Why can’t they just do it right?

Have you ever asked a student to correct their karate technique, say to “bend their front knee“, at which time they acknowledge your request but continue to leave it exactly as it is?

You look at them as if they are deaf, repeat yourself but they stare back at you with an equally puzzled look. At this point you’re starting to wonder if you both speak the same language, or if your student is ignoring your command.

This can be an extremely frustrating part of teaching martial arts and something that drives instructors mad. I’ve heard comments over the years like, “Why can’t they just do it?”, “He doesn’t listen!” and “I hate teaching kids!”

When something’s not working out between sensei and student, often it’s nothing to do with the student and everything to do with the teacher. Students learn karate in a variety of ways and it is up to the teacher to determine which way works best for the individual.

Frequently the student BELIEVES they are doing what you asked but the reality is that what they see themselves doing is VERY different to what you requested…even if you have mirrors for them to monitor their technique!
To illustrate this point, I’d like you to welcome Fedex to our discussion.

Take a few moments to look at the logo…
Do you see the arrow?


Yes, the arrow!
Take another look…
Do you see it yet?
It’s not blue. It’s not orange. It’s white.
It’s white there next to the “E” and just before the “x”. (Sorry couldn’t resist the pun)
Do you see it yet? It’s the whitespace between the “E” and “x” letters.

When I first was shown “the arrow” I couldn’t believe I’d never seen it before. I felt kinda silly, but now I know it’s there it’s the first thing I see. And every time I come across it I grab the nearest person and want to ask them, “Hey, do you know about the secret arrow in the Fedex logo?”

Students often don’t see the arrows when they’re learning karate. You see them, they’re obvious of course! But they can look all day long and never see what you see. They THINK they’re doing what you asked, but until you can communicate in such a way that your students become aware of the arrows in their technique, you’ll both be frustrated.

Next time you teach, ask yourself HOW you can communicate better with each of your students? Try to determine HOW THEY LEARN BEST and adapt your teaching style to help them learn in a more effective way.

(Eg. Perhaps this might involve drawing something on the board for visual learners.)

In the next article we’ll look at the different kinds of learners and I’ll give you more specific examples of how to teach to each type, so they learn best…

Until then…

Stay safe, train hard.

~ Jason

4 thoughts on “Why can’t they just do it right?”

  1. Wow! Great point about the arrow. (heh heh…no pun intended there, either). I'd never seen the arrow before…only the words "FedEx"….it really brought home how kids view our instruction sometimes. Thanks for all your great infos Sensei Stanley…looking forward to the next blog post!

  2. Awesome……I'd seen the arrow before. Nice But it took time. Anyway I love this way of explanation. I love kid’s class and I love to teach them. Cos, teaching a kid is too hard and challengeable task for instructors. You can measure ur capability in this kinda class. It’s not an easy thing to answer their question. My opinion we shouldn’t neglect their questions. We must ready to answer and make them understand.


    Peace and harmony,
    Sensei M.Maharaj
    3rd dan Wadokai karate

  3. Am in school and am learning a bit more about learning styles but thanks o you Jason you enlightened me to this some three years ago, I plan to use it more and be more observant and responsive to my students needs, thanks Jason, God bless and shower you with his favour!!!


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