There comes a time in each martial artist’s training to begin teaching other students. While this doesn’t mean that the artist has mastered everything there is to know, it does mean that he or she has sufficiently honed the skills to pass knowledge down to the next generation of martial artists. It’s an exciting and intimidating time, but here’s what to know when you begin making the transition from student to teacher:

Private instructors need students
If you’re choosing to teach privately, rather than setting up shop in an already-established dojo, you’ll need to attract clients. If you’re active in your area’s martial arts scene, this probably won’t be too difficult, but starting up in a new town can make getting the business up and running challenging. Consider investing in advertising to spread the word, and network with other martial artists in the area. Retaining martial arts students is also a crucial element when you’re just starting out. If you’re only familiar with a certain variety of martial arts, you may want to partner with another instructor who’s well-versed in areas that you aren’t.

What’s your style?
Do you take the practice and its philosophies very seriously? Do you just consider martial arts an exciting way to get in shape? Do you fall somewhere in the middle? It’s important to consider how you personally feel about the craft before you begin teaching it. Some studios take the philosophy very seriously while others think of it more as a fitness activity, so they’re likely looking for instructors whose views are in line with theirs. If you’re looking to teach privately, potential students will also want to know your teaching style before they delve into a training session.

It’s more than just martial arts
An instructor doesn’t just show up to his or her client or dojo, teach a class, and go home. In fact, there are many tasks that many new instructors don’t realize are part of their jobs. According to the National Career Service, in addition to teaching your martial arts classes, as an instructor, you’ll have to develop lesson plans and training programs, assess your students’ progress to ensure they’re ready for their belt promotion and market your services, all while keeping your own skills sharp.

It’s a common misconception that all you have to do is master your craft to be a good teacher or instructor. This isn’t true, especially when it comes to teaching martial arts. When instructing the next generation of martial artists, you have to have a firm grasp on the style that you teach, but that’s not nearly all it takes. To be an effective teacher, there are many other aspects of education you must consider:

Be there – mentally and physically
We all get distracted by life now and then. However, when you’re teaching your students martial arts, you need to be 100 percent checked into the practice. This may be difficult if you have a lot going on outside the studio, but you can also view it as a haven away from the daily grind. Show your students the proper techniques and watch them closely when they practice them. Focus is just as important in the process of teaching martial arts as it is while learning it.

Be honest with your students
If your students need to see a technique again, show it again. If they think they’ve mastered it but aren’t quite doing it correctly, tell them how to correct it. It’s important to be transparent with your students and let them know what they’re doing well and what needs work. While there is much more to martial arts than just getting a routine down pat, most students want to get better and will welcome constructive criticism with open arms. It’s also important to express genuine praise when a student is doing well. Everyone responds well to positive reinforcement and it’s that praise that’ll keep them motivated in their martial arts practice.

Exercise patience
Teaching anything is tough, especially when it seems like it’s been so long since you were unable to do something. However, when you’re teaching martial arts, it’s imperative to remember you were new to whatever your students are practicing at one point too, and that you may have needed some extra help to master it. It’s normal to get frustrated if you have to explain something multiple times, but you must not let that get the best of you. A short-fused teacher makes a despondent student, and no good can come of a lesson like that.

Summer is here, and that means sunshine and great weather! One of the most exciting things about warm days is the chance to exercise outdoors. There's no reason to keep your martial arts students indoors when the weather is nice! Bringing your martial arts practice into the fresh air is a great way to mix things up, have fun and connect with nature.

However, there are some things you need to consider when practicing outside that you don't need to worry about indoors. Here are a few tips that will help ensure your outdoor practice is as safe as it is satisfying: 

Block UV rays

Sunshine and sunburns can go hand in hand, so when you bring your practice outdoors, you up your risk for skin damage. Ultraviolet A and B rays are two kinds of sunlight, both of which can cause long-term health issues. UVB rays cause sunburns, which are not only painful but also seriously increase your skin cancer risk. UVA rays are just as likely to lead to skin damage, but don't cause any kind of burn or tan, so they go by unnoticed. You need a good sunscreen that protects you from both. Make sure you know what kind of sunscreen you're using, as they work differently.

