It’s a question we hear often: why do you have student teachers?
The answer is actually quite simple: teaching martial arts techniques is part of becoming a black belt, because you can’t be an expert at anything if you haven’t taught it. It forces you to draw on all your knowledge, and when you are asked questions you’ve never thought of before, it makes you branch out and apply what you know in new ways.
Student teaching is an important part of your training journey, and an important step in making you a stronger, faster, and more adept martial artist when it comes to efficiency of motion and technique. Masters say that teaching is better for learning than when you are actually trying to learn as a student.
In teaching, you usually put 100% effort into showing it, and doing it yourself, and thinking about the finer points slowly, always critiquing your own technique – and even after all of that, you are often put on the spot to answer questions. Even if your performance is flawless, you have to know the answer when you are asked, “Why do you do it this way?” and be able to express it in words. As soon as you can explain the answer, it makes much more sense to you as well, and you have improved not only someone else’s knowledge, but your own. These are important steps toward becoming the best you can be!
After you teach something, it is nearly impossible for you yourself to forget. For example, when you give small feedback such us, “Move your knee this way to make the movement more fluid”, and your student can tell the difference, you’ll be more likely remember that moment and that advice for yourself down the road when you do the same movements. Thus student teaching can be very mutually beneficial.
In addition, having student teachers in our classes keeps costs down for the studio as a whole, and varying the instructors helps each student become well-rounded and responsive to different styles. Since different teachers emphasize different concepts, and have varying approaches to their lessons, there is more likely to be something useful that sticks with every student by doing it this way.
Overall, teaching and training others is the fastest way for students to progress along their final path to a black belt – you are usually only allowed to begin training others after you have achieved brown belt (which is 2-6 years depending on the person). It is a tremendous emotional boost to know that you’re contributing to the studio and to others, and since the skills we teach aren’t meant to be used out in the field, it’s nice to feel you have a purpose when you are using it to train others in the studio. One of the people you teach may have to use the skills they’ve learned one day in order to save their life, even if you never have to!
A student teacher here once said that student teaching makes you immortal, because your personal spin on the subject you teach can end up being passed on for decades, or maybe even hundreds of years. Your personal fingerprint could be left on the art for a very long time, passed on to the next generation of learners; you can see this in students who learned from specific black belts and carry the knowledge with them like a torch. You can spot it in how someone holds their knee, or their stance, in the slight weight shifts from one teacher’s style to another. It is a way of passing down your own self-expression.
Student teaching has another big effect: it increases your appreciation for teachers from then on. You will know it isn’t easy, and will notice other teacher’s techniques and mannerisms. You’ll like how they physically show some things, and just speak about others, and you’ll question in your mind why they chose to do it that way – leading you to think more deeply about what you’re learning, and causing you to take something from that for your practice and for your own teachings in the future. You will also appreciate being a student even more after you’ve taught, gaining a sense of satisfaction from the experience. You may even start to feel like you’ve “made it”…as long as you remember that there is always more to learn!
And lastly? You can also learn things from your students that you may have never thought of… while you’re teaching them. Since even our teachers are students, we encourage everyone to always keep learning and improving!