Martial arts instruction has sure changed since the days I first walked into a dojo. I remember our instructors making you do push-ups as a form of punishment. You did push-ups if you weren’t paying attention, were late to class, didn’t kiai loud enough or made the big mistake of taking your eyes off your opponent. In a loud, forceful voice, the instructor would command you to “drop” and give him 50 to 100 push-ups, depending on how much you irritating him that day.
Push-ups (and sometimes laps around the dojo) as a form of punishment have long been used in the martial arts and in military training. It is a form of discipline that reminds you not to engage in unacceptable behavior. Discipline in life and in the martial arts is important because it builds character. An instructor who disciplines cares about you and wants you to be the best you can be. A marital arts instructor who is soft, gentle and lax in discipline is doing a great disservice to the student body.
Unfortunately, when the martial arts became a business in the United States, many instructors crumbled under the pressure to become more “consumer oriented.” Now if you tell a student to do 50 push-ups, you’ll actually get attitude from the student and their parents if they are minors!
Now all of a sudden, the instructor is bad mouthed for being too hard, too “humiliating” and too overwhelming. In reality, you should thank an instructor for correcting you. This means that he really cares about your physical, mental and spiritual development. Rather than ignoring you, telling you everything is “wonderful,” and giving you lots of patches and trophies, he has cared enough to make you a better martial artist and person.
One day, during our open workout sessions, I noticed that one of our students was not performing a technique properly. I went over to her and tried to talk to her politely about taking her training to the next level. Instead of listening and appreciating my advice, she got angry because she felt I wasn’t being “nice” to her! Another student was being critiqued for the sole purpose of improving his technique and he used it as an excuse not to return to class.
If I notice a student doing something wrong or engaging in undisciplined behavior, like goofing around in class, I have to take it upon myself to make a correction if I want that student to advance. As a martial arts trainer for over 30 years, I want to see my students make some form of progress every 3 months. I do my part, now all they have to do is listen and put in the effort. That’s the best recipe for success!