Physical sunscreen (active ingredients: zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) literally blocks UVA and UVB rays from hitting your skin, and begins working immediately. Chemical sunscreen (active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, or octocrylene) works by changing the way your body absorbs harmful rays. It takes 20 minutes to take effect, but lasts a bit longer than physical sunscreen. 

Whichever you use, be sure to reapply every 30 minutes. Most sunscreens last a bit longer than that, but since you'll be exercising in the sun, you're likely to sweat some of your protection away. Finally, if you do start to burn, head inside. Adding more sunscreen won't help at that point, and the best thing you can do is prevent further damage by getting out of the sun. 

Use bug spray

If you're practicing in the grass, your odds of getting a bug bite go way up. Not only are bug bites annoying, they can also be dangerous – a number of diseases are passed through bug bites, and some people can experience serious allergic reactions. A good bug spray can reduce your chances of getting bitten. Make sure you coat the lower part of your legs and around your ankles particularly well, as these are the places most likely to get nipped. Also be sure to use bug spray after you apply sunscreen, and check the label to find out how often you need to reapply. 


Staying hydrated is important whether you're indoors or out, but hot summer temperatures can leave you drying out far more quickly.  Try to drink a half a cup of water for every 15 minutes you exercise in order to stay on top of your water intake. Take frequent breaks to give yourself a chance to rehydrate, as drinking a lot of water at once is likely to give you a stomach ache. The more you can spread the intake out, the easier it will be for your body to absorb the H2O.

Think about your surface

You're probably used to practicing on a flat, even surface, but grass has bumps and divots. If you're not paying attention to where your feet are landing, you could easily misstep and cause an injury. Consider outdoor practice an opportunity to encourage mindfulness about what your body is doing. This way, you can improve your coordination and prevent your risk of a break or sprain.

Many of your students joined martial arts not only to stay in shape, but also to reach other goals. From establishing self-confidence to finding peace of mind to becoming more disciplined, there are tons of benefits of studying a martial art. As you train your students, you may even notice that some show potential for leadership. But how do you spot future leaders? And should you encourage this talent in them? Here's a guide for identifying and helping stand-out students:

Why help?
While your main goal as a martial-arts instructor is to teach your students technique, you can also help them in other areas of their lives. Martial arts does more than provide a workout – it teaches other skills, as well. What's more, you are a leader. Part of being a role model involves bringing the very best out of your students.

Ronald Reagan said, "The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things." By helping your students develop their own potential for becoming leaders, you ensure they'll, in turn, help their peers. Student leaders show others the ropes, which is always important to have in a martial arts class full of students of varying abilities.

How to spot leaders
Leaders aren't necessarily the students in your class who are the most skilled in martial arts. Sure, knowing the forms and having good technique will naturally make other students look up to a peer, but other qualities are more important. Good leaders are patient, communicative, empathetic, aware, honest and focused, among other things.

Pay attention to how your students interact with each other and you. A student who is devoted to learning and often helps newer martial artists could become a leader for your class. Ask yourself whether a student is doing something you, as the instructor, might do.

Instructors at tae kwon do schools must quickly establish themselves as the unquestioned leaders of the class. Failing to demonstrate this authority could hurt a teacher's reputation with students and make it difficult to teach effectively. Angie Segal, a business coach business coaching franchise ActionCOACH, told Entrepreneur magazine that nervous laughter may communicate to students that their instructor doesn't feel confident in his or her ability to teach. She said it is common habit that can happen without even noticing it, but it could be damaging to one's authority.

"If you give a direction, then follow up with a little chuckle, you've indicated that what the listener heard you say was frivolous," Segal told the magazine.

Students taking tae kwon do classes want to know their teachers are serious and prepared to team how to develop their skills. Learning how to be firm without being aggressive is a critical skill that instructors should develop to get their students to believe in them.

