Requirements and Skills
for Martial Arts Instructors
This is the first of a two part series on how to teach your children well in martial arts. It's a page for the instructors. Have a look at these pointers and see if you can improve your skills and qualifications. The knowledge I put into this page comes from over twenty years experience as a school teacher and six years as a student intructor of Chinese Swordsmanship and Taijiquan. Some of it is essential knowledge. Some is my opinion and some is learned from both positive and negative experiences.
A signed disclaimer. Although a disclaimer does not make you exempt, it helps prove the parents who signed it were aware of what their children were doing. It says they had permission to do it. It shares the duty of care. If you want to use photos for publicity or put anything on the internet, you will need a signed disclaimer. It's also a good idea to ask the parent again in each individual case before using the photos. Check the statement of release of liability on this Sword Games For Real Swordsmen seminar page. Stephen Hand of Tasmania sent most of the wording for this when I asked for help with legalities in Australia.
Police check. In Australia anyone working with children needs to be able to pass a police check. This means you'll be disqualified if you have had a criminal past. Find something else to do. Also, the people helping with the group need to be able to pass a police check, as does anyone driving other people's children to and from meetings
Duty of care. If you are the primary care giver in a children's fitness activity, such as martial arts training, you are responsible for those children. Kids are dangerous. If something happens and one of them is hurt, the parents and the police are going to want to know why. Make sure you are watching them. Make sure there is adequate adult supervision. Accidents can still happen but if they happen while you are answering the phone or chatting to someone and ignoring the children, you may be in trouble.
Make sure no one smokes on the property - not even outside it if the wind is blowing smoke towards the kids. Some children are allergic enough to be hospitalised from a couple of breaths of it, and many are asthmatic. Make sure there is no incense either. Many people do not know the smoke from this is almost as toxic as cigarette smoke.
First aid knowledge. It's a good idea to have a Senior First Aid Certificate if you have anything to do with running kids games, kids sport activities, martial arts classes, excursions, or anything else where there is the possibility of accident. That's everything really. A Senior First Aid Certificate is current for three years in Australia. Then you have to retrain.
Have all the necessary first aid equipment handy. This ranges from bandaids to a mobile phone in case of needing an ambulance in a hurry. Call an ambulance for anything from beestings to asthma attacks, to serious injuries. Better safe than sorry.
Risk assessment. This is part of both duty of care and legal requirements when running kids sport activities, or even visiting a new area. You have to check out the grounds and conditions for any possible dangers. Then you have to rate those dangers from minimal to serious, eg, could be an accident with minor results, to danger of serious injury or death.
All of this has to be written down. Then you have to write down what you have done to eliminate the dangers, before the activity begins. If you teach your children well, they will also be looking for dangers you may have missed. The written and dated Risk Assessment would be required if anything went badly wrong and ended in court. It's also a very useful way to use your powers of observation to best ability and make life easier for everyone.
Qualifications. In Australia you do not have to have a formal qualification to teach martial arts to children. This is not the case for many other countries, so please check. I have a school teaching qualification and many years of experience. This isn't necessary yet but it may be in the future. Check your local requirements.
Understand learning styles. Check this page for multiple intelligences. If you want to teach your children well, you need to take a little time understanding how they learn. There are a lot of excuses for students leaving groups and few instructors looking at themselves to improve teaching skills. It seems it's easier to let a steady stream of students come in one door and out the other than to change something about one's own teaching style. If you have anything at all from this page out of place, children will leave or parents will take them away. None of us are perfect. We can all improve.
Giving respect. Respect flows on several levels. At the weakest is positional respect. This is what is required by order of authority. Students are expected to respect the teacher just because he is the teacher. However, in this modern world, don't expect children to give you that basic level of respect if you are always saying derogatory things about the Prime Minister or the police, or your parents. They will copy.
A higher level of respect is that given to people for the skill they have attained. Kids respect those who show they can do something really well - but only of they have some humility with it. If you want the kids to respect your skill, work very hard to keep way ahead of them.
A third level of respect is that owed to every human being, regardless of any other factor, just because they are a person and because God says they are valuable. All of us should be required to give this unearned respect to others. This needs to be encouraged between students on a peer level, as well.
The highest level of respect is given to those who have earned it through good character. This is what all instructors should aim for. If you want to teach your children well, be someone they look up to and admire for who you are as a person, not just your position or what you can do.
Make it fun. Keep thinking of interesting things to do. Know when an activity is wearing out, before it does, and adapt as many kids games as you can, as part of the training. Take a look at this page for some Fun Ideas For Kids Training. Use your imagination. Listen to their ideas. Do some research. Make sure there is something new and one of the most fun old ideas in every class.
Short sessions. Children have very short attention spans. An adult might be able to concentrate on one activity for an hour. Kid's are more like 10 minutes. If you want to teach your children well, don't bore them to death by doing one thing. Take a look at the program outline on the bottom of this page for an idea of the length of time for each activity.
Don't always use the same students to help others. Swap it around. Even the kid who was there for the first time last week and knows how to hold his sword or do a half step, can pass that on to the kid who has come for the first time this week. I understand this flys in the face of traditional Chinese martial arts teaching where the student was nothing for years and given no respect. This isn't ancient China. I'm talking about teaching western kids in the modern world. I believe letting them give out makes them more receptive to learning. I'm not a master. I'm not even a teacher - just a student instructor with a little bit to give out. Everyone can learn better by explaining to others.
Let the kids take ownership by using their ideas. Ask for their input. Get them helping with fundraising. Ours are attempting to raise $2000 - $3000 towards the Australian taijiquan seminars and Sword Festival in April 2010. For that they will go free to any seminars suitable for them.
Self control. If you are to have any influence with parents, and following that with child students, especially teenagers, you will need to be self controlled. It is well known that some of the martial arts teachers of the past have been drunkards, womanisers, or even criminals. That won't do if you want to have anything to do with children. If it's a bad habit, work at controlling it. You'll have more students that way. Your life needs to teach your children well by example.
Peace. If you want to teach your children well, you'd better have peace built deeply inside. God can do that for you but not many people have it worked out. Some of the methods people use to gain inner peace just fly out the window when the kid runs across the flowering tulips you have waited all year to enjoy. If you can't find peace, at least learn to keep short accounts and laugh about unchangeable things.
Courage. Worldwide, courage seems to be the most universally admired character quality. We have our heroes who were no one until they did the thing no one else could bring themselves to do, or outlasted everyone else under extreme suffering. Your children will learn courage if you display it and encourage it. Martial arts training is a little different from other kid's sport activities. It has an individual element which always requires them to do a personal best. If you teach your children well, they will take this overcoming spirit into the rest of their life.
Humility is the ability to apologise, desire to forgive, willingness to give the honour to others, and courage to lose gracefully even if you were expected to be the best. If a little kid gets under your guard and hits you on the shins with a sword, praise him for his ingenuity. You don't have to be the unbeatable, unreachable, unassailable giant, just because you are the instructor.
This article continues with part 2.Go to Teach your children well part 2 for information on:
Building and maintaining relationships
Motivations for teaching kids, and
The Big No-nos
Leave Teach Your Children Well and return to Kids Swordsmanship
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