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What to look for in an instructor Part 1

Okay, let’s assume you are pretty self-aware and have a good idea of the type of person you respond to well, and that you’re neither a total patsy who’s going to cater to any old clown dressed like a ninja, nor an out-and-out rebel who refuses right off a suspension of judgement in order to learn.

We’re prepared to submit, but not over-much, okay?  At least in the beginning till we know who we are dealing with and how we think we’ll progress.


Here’s what I think you should be looking for in a martial art instructor based on the few I have met over the years and how they have brought me along.

Strictly speaking: here’s what I like:

Someone Exacting, Hard to Please, but Communicative.

I like a fair amount of seriousness.  But while I always want to make progress I’m not always switched on as much as I should be.  Just the other week, for example, I threw out a kick and earned a rebuke for it being less snappy than it was in a previous class.  Perfect.

That’s what I want, instruction from someone who is heedful of how I am doing, someone who won’t suffer nonchalance or sloppy technique, someone who won’t remit from his very high standards from his fondness for you, or because you’ve had a hard day at work, or you’re injured or feeling slightly off-colour.  Remember, we’re looking in the Martial Mirror here, and killing self-pity!

I want to embrace it, the challenge; we’re assuming our instructor can walk his talk and that he knows the road like the back of his hand, knows without doubt the steps that are needed to attain the heights that he wants you to reach.

I’m not talking about kowtowing to a pain in the arse puffed-up prick who is stroking his unqualified ego, but rather someone who will prick that placenta so you can get the rudiments right and in due course become the scrupulous and supremely skilled painstaker yourself.

How you differentiate between the puffed up prick and the real deal is through their ability to convey their intentions for you, as well as explain their methods, and the reasons for such and such a technique being such and such a way.

And note, if repetition is the mother of skill, and it is, you should expect your instructor, if he’s thorough, to press his points through again and again and again, until you get it – Get It?  Don’t let anybody let you off the hook – or you’re cheating yourself.  More on this later…