Finding that happy medium between being authoritative and coming off as angry is often difficult and will require some practice. Teachers don't want to be thought of that instructor who yells all the time. However, perfecting this method of communication will help students respect their instructor and allow them to feel confident that their teacher will be able to continue to advance in their learning.

Segal noted that instructors may be able to show their authority by using the right tone in their voice. Speaking loudly and clearly throughout the entire class will make it easier for students to hear their teacher and demonstrates an air of leadership. Learning how to communicate with authority is important in being a better tae kwon do teacher that students will tell their friends about.

As a martial arts instructor, you're in a unique position to teach your students about self-defense while helping them grow on a personal level. That said, there are a few things you should keep in mind to be the best teacher you can be. Here are five of them:

1. Listen
Teachers of any kind should be excellent listeners. You're definitely the one in charge, but it's important to keep your students' needs at the forefront of your mind. Remember: Your job is to help your students get the most out of martial arts they can. Listening to their wants as well as their needs can help you accomplish that. If your students are asking a lot of questions about a particular subject, that should be an indicator that you probably need to spend more time on it. In the same vein, if any of your students are complaining about being a little tired one day, consider slowing the pace of the class and including a few more water breaks than usual. Practicing martial arts should be fun, so do your best to make studio time as enjoyable as possible.

2. Be flexible
This goes hand in hand with the first tip. Once you understand what adjustments need to be made, be flexible enough to incorporate them in your instruction methods. To be effective in accomplishing that, adjust your sessions to accommodate individuals in your class. If you're teaching a martial arts class to the elderly, it's probably a good idea to keep the high-impact movements to a minimum. Instead, focus on other aspects of practicing martial arts, like breathing and flexibility. If you're teaching younger children, chances are their attention span won't be very long. Keep that in mind when planning your classes, and do your best not to include anything in the curriculum that your younger students won't fully grasp.

3. Plan ahead
Good organization goes a long way in helping you make the most of your time in the studio. Establish a game plan before class starts so you don't have to waste any precious time thinking about what to do next. It's a good idea to add some variety to your classes, too. Doing so will increase your students' overall knowledge of the sport and may provide an even healthier form of exercise.

"There are numerous benefits to mixing up your workout routine," Arnold Lee, a doctor at One Medical Group in San Francisco, told One Life. "It's the key to stimulating different muscle groups and preventing boredom."

4. Motivate
You should be doing everything you can to motivate students to pick a class schedule and stick to it. Not only will it help them master their martial art of choice, but it will also keep your studio in business! Additionally, try to get students to practice martial arts outside the studio. Although you can't be responsible for all the motivation it takes for your students to practice, you can do your part to encourage it. Think about assigning students a task at the end of one session and quiz them on it at the beginning of the next one.

5. Reward
Luckily, most martial arts already have a reward system in place through rank promotions. Karate, for example, rewards students through belt color graduations. You will most likely be a major part of the ceremony, but go the extra step by reinforcing your students' accomplishments on a separate occasion. Consider making announcements in class or sending out a newsletter to congratulate students who have recently advanced in rank.

Empowering his students with confidence, second-degree black belt Devin Fernandez teaches Ninjutsu to those with impaired sight, reported Fox News. The martial arts instructor offers his classes free of charge at a donated practice space in Long Island's West Islip. 

Fernandez shares a common connection with his students: He has a degenerative eye disease that has been compromising his vision for ten years. He is now legally blind. Fernandez's aim in creating Third Eye Insight – a yoga, meditation and martial arts program – is to inspire a strengthened sense of autonomy in others who have visual impairments, according to VisionAware. 

Though he's admired martial arts since childhood, Fernandez didn't begin taking classes until adulthood. The core tenets of discipline and commitment drew him to Ninjutsu, and he credits the practice with helping him cope with vision loss. The diagnosis of retinitis pigmentosa came 15 years ago, at roughly the same time he started his martial arts training. 

Rather than focus on the self-defense component of Ninjutsu, he uses the sport to help others find their intuition. He likens martial arts to spiritual practice, and a platform for shared experience.

