“In learning, you will teach. In teaching, you will learn”. – Phil Collins.

I have previously discussed reasons to take private lessons and how to get the most out of private lessons. Both of these posts were written from the student perspective. Fun reads, weren’t they? 🙂

In this post, I discuss the five benefits of teaching private martial arts lessons from an instructor’s perspective. The obvious financial aspect will not be discussed. Instead, I will discuss several benefits that instructors can derive from teaching private lessons.


Semi-private lesson in progress

(1) Getting to know the client: On a personal basis, you will get to know about their families, their jobs, and their worldview. In terms of martial arts, you will learn know their physical weaknesses and strengths. I look for the structural and body positioning weaknesses so that we can spend time working on them. I mainly watch for footwork and aim for efficient movement. Every client is different from others. They move differently. They will have different speed and timing. Some may be smooth, and others may not be so. The challenge is to personalize the teaching for each client and to maximize their potential. Some will learn the flow drills quickly, and others will take a bit longer. Either way, it’s okay. You need to know the client well and tailor the lessons accordingly.

Then there’s knowing the client on a psychological basis. One of my clients moves very well but lacks a fair bit of confidence. It is clear that the challenge isn’t so much teaching the physical skills but instilling the mentality to execute techniques with confidence and verve. A keen eye and attention to detail will ensure a good lesson for both the instructor and the client.

(2) Personalized lessons for the client: When working with a customer, you can personalize the lessons for their particular level and focus on new material.  I first focus on body structure before techniques. The number of techniques or flow drills they know does not matter to me if they do not move properly or lack proper body structure. Non-telegraphic movement and efficient technique are what I seek to teach the clients. The instructor needs to know how to break down and explain techniques in a way that the customer can grasp quickly.

Children, on the other hand, approach things a bit differently. On the one hand, they will engage in drills designed to build necessary skills. However, I have learned that they need to play games. I will not play games for the sake of games. I will play games that incorporate martial arts skills. For example, Miguel likes to engage in make-believe Star Wars laser sword fights. The only caveat is that he must include Filipino Martial Arts through footwork and techniques.

Bottom line, what you teach depends on their skill level and their personalities.

Holland (1)

I learn from teaching kids and adults alike.

(3) “What if” Questions: Clients will ask “what if” questions during our lessons and these impromptu questions often turn out to be my favorite moments. Most of the time my answers are pretty straightforward. Other times, the questions can open a new area of exploration/ investigation that can shape how I teach the material in question. Exploration like this is surely one of the great benefits of teaching private lessons.

For instance, I was working on Bamboo Spirit Flow Drill #2 the other night with a client. We were covering the basic clears when my client asked, “what if the opponent’s hand/arm is not there to hit when you clear?” My answer was nothing new. I didn’t reinvent the wheel. I showed the client a couple of ways to deal with his “what if?” scenario. I realized that I could recast the “clearing” drill in a new way to my students. For some reason, I find that this benefit of teaching moments more frequent in private lessons than when I teach my class at the community center.

(4) Improve your teaching: One of the great benefits of teaching private lessons is that every lesson presents opportunities to improve your teaching. Sometimes this means explaining a technique in different ways before the client, whether a child or an adult, “gets it.”  Experimenting with phrases and terminology is often the norm in private lessons.

Terminology that may work with an adult may not necessarily resonate with a child. I often change the language to connect with the child.

When it comes to the content of the lessons, I have found some differences. While some adults enjoy rote drilling of techniques, I have found that some children do not enjoy this. Therefore, I stress rote drills less with kids. Through interaction with different clients and some trial and error, I have learned what works with adults and with children.

(5) Sharpen material: When I work with the advanced adult students, I’ll often focus material appropriate for the client. For example, I may work only on Flow Drill #3 (Counter to the Backhand Clear) and the three variations and do it for the entire lesson.  

Due to the nature of the flow drills, both the client and I regularly work and tweak the material while pushing each other. By working with a tight set of parameters, it’s a great way of sharpening certain concepts. And within those parameters, one can find avenues to explore. “Aha!” moments often happen in these kinds of lessons and are always a blast. 🙂 If the client knows the material well and has good body structure, I’ll ask him or her to push me hard in the lesson. This is where we get into the timing and rhythm of techniques. The benefit of having an excellent partner in a private less is being pushed. This is often something that I don’t get to do often in a group class.

Over to you, are there any other benefits to teaching private lessons that I may have overlooked? Let’s hear them!


2 thoughts on “5 Benefits of Teaching Private Martial Arts Lessons

  • July 1, 2015 at 11:01 am

    This post really resonates with me because I home schooled my children (one gifted one autistic) for a combined total of thirty years (I count from birth onward). I saw this as a theme throughout your post – everyone develops at their own pace. It’s very rewarding when a student who might otherwise be “left behind” in a group setting makes a quantum leap in understanding. Likewise, a student who is ahead of the game in some areas is free to take the gifts as far as he/she can in a private setting with an expert. Thanks for writing from the perspective of a martial arts teacher – it’s good to see that some of the same things I learned from home school will (someday) translate over!

    • July 1, 2015 at 11:43 am

      Awesome! That sounds like a blog post that you should write!


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