What are the qualities of a great karate instructor?
As the daughter of a Grand master, I thought I could answer that question easily enough. However, after sitting down with Grandmaster Allen Sarac, who has been teaching karate for over 40 years, I gained some valuable insight.
The top four qualities Grandmaster Allen Sarac named in an instructor were being:
"Wait a second," I said. "What about being a great martial artist, or about being able to demonstrate techniques and provide examples?"
Former world champion Allen Sarac responded, “Does every successful NBA coach need to be the caliber of player of a Michael Jordan or LeBron James? A great martial artist may not become a great instructor, but in the years I have been teaching I have seen many great instructors that were not necessarily world champions themselves.”
However, as Grandmaster Allen Sarac explains, good teachers must possess these qualities of a great karate instructor:
Why do most people want to learn karate?
Grandmaster Sarac has found that most people have a vision of being able to do something that they currently are unable to do. Maybe its protecting their family, or winning competitions at tournaments, or maybe it’s just being the toughest guy in the gym.
In today’s culture, most of us want instant gratification. We want to be a black belt fast! We want to learn everything and be the next Bruce Lee sometime this year! However, reality is a little different.
Karate is an art form that requires practice and dedication – mastery doesn’t come easily or overnight. A good instructor doesn’t promise unrealistic outcomes in order to sign up students or get them to join the class.
A good instructor is realistic but able to nurture the student until their vision of themselves becomes reality – bringing us to another important characteristic of a good instructor:
A good instructor should be able to motivate his or her students. They should engage their students and maintain their interest while at the same time helping students overcome their individual weaknesses.
Instructors should strive to help better their students and maintain an upbeat and positive attitude.
Constructive criticism is also important and can sometimes be difficult when teaching karate. Master Sarac provides the following analogy:
“I compare myself to an auto mechanic. Let’s say someone brings in a car and I see that the brakes are bad. I’m not going to waste the customer’s time talking about what runs well in the car. Instead, I’m going to point out what’s wrong since it could be a matter of life and death if the brakes fail."
In karate, fixing a technique that’s being done wrong could save someone’s life in the streets. It’s important that instructors help students to fix the mistakes that they are making. Afterwards, instructors should address what the student has been doing right, making it a positive experience.
The word honorable has to do with people and actions that are honest, fair, and worthy of respect. An instructor should have an honorable reputation and act with integrity.
Karate is an honorable sport, and that should be reflected in instructors and how they teach their students. Grandmaster Sarac further explains that instructors need to actually care about the needs of their students and how to better them as martial artists.
This authentic care and nurturing of students is apparent in an honorable instructor.
A good instructor must be knowledgeable in what he or she is teaching.
They should be able to break down a technique, the physics of it, and explain why it works.
Instructors should also realize and believe that there is not a right way and a wrong way when it comes to different styles of martial arts. Instead there is the right way and other ways within different styles of karate. This realization helps an instructor prepare students for what they may be up against in competitions or a fight that occurs in the street.
A good instructor helps students learn how to think, how to react, and the practical and real-life application of the techniques they learn in class. Grandmaster Sarac also explains that it’s important for instructors to be knowledgeable about their roots or history in their particular style of karate.
Many Schools Advertise by Showcasing the Trophies and Tournament Awards of the Head Instructor. Look beyond that.
Realist - Motivational - Honorable - Knowledgeable
These 4 combined characteristics are signs of a great instructor. They will prepare YOU what you need to be successful in the art.
As for future up and coming karate instructors, you must become awesome in the technical aspects of the fighting arts but develop these 4 qualities of a great karate instructor to really 'Master' the art.
An Interview with Grand master Allen Sarac as told by Lindsey
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