At Claremore, Oklahoma's Beaven's Martial Arts Academy, some students wield light sabers, reported Tulsa World. The high-tech, battery-powered swords are a perfectly acceptable complement to the dojo's new course in Jedi martial arts. 

Combined with traditional martial arts instruction, the class requires the same skill and fitness as any other course, according to Tulsa's KJRH. It just so happens that this round of training injects a little more flair and, for its students, a lot of fun. The nine-week class offers a whole new way to attract interest in the discipline. 

David Beaven, owner of the studio, said the catalyst for the class was a news segment about LudoSport International, an Italian light saber academy. And because Jedis are legitimate martial artists, Beaven decided to incorporate the two forms. After initiating a course in Shii-Cho – the first form of Jedi combat – his list of students has grown, and some of them are entirely new to martial arts. 

Other organizations, such as the New York Jedi club and the online Terra Prime Lightsaber Academy, encourage the fusion of light saber form with martial arts. The fun might just kick off a growing trend. 

Demonstrating proof of the multifaceted capacities of martial arts, an anti-bullying program at North Providence High School teaches students to use Bujinkan Ninpo as a defense against intimidation, reported The Valley Breeze. The ancient martial art was created by ninjas nearly 900 years ago, centering on a framework of endurance.

The patient sport is a recent addition to the Cougar Pause Project, founded in 2012 by social studies teachers Andrew Laurie and Eric Izzi. Laurie, who has fifteen years' experience in Bujinkan Ninpo, decided to implement the practice into Cougar Pause to help establish a sense of self-possession in his students. He was drawn to this choice by personal experience: Martial arts enabled him to conquer shyness and counteract harassment in his own school years. 

Laurie and Izzi aren't the only ones who see the value of martial arts in defense against bullies, according to Fox News affiliate WITI in Milwaukee. Mark Quirk, chief instructor at Menomonee Falls' Karate America, has developed a Bully Defense Seminar. Quirk teaches students how to protect themselves using nonviolent self-defense methods. Though Quirk focuses on karate, his core goal matches the heart of Cougar Pause. 

Bullying is prevalent across the country, a fact that prompted Izzi to join forces with Laurie. Martial arts helps the high-schoolers develop confidence and learn how to defend themselves, but the focus isn't on combat. Instead, the two teachers want their students to learn how to de-escalate a tense situation without fear. 

Proving that martial arts are for everyone, 80 year-old Helen Dugan sports a third-degree black belt. The Lenexa, Kansas martial arts instructor took her first karate lesson at 47 and was awarded her black belt at the age of 61, according to The Kansas City Star.

On the heels of a career as a school nurse, she founded her own martial arts studio in 1989. The karate school is the pinnacle of her nonprofit organization, Champs Achievers, whose mission is to highlight the strengths of its students, who are a community of adults and children with a range of disabilities, including cerebral palsy, attention deficit disorder and Down Syndrome. She also teaches students with orthopedic ailments. A third of her pupils have been diagnosed with some degree of Autism. 

Addressing individual needs, Dugan's goal is to empower her students with self-confidence, as well as physical strength. Her passion stems from her own childhood disabilities, including limitations in short-term memory. Growing up, she struggled with conventional study methods and had to create her own path of learning. She still grapples with prosopagnosia, a condition that causes difficulty in recognizing even the faces of family and friends. 

Dugan says she took a long time to realize her own capabilities and intelligence. With the help of other volunteer instructors, she'd like to impart in her students a recognition of unique talents. She shows no sign of stopping any time soon.

The ways in which martial arts training can benefit a student's life are limitless. From instilling a higher sense of self-confidence knowing that you can adequately defend yourself in the event of a confrontation, to achieving inner peace and clarity of thought in any situation, learning various disciplines, like judo, taekwondo and Muay Thai, comes with plenty of advantages.

However, martial arts can also be helpful in effectively dealing with grief after a traumatic event occurs.

