Question asked: What does it take to become an instructor?
Simply, to want to be an instructor, the rest is taking the steps to do it.
Generals and Foot Soldiers!
Some want to lead, others follow. There are many potential Generals who never stop being a foot soldier, only because they do not step across a line. Many see martial arts as a passing interest on their journey to higher goals and enjoy only being a student. For of those who would like to teach, but hesitate and only dream, the line is drawn by their fear of having inadequate skills, fear of responsibility, fear of being challenged, poor self image…..the list goes on and on. To me, teaching does not require a high degree of applied skill in your chosen art. Every world champion has been taught by a skillful teacher, who was not a champion themselves, only a great teacher. Many of my students are better than me, in what I teach. That is my purpose in teaching, to make the student better than me. That is the only way knowledge will evolve to another level. A confident instructor does not need to hold back or restrict the students learning. A teacher has knowledge, and as they share that knowledge, through repetition, it becomes more imprinted, thus, a higher level of natural skill. 90% of my skills have been acquired through teaching. Teaching elements are few: Know your information well, be able to articulate it clearly and precisely, identify when the student makes mistakes and know when and how to make corrections.
I was very lucky. Becoming a teacher was pure accident or chance. In 1971, Irene wanted me to start working out, since I was starting to gain a lot of weight. I joined the nuuanu YMCA in Honolulu. I was talking to a YMCA Karate martial arts instructor about Bruce Lee and he wanted me to show him some Gung Fu, which I did. Within 30 days I had 40 students who wanted to train. So began a journey that continues to this day. Like many opportunities that require immediate attention, I quickly decided that I always enjoyed teaching. I also saw it as a way to meet a lot of individuals who might be interested in my personal development programs, which I had been working on since 1961. It has always fascinated me how a chance meeting of a person or going to an event or reading an article, can affect your whole life. Being arrested and having to return to school introduced me to Bruce Lee. Meeting Irene, moving back to Hawaii, writing my books, were all the results of “chance incidence”. I am a great believer in recognizing and responding to “opportunity”, that is how I became a teacher.
I feel a major problem of why instructors and dreamers have conflict, is because of how they perceive martial arts. They see themselves as a martial arts instructor, I do not. Most MA instructors have a second job. MA has been my only “job” for over 45 years. When asked what I do, I say I am a “Personal Development Specialist”. I clarify that by adding, “I use the martial arts for physical conditioning and teach techniques for confidence building”. If they want more info, I direct them to my jameswdemile.com site. To me, the martial arts is a profession more than an art. The “art” worked in Asia, but not the western culture. I teach to help the students grow, not to fight or become clones of some system. I see the martial arts as a unique way to present invaluable knowledge that helps the individual achieve their life-long personal goals. That is why I have a mind/body program. Schools that emphasize the physical are only giving the student part of what they need to fight the physical and emotional battles of life. Telling someone they will be more confident and gain a better self image by training hard, is mostly lip service. All those positive quotes, high on the wall, become invisible if there is no follow-up to give them meaning. I strongly believe a balanced Martial arts program should be specifically designed for this culture. It should include the best defensive tactics available, for both the mind and body. Although I feel the DeMile Self Defense (DSD) program fits that requirement, there are many great instructors who work hard to give the best they can.
Teaching martial arts is equal to many behavioral professions. They do not do any more or less than we do. In fact, I think we have an advantage in helping others. There is always a bridge between the therapist and patient, whereas students of martial arts have no gaps to cross. The student trains with an open mind and learns with minimal conflict. Behaviorists have the patient go through the front door, with martial arts, there is no door, the instructor and student are just sharing information. The best of both worlds is, if a behavioral therapist becomes a martial arts instructor and blends both professions together. Especially for women and kids, which I will cover in another post.
Attitude, separates the General from the Soldier. You have to step back and see who you see in the mirror, a cat or a lion. Cats can become lions, but it takes belief, and stepping across the line. If you have problems, join the world! You already have the power and tools to resolve any conflict. So, if you want to teach MA, step across that line and begin a fascinating journey, I will help however I can. However, it is your dream, so many can help, but only you can make it a reality.
If you are interested in teaching martial arts, check out the many options you have. Be realistic. Is it an ego trip or do you really want to teach and make a difference? It will help to make a decision if you clarify what you want and what is the best program to suit your goal. Some styles take years to learn, before you can teach. I do not believe in that approach. I feel the instructor learns better and develops better skills, by teaching. They should be good at the basics, and then teach the basics, while continuing their own growth by always being a big step ahead of the students. DSD is designed for the instructor to teach as soon as possible. Great care is given to the Instructor-in-trainings ability to give a high level of instruction. They not only learn the unique program offered by DSD, but also how to teach. Of course, existing schools who become an affiliate already have teaching skills and can refine them with our teaching outline.
Teaching is one of the most satisfying professions there is! If approached as a business, rather than a hobby, it can offer a very secure financial future. An interesting fact, is that age and gender do not make a difference in teaching. You can be 18 or 80 and become a teacher. MA is one profession, where the older you are, the more respect you have from the students. Women can be just as good of a teacher as men. Your approach to teaching will be dependent on physical condition, applied knowledge, type of drills or routines and on who your students are. Aloha