Teaching Philosophy:  What to look for when choosing a martial arts school.

I have to say that I am a little surprised by how few times I have been asked about the teaching philosophy of our martial arts school.  Over 25 years of teaching, I have come to believe that often times it is assumed that all martial arts schools, dance schools, gymnastics academies, and kids sports have the same teaching philosophies.  After 25 years of teaching martial arts and owning multiple schools I can say that is definitely not the case.  Over the 50 years our parent organization, Always Take Action Martial Arts, has been teaching children in the U.S., they have developed a proven, top notch instruction system.  Using that experience and empirical validation, I have come up with a list of things to look for when choosing an activity for your children.

  1. Positive correction rather than criticism:  Good teachers understand that when you criticize someone or focus on the negative they almost never get motivated.  Conversely, they tend to shut down and stop listening.  We try to treat correcting a technique, skill, or behavior like improving a sundae.  Let’s add some whipped cream to that, now let’s put some cherries and fudge on it.  We like to use phrases like “That was a great kick, it would be even better if….” It is also important to be a good finder.  Find someone doing the right thing and love on them so that others emulate that behavior.  Too many times the negative is what is spotted and pointed out.
  2. The 80/20 principle:  This is along the lines of positive correction.  We aim for 80% positive praise and reinforcement and 20% correction.  This is not always easy as parents watching activities.  We often find ourselves wanting every mistake our child makes to be corrected.  It is important to remember what it is like when you are corrected all the time, or when every mistake is brought up.  Again, we shut down and get demotivated because we start to view ourselves as failures.  With this system, when we do correct, it is more powerful because our students buy into the correction.  We have made so many deposits into the praise account that when a correction comes, that person knows we have their best in mind.
  3. Create a positive climate:  The place you are taking your children to should be welcoming.  Is the first thing your instructor/coach says “hello, so great to see you” or is it “you’re five minutes late, get in here.”  The instructor should be positive, happy and excited to do what they do.  They should never complain, be negative, seem like they don’t want to be there, or have a lack of energy.
  4. Reward systems:  Our victory card reward system is a major factor in what we do.  It is a tangible and visual way for our students to see that they are succeeding.   When a student does something well in class and gets recognized for it they receive a paper shield.  After ten shields they get a star that goes on their reward card.  They can also receive cards for good habit sheets at home, report cards, community service, and competitive spirit.  Some instructors have a punishment based system versus a reward based system.  In some sports, it is not as tangible as the card system, but a high five system can work with similar results.

These are just a few ways that we interact with our students at Arrow Martial Arts.  When I sign my children up for camps, swim club, basketball, baseball or travel soccer leagues, I am looking for coaches and mentors that follow these principles.  Remember not all coaches or schools are created equal.  I hope this helps you when it comes to choosing which mentors are going to have influence over your children.

Published: June 22, 2021

Categories: Teaching Philosophy