Martial arts help high school students deal with death of classmates
The Philadelphia Enquirer reported on the death of two students from Burlington County, New Jersey, in the span of four days. As grief counselors and school administrators scrambled to ensure the well-being of those who may have been immediately affected by the incident, a local nearby martial arts studio also offered assistance.

The JBM Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy in Edgewater Park, New Jersey, is where both students who passed away trained in martial arts. The school opened its doors to try and help as many people as they could cope with the loss of their friends.

"We want to be the people that they can talk to," Brian McPherson, owner of JBM Academy, told the Burlington County Times. "A lot of people want to talk about this issue, and a lot of people, kids, are having problems. And maybe now we can get them some help."

According to the report, McPherson began instructing parents of the children in attendance on signs of depression that they should be mindful of and on the lookout for. He also offered words of advice for the students who knew the two boys who had passed away and trained with them in jiujitsu.

"You cannot blame yourself for what happened," McPherson said to those in attendance. "You've got to live for them."

Ultimately, the martial arts school owner wanted to create an open dialogue and allow people to express any emotions they may have felt from the tragedy. What transpired at the JBM Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy could be categorized as community service outreach.

However, the reality is that it was one person looking to make a difference in the lives of as many people as possible and help them deal with the many struggles of life. These are just additional examples of the value of martial arts and how it is more than just being able to win a fight.

Teaching martial arts is an endeavor that is both worthwhile and enriching. Instructors feel great joy in seeing someone advance from novice to more experienced and expert levels in disciplines such as karate and taekwondo. For students, there is nothing like the inner confidence that comes from not only knowing how to defend oneself in the face of danger, but also growing individually as the result from training in the martial arts.

These two ends of the spectrum represent a win-win situation for both parties. However, from an instructor's perspective, these goals can't be reached without putting some form of salient development and training plan in place. Here are some tips on how to create a solid strategy for teaching students martial arts:

  1. Practice, practice, practice: Many people will only work on their art while in class. However, Turtle Press suggested instructors should hammer home the importance of practice for students even when they aren't engaged in class. Bad techniques lead to habits that can result in injury. Encouraging students to work on their skills whenever there is time and space available to do is important.
  2. Build a rapport: In order for those learning martial arts to really buy into what is being taught to them, they must first trust the person delivering the instruction. The Don't Fight the Tao blog stated that overcorrection and the use of negative phrases to describe student progress is counterproductive. Doing so can cause students to tune an instructor out and gain no benefit from class participation. However the use of positive reinforcement and offering critiques that aren't negative, but are encouraging and supportive tends to deliver better results. These actions send the message that you care about them as people and will keep them motivated enough to see their training through to the end.
  3. All students are not created equal: Recognizing individuality is important, Turtle Press wrote. The biggest mistake martial arts instructors can make is treating everyone in a class as equals. It's important for teachers to recognize the differences in their students to tailor their methods and ensure everyone absorbs what is being taught. Of course, mastery in this area requires a bit of patience, but it is critical in helping students learn the finer points of self-defense and to gain increased value from teachings.

Teaching martial arts to students can be both challenging and rewarding. Seeing kids come in who know nothing about karate, taekwondo and other self-defense disciplines, and then blossom into masters of their craft, brings instructors great joy.

However, instructing becomes especially challenging when parents enroll their children in classes as a way of instilling a stronger sense of discipline. These individuals require a lot of attention and patience.

Here are a number of helpful suggestions martial arts instructors can use to impart knowledge on students who at first glance, may seem difficult to reach:

Teaching self-defense classes is a rewarding experience in general. However, nothing is more gratifying than seeing an undisciplined student shake his or her bad behavioral habits and become a role model both in the classroom setting and in everyday life.

Karate and taekwondo offer enrichment. For martial arts instructors, improving the lives of everyone who walks through the door should also be the main goal and priority. Not only does this provide value for students, but it gives the school a positive reputation in the community. This can help boost enrollment and allow a school to grow and thrive. 

