Essential Skills of a Kung Fu Teacher

A lot of people watched “Karate Kid” movie before, and saw Jackie Chan taught Jaden Smith to repeat a simple movement many, many times, so they probably think Kung Fu teaching is a physical repetition method. After being a black belt for two years, I started to learn how to teach, I found out Kung Fu teaching is not just training physical movement. It emphasizes moral development as well as physical training, stressing values like respect, courage, tolerance, and reverence for life.

The very nature of Kung Fu training is a long process of character building. Wholesome qualities like endurance, perseverance, discipline, loyalty, and a calm disposition are prerequisites for progress, especially at higher levels. All these qualities, acquired through Kung Fu training, are transferable to daily life. Kung Fu skill is not the only qualification to become an effective Kung Fu instructor. You need to have many other skills to teach besides technique; for example: observation and communication. Since everyone knows technique is a very important component of being an instructor, I will emphasize the importance of observation and communication at following paragraphs.

I would discuss observation first, I think it is a key component of teaching and will help me to know a student better before teaching him/her. Since students are come from different backgrounds and have their own experiences, observing without judgment or action can let me find a better approach with them. This also will keep my mind open, and gain more useful information and feed back of what I am teaching. For example, when a student is doing incorrectly on a stance, I should look into the reason “why.” If it is because the person does not understand the meaning or usage, I should explain that in more detail on the stance. If it is caused by his or her own body’s ability, I should look for an adjustment on the stance that will allow for gradual improvement, such as a higher “Pu Tuei”. Observing other instructors’ teaching styles will help me to gain more knowledge and experience. In order to do it, I just come to assist other instructors’ classes, and listen and watch how they are handling the class.

Effective communication when teaching martial arts is paramount to ensure the message is received and understood by the receiver in the manner that the sender intended it to be. This is especially important in martial arts as the information is often technical and complex and involves a large group of people. Communication of teaching martial arts is both verbal and nonverbal. Verbal communication skills are: speaking slowly, clearly and with confidence, and at the level of your audience, changing the pitch and volume of your voice to emphasis key points and having brief periods of pausing when communicating. Effective body language is the nonverbal communication, which can help more of what we are teaching. Examples of body language include: Eye contact, Feet apart, Uncrossed legs, Smile/laugh appropriately, and affirmative head nods.

I am still missing many other important aspects in teaching, some of which I am not aware. Therefore, I will keep learning from instructors, peers and students, so it can improve my experience and help to me to contribute my knowledge back to the school.

Instructor YiFan Zhou

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