12 Things Professional Martial Arts Instructors Don’t Do

by Dave Kovar 

We often talk about all the things that we should do to be the best Professional Martial Arts Instructor possible.  There are, however, at least twelve things that we want to avoid doing. Here they are:

  1. Don’t Argue. Logic and emotion are like oil and water; they don’t mix. Generally speaking, when we argue we become emotional and don’t think clearly. As our emotions become heightened, the likelihood of us saying or doing something that we might regret later increases dramatically. Also remember, winning an argument does little to win respect or friendship.
  2. Don’t Blame. When you point a finger at someone else, three fingers point back at you. Blaming others generally means that you are a reactive person; someone who is unwilling to be held accountable for their actions. Blaming others puts your emphasis and thought-process on problems, not solutions.
  3. Don’t Criticize. It is one thing to be constructively helpful and another to be unconstructively critical.  The quickest way to kill morale is to criticize those on your team.
  4. Don’t Prejudge. Unfortunately, it is natural and very easy to get in the habit of prejudging people. However, it is a terrible habit to have. First off, it is a waste of energy. Every moment spent judging others is a moment not spent on believing yourself. Secondly, when you prejudge others, you’re probably wrong as often as you are right. Therefore, you are going to miss out on a lot of potentially great relationships.
  5. Don’t Be Sarcastic. Although being cleverly sarcastic is often a sign of intelligence, it rarely serves any positive function. More often, sarcasm only demoralizes and belittles the person it was directed towards. Remember, “Please,” “Thank You,” and “May I,” said sarcastically, are no longer the magic words.
  6. Don’t Be Too Friendly. The Instructor/Student relationship is a special thing. Of course an Instructor should be friendly with their students. Becoming a friend, however, can very easily corrupt the relationship. There is a certain distance that should be kept which will serve the interest of sides.
  7. Don’t Be Too Physical. There are several different aspects of being physical that a Professional Martial Artist wants to avoid. First off, make sure that your classes aren’t too physically demanding, especially at the beginner level. Secondly, make sure that students are paired off appropriately with physicality in mind (size, skill, intensity, etc.). Finally, no pats on the bum, inappropriate hugs, etc. Body contact between instructor and students should be kept to a minimum (such as high fives and handshakes).
  8. Don’t Humiliate. The absolute quickest way to create resentment and friction is to humiliate someone, especially if it is done in public. Usually the only person that you should make the brunt of your jokes is yourself. People that enjoy humiliating others usually have a low self-image and try to make themselves feel bigger by knocking others down.
  9. Don’t Be Condescending. A condescending person speaks down to those around them. It is as if their worth is greater than others. The only function it serves it to alienate those around you. Watch your tonality and try to keep yourself from appearing “holier than thou.”
  10. Don’t Hold A Grudge. Everybody makes mistakes; some people make them more often than others. But when you hold a grudge toward others, you give them power over you. You are still letting them control you emotionally. Remember, “small minds hold grudges, big minds forgive and move on.”
  11. Don’t Be Easily Offended. How easily offended someone gets is in direct relation with their level of emotional intelligence. Give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that whatever questionable thing they said was not meant to be taken in a negative way. When it is clearly apparent that an insult has been directed your way, just don’t accept it. Remember the phrase most of us learned as kids, “I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.”
  12. Don’t Take All The Credit. Nothing is more frustrating that when a team works hard and has some great success, only to have one person say, “I did it.” Build your team by giving as much credit as possible to those around you.

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