Instructors and advanced students can benefit greatly from teaching beginners. Unfortunately, too many instructors have their junior instructors or senior students work with the beginners. Senior students often prefer to work with classmates of the same rank. While there is nothing wrong with working with fellow senior students or an instructor preferring to let junior instructors handle the beginners, they are missing out on the benefits of teaching beginners if they avoid this altogether.

There are a number of good reasons to teach beginners, either one on one or in a group setting.

(1) Remember where you started: Teaching beginners is a great way to remind yourself of where you once were; at the beginning of your martial arts journey. Do you remember what it felt like when you had your first martial arts class? The moments of confusion when learning a drill? Trying to remember everything that was taught in a class? Remembering the name of the technique? Holy crap, what’s the class protocol when greeting a partner on the floor?

Maybe, just maybe, the beginner would like to get reassurance from you that you recognize where they are.

(2) Refine your teaching: Teaching beginners can often expand your teaching repertoire. Words and phrases that work with one beginner may not resonate with another. For example, I have found that, when learning double sinawali, beginners respond differently to different phrases and instructions. I’ve learned that some learn more quickly with certain phrases than others. Over time, you begin to compile different ways of explaining techniques and drills.

Students respond to different phrases when I teach double sinawali.

(3) Instructing Experimentation:  Once in awhile, you may run into someone for whom your verbal instruction does not “take.” Here, you are forced to stretch your horizons and go through all the iterations of instructions that you’ve tried or come up with new phrases. The trick is letting your student know that you are trying to teach them and looking for appropriate ways to impart your knowledge.

(4) Beginner’s luck:  How many of you have worked with a beginner and experienced having them pull off a movement that worked on you? It’s likely because you have gotten used to the “programmed” moves of most of your training partners. Most experienced martial artists/players have developed habits that can be a bit “programmed.” More specifically, a programmed move leads to a programmed response by the training partner. It’s easy to fall into this habit.

On the other hand, the beginner isn’t bound by experience and does not know what the “right” or “wrong” moves are. Hence, sometimes they are unpredictable and throw an experienced player off their game. So, training with one who has not been “programmed” may be quite beneficial for the senior student or instructor. In short, it’s a reminder that not all responses are going to follow the program. And it may serve as a useful check on your ego. 🙂

Damn, Daniel-san was lucky that time!

Over to you, what are your thoughts on working with beginners, either one on one or in a group setting? Let’s hear your thoughts!

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