I am often asked this question by others, and I often question myself about this subject. I don’t believe a good Instructor has to be the best martial artist in order to be the best Instructor. There are many brilliant martial artists out there who wouldn’t be able to teach a pig to snort. The same is true in many other facets of life, whether we’re talking sports, business or life itself. Being great doesn’t mean you can bring out greatness in others. It takes a special breed.
That being said, a good instructor to a particular individual may not be suited to another. Different people may be better suited to different instructors. Everyone is motivated in different ways. Some may need a soft spoken, gentle guide; others may need a hard, no nonsense drill sergeant. One way is not necessarily better than the other, but there are certain characteristics that must be shared by all good instructors. Here are a few:
Knowledge –He must have a vast knowledge of his art – theoretical, mental and physical.
Experience – He has a lot of experience. Very often the best lessons come from experience. Not always your own experience, but those that went before you – in this case your instructor. He is willing to share his good and bad experience with students in order for them to progress and, hopefully, not make the same mistakes he did.
Interest – He must have a keen interest in his martial art and in his student’s progression.
Passion – He must have a true passion for his art and for teaching it. It should burn within his heart, mind and soul.
Love – He must have a true love of his art, students and teaching. He does not teach solely for personal gain. He does it because it is a part of him and would mourn as though he had lost a loved one if it were no longer there.
Innovative – He must be able to come up with new ways of teaching in order to help students progress even further.
Unselfish – He must have a willingness to share his experience and knowledge without reserve for the betterment of his students and the martial art.
Sacrifice – He is willing to sacrifice for his art and students, even when there is no thanks or praise in it. A student will never even realize how much his instructor may have sacrificed in order to make things possible for them. A good Instructor will have many a sleepless night thinking about and worrying about his students, and how he can be better for them.
Leadership – He must be able to take control and lead. He must command respect from his students and be able to control a room full of people. Students will be willing to follow a good instructor to hell and back if he is a good leader (not that he will necessarily take them there).
Motivating to self and others – He must be self-motivated and motivating to others. Instructing can be physically and mentally exhausting. There is nobody standing behind the instructor to lift him when he is down. He must do this on his own. Even on a bad day he must be able to help and carry others through a storm.
Belief – He must believe in his martial art and in his students. He must have a high expectation of what his students can accomplish even if they don’t see it in themselves. He is able to bring out there ability and create this confidence in them through this belief.
Honesty and trust – He must always have honest dealings with students which will create trust. He must always have student’s best interests at heart and the student will have enough trust to believe this.
Eye for detail – He must have the ability to pick up on people’s strengths and weaknesses. Re-enforcing the strengths and fixing and building on the weaknesses in the physical and mental state of the martial arts student.
Willingness – He must be willing to and never tire of learning. He is always researching and seeking out new methods – improving himself in order to pass it on to his students. It is his students that he does this for, not for personal gain.
Role-model – He must be a role model to his students. He must practice what he preaches. He should be well respected in his community and take the tenets of his art to heart and try to live by them.
A good instructor is only half the job, though. The other half is being a good student. A good instructor is only of value as long as the student is willing to learn. Even the best instructor cannot be blamed if a student has no interest and is shut off to learning what is put before him. If there is interest, a good instructor can cultivate him. A good instructor is difficult to come by, so if you do have one, appreciate him.
Another question I am often asked – Am I a good Instructor? I don’t know. That is not for me to judge. All I can say is that I make every effort to be one.
“Be the eternal teacher who teaches with the body when young, with words when old, and by moral precept even after death”. – Gen. Choi Hong Hi.