Good teaching requires intention. Really, that’s not so different from what is required to be truly good at martial arts.
But there’s so much more to martial arts than kicking and punching. (And I know you’ve heard that before, so let me explain!)
My name is Caitlin. At NWSMA, I’m known as Sensei Caitlin. I’ve been teaching martial arts for nearly as long as I’ve been doing them. At the time of the writing, that’s about 15 ½ years.
I believe that the word “skills” covers more than just kicking, blocking, and punching. More than sparring or forms. Interpersonal skills, or lifeskills, like how to get along with classmates, how to resolve conflicts, and how to talk to adults are among some of the many skills children learn as they grow up.
To be successful in life, ALL children must learn these lifeskills. The skills include: how to focus, how to make an effort, have patience, determination, and willpower, how to persist, how to handle criticism, how to stay calm under stress, and how to study something deeply without becoming bored.
Some children learn these skills more naturally than others. Others never learn them, and lead troubled lives.
I believe martial arts provides an abundance of opportunities for children to learn AND practice these lifeskills.
It’s great to theoretically grasp why peaceful problem solving is good—but children need both opportunity and guidance to PRACTICE such life skills before they are expected to use them on their own.
Each challenge during class becomes a metaphor for life.
Facing a giant, scary opponent in sparring? Learn to be calm, and facing a job interview or difficult co-worker becomes that much easier.
Distracted from what’s going on in class? You might miss the target, or get hit in sparring. Behind the wheel of a car, distraction can be deadly. Learning to focus exclusively on the task at hand can literally be a life-or-death skill.
Sensei repeatedly reminding you to change or fix a habit? When you are asked to change your behavior at work and don’t, the boss may just decide to let you go. Especially if you have a habit of not admitting when you made a mistake and arguing.
These moments in the dojo are opportunities to practice lifeskills. To practice changing your behavior. To practice self-control. To practice making yourself better. The greatest martial arts teachers recognize this, and provide coaching and guidance to children as they begin to flex the muscles of good communication and behavior.