Often, during class, I find that students will do something in an exercise that barely resembles what I have just explained and asked them to do. By deviating from the instruction they end up working on something other than what the class is aimed at, and the benefit of the lesson is lost. This is a problem with kids and adults alike.
There are number of factors that could contribute to this. I will name a few.
1. Lack of focus. To focus takes discipline of mind. You need to practice discipline in order to receive its benefits. It’s like going to the gym. With consistency you become stronger and are able to last longer, lift heavier and, ultimately, look better. Becoming disciplined in mind is like building up fitness and strength, only the end result is better concentration. Better concentration means better listening and actually “hearing” what is being said. The student must understand how important it is to absorb what is being said.
2. Complacency. This is more a problem with students that have been around for a while, although it could happen with new students, too. The student falls into a comfort zone and assumes that you are speaking to everybody else in the class and that he is doing it correctly. Training like this is like sleep walking. You can go about performing certain tasks, but you look clumsy doing it and never remember it the following day. Often it is these very students you are trying to correct and help, but they never even realize it. The student needs to assume that everything being said to the class is directed specifically at him and find inspiration in what he is doing.
3. Disinterest. This is more common with kids than adults. Often a child will be forced to attend classes and is just not interested in being there, therefore not hearing a word you are saying. While the Instructor is explaining, he is off in a spaceship somewhere battling with aliens. Strangely, some adults will pay for and attend classes even though they have no interest in it at all. Child or adult, if the interest is not there, there will be no progression, no matter how long you attend. It is not merely about being there, it is about taking part. This can only happen if there is interest in what you are doing.
4. Arrogance. This is always a sad one. The student thinks that he knows better and purposely goes against your instruction in order to do his own thing, which in his head, is better than your way. A student, such as this, needs to decide why he is there in the first place. If he is not there to learn then there is no point in him being around. A student should attend classes in order to learn. When there is arrogance in the equation, there can be no learning. He must either leave of his own accord or be asked to leave.
5. Laziness. The human body does not, by nature, want to go through hardship, struggle and pain. It will do anything it can to trick your mind into making tasks easier for it to accomplish. You cannot allow your body to dictate to you in a martial arts class. Changing form in exercises, stretches and technique to make it easier will deliver no benefit. What may seem painful at first eventually becomes comfortable and you are able to reap the rewards. We train to adjust and manipulate the body to accomplish certain feats that may seem irregular to others. There will be some pain and discomfort initially, but the student must persevere. If it was easy, we wouldn’t need to train. Through training, the body is fine-tuned and adapts to give you the performance you want and expect. The body doesn’t always know best for itself (within reason of course).
6. Really doesn’t understand. Sometimes a student will, really, just not get it. No matter how you put it, he just cannot understand the instruction or what you are trying to get him to achieve. This can be frustrating for the student and Instructor. Patience must be exercised on both counts.
7. Medical condition. A student may have a medical condition that prohibits him from performing exercises in a certain way and will not perform according to the instruction because it is physically impossible for him to do so. This is actually quite rare, but seems common these days. People will use medical reasons as an excuse to avoid performing certain exercises and tasks when, in fact, the student is just lazy (see above). The student should be honest with himself and the Instructor when it comes to medical conditions in order to get the most out of his training. An Instructor should be aware and sympathetic to genuine medical conditions.
8. Lack of fitness. A student who is physically drained will often shut down mentally. You may speak directly to the student and get no acknowledgement at all. A fit body will often translate to a fit mind. It is up to the student to remain in peak physical fitness in order to receive instruction optimally. The Instructor can play a part in keeping students fit, but a couple of classes per week just aren’t enough. The student should be doing more out of class time, not relying solely on classes for fitness training – that is not the purpose of a lesson.
9. Unclear instruction. A student may not be able to follow instruction at times because the Instructor is unclear or unqualified. It is important for the student to find a qualified Instructor with experience in martial arts instruction. This can be difficult – there are not many martial artists out there who know how to teach. Teaching is a calling unto itself. Just because a person is a world champion doesn’t mean he can show you how to be one. The student should do his research and find an Instructor that he can understand and relate to. Going to a local martial arts club just because it is convenient is a terrible idea.
A student who is able to follow instructions is like gold. He will see results more often and more consistently than those who don’t. He will avoid unnecessary injuries and won’t ask questions that have just been answered a minute prior.
There is good reason why an Instructor is telling the student to do exercises in a particular way. Classes are designed to work on a certain area, improving and correcting on it. To do your own thing will affect your performance in the long run, and it will disturb and hold back the rest of the class. Do your best to listen and follow instruction in order to get the most out of your training.