being able to communicate effectively, understand your students’ learning patterns and have your student reproduce your skills is a whole new kettle of fish.

Today I want to highlight 3 Rookie Teaching Mistakes to Avoid…

  1. Counting Too Fast

    One of the most common rookie mistakes is to count faster than your students can handle. This forces your students to try to “keep up” and will often have them compromising their technique in order to do so. This might result in incomplete technique not reaching full extension, lack of proper posture and focus, or sloppy kicks and punches.

    So, slow the heck down with your counting! Make each number you say “fast and sharp” so students know to be “fast and sharp”, but leave more time between counts to give your students plenty of time to recover their technique and reset. Remember karate isn’t about how MANY sloppy techniques you can do. It’s about how QUICKLY you can do an EFFECTIVE technique. Help your students achieve this by counting properly.

  2. Too Much Content

    Another mistake I made as a new teacher and have seen others make over the years is to have too much content planned for a single session. Too many things for the brain to comprehend and the body to learn in too short a time. This leaves students feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. It’s better to have students learn ONE thing well, than TEN things poorly.

    Remember, even if you don’t teach regularly you’ll more than likely have the opportunity to teach again, so make each session a QUALITY training session for your students. Remember it’s about THEM learning something properly, not about YOU and how much stuff you can show them.

  3. Random Structure

    When I first started teaching I really had no recognizable structure for teaching class. Sometimes my classes would resemble the Chicken Dance, in that I teach “a little bit of this, and a little bit of that”. I really didn’t have a focus much of the time, so students might be doing some basics, some kata, some kumite, some bunkai, whatever… all in random order. And while this kept students alert and “on their toes” so to speak, it was a poor structure (actually lack of structure) that wasn’t great for performance.

    Instead now I teach in a way that warms up the body, peaks the body’s physical level and then cools it down through various drills and exercises. The more physically intense / high heart rate exercises  are done during the middle of the class (such as plyometrics or focus mitt work) and the less intense / lower heart rate items done in the second half. That way the physical intensity peaks once and tapers off, instead of peaking and dipping multiple times like a volatile stock market graph. The simple diagrams below help illustrate this concept.

    What’s up with all the graphs of late? Gives me headaches thinking about high-school geometry

There are literally dozens of nuances that can make or break you as a good teacher. A project I’ve been working on for the last few years, “The Definitive Guide to Teaching Martial Arts” is planned for release before the end of 2013. In this home study course you’ll discover the little-known but highly effective methods for teaching martial arts to produce outstanding results. More on that over the next few weeks….

For now, please make sure you avoid the rookie mistakes above. Your students will be less rushed yet sharper with their technique, more focused instead of overwhelmed and will perform better because of an improved class structure…


13 thoughts on “3 Rookie Teaching Mistakes to Avoid”

    • Thanks Jack… frustration I think is the second biggest killer of student retention. When people feel as though they can’t do something, and they’re not achieving, many give up…

  1. Having just come from my class where concentration tapered, this is really useful. I definitely need to give this more thought!

  2. Those are great suggestions. I agree that some instructors like to speed things up so that they can show what great shape they are in. Unfortunately, they just frustrate the beginners. As always, your advice is a welcome reminder that karate is not a showcase for our skills and abilities.

  3. Hey Jason,
    This article is so true I have experienced myself and I do start to count slower, and teach less content in my classes. It’s quite good and will bring about great results, thanks for reminding me of these points in this article!!

  4. Looking forward to “The Definitive Guide to Teaching Martial Arts”! I’ve been assisting for a couple years and feel it’s time to take the next step…planning my own classes. Thanks for your great tips!

    • You’re welcome Todd… but shhhhh! The Definitive Guide to Teaching Martial Arts is a big secret! I’m developing it now and the first module is complete. I’m thinking the final product will be a series of online training sessions, with one session per week. It will totally transform the teaching skills of the people who sign up for it. Planning will be a piece of cake, how to demonstrate, how to communicate, where to stand, what to say, how to handle objections, how to keep your class intrigued, working hard and involved are just the tip of the iceberg. If you like what you read in the blog, this stuff is going to blow your mind. The info is 10 x better and more powerful. But like I said, it’s a BIG secret, so don’t tell anyone, ok?


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