Athletes are always looking for a competitive edge. That's why a number of people who play sports adopt alternative training methods that have nothing to do with the games they compete in. It's not uncommon to hear about football players taking ballet to improve their agility and balance, or guys across a number of sports taking up mixed martial arts as a way to stay in shape, get stronger and develop physical toughness.

However, martial arts training can also help athletes become better in their chosen sports. Studying taekwondo or karate requires both a mental and physical investment. Students will not only need to become flexible enough to perform certain moves and counters, but they also need to develop a mental focus that allows them to react without thought, block out pain and still perform at a high level.

For schools looking to increase their enrollment numbers, instead of focusing on the training of specific self-defense disciplines in their marketing efforts, they should also sell potential students on how martial arts can help them excel in the other sports they enjoy competing in as well.

Kobe Bryant studies Jeet Kune Do
Bruce Lee is often regarded as the greatest martial arts master of all time. His mastery of several different disciplines allowed him to create his own: Jeet Kune Do. In the NBA, Kobe Bryant is one of basketball's most famous and accomplished players. Often lauded for his skills on the court, Kobe is also praised for his mental toughness and ability to perform while battling physical maladies that would slow lesser players.

Several years ago, it was revealed that Bryant incorporated fundamentals of martial arts into his basketball training. In an interview with the Global Times cited by NBA fan blog The Basketball Jones, the Los Angeles Lakers superstar revealed how Bruce Lee influenced his training regimen.

"It seems Bruce Lee has nothing to do with basketball. To me it has everything to do with basketball. There are a lot of similarities," Bryant told the Times while touting Lee's philosophy of engaging in combat without being rigid in the approach to battle.

"By doing so, no one knows what you are going to do next, therefore, they don't know how to fight back," he said. "I've been working hard to infuse his principles of utility, agility, speed and efficiency to my own training."

Selling athletes on martial arts training
Basketball trainer Ganon Baker wrote in a separate article that Jeet Kune Do essentially focuses on how to react quickly and efficiently while exerting minimal physical energy. This may seem oxymoronic because sports are primarily about physical exertion. But by understanding how to not waste energy unnecessarily, athletes will essentially become better at the games they play.

One of the primary selling points for martial arts schools looking to attract new students is to highlight how training in karate, taekwondo and other disciplines can help people in other areas of their lives. A common misconception about self-defense classes is that they only teach people how to not get beat up in a fight. But this is categorically untrue. This information should be communicated to those expressing an interest in martial arts, as it could keep them motivated enough to complete their training and master the discipline.

Running a martial arts school isn't easy. There will be times when classes are full and others where only a handful of students will show up for instruction. However, by reminding people of the ways in which self-defense classes can greatly enrich their lives beyond simply winning a fight, owners can benefit.

Martial arts training can be fun for both students and the instructor. There is great joy in seeing the delight on the faces of those working to develop mastery in karate and taekwondo, particularly as their self-confidence becomes more apparent. Self-defense classes are much more than learning how to fight and protect oneself. The martial arts contain principles that students can apply in multiple areas of their lives.

However, running a successful training facility involves much more than having a space where students can come in and practice. There is lots of planning and strategy involved in this process for owners – particularly those who will also be teaching.

The importance of developing a training plan
Learning the art of karate and taekwondo, in many cases, can be much easier than teaching it. As an instructor who has mastered the art of self-defense, passing that knowledge along to others will be frustrating at times. That is why mapping out a teaching strategy is critical.

Several considerations need to be made during this process. Here are some tips to developing a roadmap that will allow students to have fun and remain engaged during their self-defense training:

Martial arts can enrich the lives of the people who come to a school in order to learn the principles of self-defense. Instructors who formulate a plan for teaching that is serious but still contains elements of fun will develop a strong reputation in the community for being a place where students can come to learn about karate and taekwondo in an enjoyable manner.

This process won't happen overnight. There will be lots of trial and error involved in developing a functional plan that can be applied across all classes, regardless of the age of the students. However, once a robust teaching strategy has been perfected, a martial arts school can benefit in tremendous ways, starting with having classes that are always full of students who are eager to learn and committed to seeing their training through to the end.

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