Teaching Assistants in Martial Arts Class

Practicing wrist escapes in kids' class.

Practicing wrist escapes in kids’ class.

Have you ever wondered why the assistants are working with your child? Perhaps you notice that they’re leading groups, and the senior instructors are watching.

In today’s post, we’re going share our thoughts on teaching assistants. Who they are, why they’re there, and what they do.

Click “more” to keep reading.

black belt

Black belts teaching.

Who are teaching assistants?

At our school, assistants are not always black belts. Usually they are a student middle school age or older, with a good understanding of technique. Most of the time they are upper-ranked, but we do allow lower-ranked adults to help the kids too.

karate stanwood

Sempai Jasmine practicing alongside a younger student.

What do teaching assistants do in class?

At NWSMA, assistant instructors are like guides. They are responsible for the progress of students during a single drill or activity. Assistant instructors do things like:

  • Lead warmups;
  • Quietly correct or assist a struggling student during a large-group activity;
  • Lead a small group through practice & drill while making small adjustments;
  • Help keep class flowing smoothly;
  • Encourage & compliment students.

Teaching assistants are also learning to become teachers. This means that they are not perfect. Sometimes we step in and offer help, and other times we let them figure out how to handle a situation.

At our school, assistants periodically receive feedback on their teaching. Feedback may be verbal or written, and our assistants are all very good at acting on feedback.

Jas and white belts

Why have teaching assistants?

This is my favorite one. There are so many good reasons to use teaching assistants! One of the biggest ones is that, by having the assistants lead group practice, the senior instructors can do better “quality control.” When we’re standing on the sidelines, we’re watching the bigger, more long-term picture of what is going on with our students.

There are more reasons though!

For the kids:

  • Having assistants allows us to break up into small groups so students get personal attention.
  • The kids spend more time on task when there are more eyes and upper belt partners to help guide them.
  • The kids don’t get quite as “lost in the crowd” this way.¬†We all tend to focus better in smaller groups.
  • The kids get to see where they might be in a few years.
  • The kids get to interact with more advanced students, fostering a greater sense of community.

pad work

For the assistants:

  • Teaching helps our upper ranks exercise their leadership muscles.
  • Teaching reminds us of the importance of serving others.
  • Assistants are learning & practicing how to teach. Teaching is a deliberate way of passing information. Without good teachers, our arts would not stay alive.
  • Upper belts get to practice and “renew” their basic material. When you teach it, you are less likely to forget it!!

Teaching assistants are a valuable part of a martial arts program. We hope you see it that way too!

group work

About Sensei/YDN Caitlin

Sensei Yudanjanim Caitlin is a 2nd degree black belt, senior instructor, administrative assistant, and student of Tae Kwon Do, Karate, and Arnis at Northwest School of Martial Arts.
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