On Teaching

It has been two years since I started teaching Haidong Gumdo, the Korean martial art of the sword.

It was not my first time. I had taught many years ago, nothing serious though. Some classes from time to time. I’m 29 now and the way I think, the way I see things it’s pretty different from my younger self from 8 years ago. Now I realize I was young, too young to teach.

Teaching, anything really, is not easy. I believe there are two types of teaching:

  • Teaching for necessity
  • Teaching because you want to

I am fortunate to have a steady eight hour office job that pays the bills, trips and hobbies. Because of that I can teach without having to worry about how many students I have or about making enough money of out if.

Martial arts teachers who live from it have a different approach to teaching. They are in some cases constrained on how they conduct their classes. Is the teacher so strict that makes some students quit? Or is the teacher too soft and then some other students quit? A teacher might become more mainstream in order to have more people sign up. In the end those fees will bring food to table.

Martial arts are not a mere sport. With martial arts simply paying your tuition fee does not give you a free pass to do whatever you want as a student. To come as you please as if the school were a hotel.

For these past two years I have learned many things from teaching. Not only technically, how to explain myself, how to teach certain movements but to be a better person too.
I understand the instructor position better now, it is one of the hardest jobs. Students look up to you, you will be their role model, you’ll need to help them individually while teaching a group class.

Even as I write this I know I have things to work on. I learn as my students learn from me.

The core principles of the martial arts make it somewhat easier to be a teacher, at least in the long run. At the beginning, as in any other discipline, students won’t know about respect, integrity, self control, perseverance… After time and lot of effort from the instructor, the students will learn those values. It can take time to make them understand that a Martial Art instructor also teaches you the way of life, not only how to cut bamboo or break boards.
A good master will shape the young kids into becoming good adults with important values. Values that society is forgetting these days.

Week after week I look for ways to reach the youngest, so they understand this is not a game. Week after week I look for ways to make my time with the adults the most productive so they’ll improve faster.

It is not easy. It takes a lot of time to feel grateful, to feel good about all the hard work. After two years I can look back and see how much we’ve worked. The path of the martial arts is a lifelong path, it has no end. I look forward to many more years of learning.


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