4 factors that are really worth committing to, that have always paid off over my 25 years of teaching experience.

In this article I would like to get straight to the point. 

The topic is very broad and can be treated from many different points of view.

Therefore in this article I will limit myself to examining the factors that, within an amateur martial arts or combat sports class, can be influenced by good teaching practices.

In doing so I’ll be forced to make some generalizations. 

This whole material you’re about to read is the result of my experience, take from it what is useful to you.

The 4 main factors that help a student to stay long

Keeping a student depends on many factors. I have grouped the main ones for which a good instructor has the power to influence into 4 factors.

1 Group

2 Focus

3 Engagement

4 Challenge

Let’s explain each of them. 

By group I mean the instructor’s knowledge of group dynamics and what can consequently lead a group to falling apart.

By focus I mean the attention that is given to the practitioner, with its specificities, in reference to the martial art or combat system in object.

By engagement I mean the level of involvement that the instructor is able to foster within the single lesson and therefore in the long term process of learning. 

By challenge I mean the instructor’s ability to appropriately graduate training in order to maintain a continuous but not overwhelming level of difficulty.

Let’s look at these factors in detail.

Group: create a solid and close-knit group.

Any new student who joins a group that is not comfortable with the situation or environment will leave the course sooner or later. It doesn’t matter how skilled the instructor is or how intriguing the discipline is for the student.

So it’s crucial that the group is welcoming and capable of offering a place where the newcomer may grow and develop a feeling of belonging.  

General rules for forming and maintaining a solid and close-knit group are:

  • Having clear and shared rules that the instructor promotes through personal examples.
  • Maintaining a fair level of consideration and attention toward each student.
  • Transparent conflict management.
  • Having shared values ​​and objectives within the discipline.

Focus: orient your attention to the student and his specific needs .

More important than the discipline you teach, is the ability that the student will develop in using it.

As an instructor you want the student to acquire the technique in the best possible way. This desire, if not appropriately addressed, obscures the peculiar characteristics of the student.

Often we hear from students who quit something like “this discipline is not for me”.

Each student is different in mental and physical characteristics so, in a class of amateurs, it is logical to expect his learning path to need adaptation or adjustment.

A good instructor must therefore find a balance between adherence to the discipline he teaches, and with student’s peculiarities.

The self-motivation process, in fact, goes through 4 phases:

  • Being motivated by an external goal.
  • Being motivated by the approval of the group / instructor. 
  • Feeling motivated by the benefits of the practice itself. 
  • And eventually, being driven by identification with the practice. 

The instructor leads the student through this process supporting him as he goes and helping him find his way.

Engagement: keep the lesson interactive and make your students feel involved.

Few things are as boring as those in which the student sees no difference between a live lesson and a lesson experienced through a video.

Very often students get tired of the same routine practices over and over since, if they wanted they could train alone following the outline of the lesson learned by heart. 

To ignite and maintain interest, the lessons must have some innovation that cannot simply be learning a new technique.

Here are some ideas to make a lesson engaging:

  • Push people to ask questions.
  • Be driven by the difficulties of the class and its needs (even if unexpressed).
  • Use a little humor from time to time.
  • Use metaphors, analogies or real cases.
  • Use strategically targeted game activities.

Challenge: Keep the difficulty level high (but not too high).

Many martial arts and combat sports practitioners know directly or indirectly a phase known as “stagnation”.

This phase occurs when, after several years of training, there is no longer any juice in the practice and there is a feeling of ceasing to improve. 

The correct level of challenge is, in the long run, what allows you to keep motivation high.

In practice, this translates into activities that make the outcome always uncertain but with a good percentage of success.

A very high difficulty  level has the effect of discouraging and even killing the commitment. 

A very low difficulty level makes the task boring and leads to the phenomenon of stagnation.

Gauging the right level of difficulty is material for endless discussions because from time to time it is helpful for the students to face some arduous tasks as well as to indulge in a few easy combat every now and then.

For the purposes of this article, I believe the example of free mobile games can explain what I mean by appropriate gauging.

Free mobile games initially are easy and have a very high level of satisfaction and reward.

This level gradually decreases but never so much as to make progress impossible.

Each play becomes exciting due to the uncertainty of what will be gained and the desire to try on the new abilities you were able to unlock.

The same should be for your lessons. 

Every lesson should allow some level of gain, however small

Every lesson should provide an appropriate challenge to face the new learnings. 

A few final words.

Having many students depends on many things. 

There are many dishonest ways an instructor without scruples could use to gain students in the short run. But, in my opinion, this is not worth it. 

Since the beginning of my teaching, I have always been convinced that it is not worth having  large numbers of students for the wrong reasons. 

Be yourself and try to offer the best you can to your class.

In this article I have outlined some guidelines that I hope will be useful to you.

If you have found them interesting and want me to deal more in depth tell me in the comment section. 

Have fun training. 

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