Powerful Teaching Tip for Instructors

“Why can’t they just do it?”, he asked.

“What the heck is wrong with them? I don’t get it!”.

I could tell his frustration was getting the better of him.

“I told them how to do it, but those morons just can’t seem to get it right!”


I pondered Peter’s question.

Clearly he was irritated by his students’ lack of ability. And from what I could tell Peter was reasonably sound in his knowledge. As a black belt he appeared to understand and apply his own technique, and seemed quite good technically.

Yet his frustration was getting the better of him and the result was that his students would quit after a short time… yet he couldn’t establish why that was the case.

Unfortunately Peter’s situation is all too common amongst martial arts instructors… present company excluded of course.


When I recounted this story recently, it got me thinking about something I learned years ago that helped me, and I want to share it with you too.

It’s this:

“Assume your students are bright, and you’ll get 10 times the results!”

– Blair Singer

It’s true.

When I took Blair’s advice it made class so much more enjoyable for both me as a teacher and also for my students. I’ll say it again…

Assume your students are bright, and you’ll get 10 times the results.

You and I can apply this any time we start to feel our frustration creeping in. And if Peter (wherever he is now) could apply this concept he would also see an almost INSTANT change in performance for himself and his students.

But why? How does this produce better results?

Post your answers below!

12 thoughts on “Powerful Teaching Tip for Instructors”

  1. I start out assuming they are Bright.I teach to the bright level .Then I simplify until I reach the students level of Brightness.Many times this becomes a dim light but after a while I can up the level of brightness.In other words adjust your methods to match the average student.I also make the class physically challenging so the brighter students don’t get bored.Little things like having them do a punch as I count then I stop counting.Anyone who punches when I don’t count gets pushups as they were not listening I can always catch a few.The price of not paying attention is pushups.

    • Understand what you are saying Bill, but question the consequences applied. In my school students are taught that exercise (pushups) is desireable, therefore cannot be used as punishment. Consequences of not listening – they miss out on technique this time.

  2. If you expect lower standards then that is what you will get and what you will always expect. Normally most people with the right guidance will rise to the occasion and increase their skills. Looking at students and telling them “You can do it!” is very important. Understanding it will take time is just as important. One of the most important things for an instructor is to understand you are the guide, the model but they are not clones, they will all be different and their abilities and goals will be different. It is up to you to help them exceed their martial art goals. You will be with your students for a long time most schools at least 4-5 years. Getting to know them and understanding what makes them grow is one of the most important lessons an instructor must learn.

  3. That philosophy works well in management as well as teaching. Your subconscious actions will tailor to fit what you expect from the student. Even if you don’t understand it, try it, you will be surprised

  4. i think this has more to do with the teachers mindset than the students. Because we are usually better teachers to better students and we tend to look down on the not so bright ones. So even if a bright student doesn’t understand something or do something right we would very nicely and to the best of our ability try and explain things to him again but had a not so bright student done the same thing we would tend to get irritated because we would think that if the bright one can do it why cant he. So if you assume all your students to be bright i guess you’ll be in a better position to handle them with the teaching and guidance they require 🙂

  5. You must also remember that there are different ways of learning. Maybe you are not teaching the specific student the way he/she understands. Just trying different ways of teaching can help. That and patience. Some students take long to form the initial pathways in the brain, but if you keep motivating and have patience, that specific student may become better than the stars you have now. 🙂

  6. Great answers guys…

    Here’s my understanding of it:

    Assuming your student is bright, puts us teachers in a more positive physiology. Students will react accordingly to our own personal energy.

    So if we are of a positive mindset, this will show in our actions and our students will feed off of it.

    Simultaneously, by assuming they’re bright, increases their own confidence and improves their mood too. When students feel good, they always do better.

    But when we lose sight of that (as in Peter’s case) students sense it, feel like they’re not achieving, they’re not worthy, give minimal effort, etc, which manifests in their actions.

    Assuming they’re bright is a win-win for all involved…

    • It is easy to spot the “good looking” students. Instructors are usually patient with them, assuming they are also “bright”. We give them more of our attention and allow them to learn at their own speed. Assuming ALL the students are bright will automatically level the playing field for everyone. Great advice, especially for the instructors who can’t figure out why all their beginners won’t stay at their dojo.

  7. We were taught during our Instructors course that enthusiasm is caught not taught, it all starts with the attitude of the Instructor. As our Sensei says “YOU IS IT !” If you don’t believe in your Students then there is no way that they will, we work on the principle of Praise Improve Praise (PIP for short), it works wonders. Tell them how great they are, then make the necessary correction then tell them how wonderful it is when they do the technique correctly. Easy peasy when you know how !


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