Teaching Methods for Martial Arts by Sifu Nic Baker
There are many ways to ways to teach something to a student, and an individual student might learn something more effectively by one method of teaching versus another. Combining these different teaching methods when teaching ensures that a class full of students, each of whom might absorb information differently, is able to understand what is being taught. Also, it is important to look at ourselves and how we learn to see if that heavily influences how we teach.
There are many ways each of us understand information. When we are taught in the manner we like to learn, we understand and retain more information. When we are taught in a manner in which we do not prefer to learn, it can be difficult to understand the concept. If we are teaching a single student, this is not so difficult to adjust to, since we can teach in the manner the student learns best. In a group setting this can become difficult as there will be many different learning styles present.
Some people are visual learners, who learn best by watching others doing it, or correcting themselves in the mirror, or even by watching video of themselves performing a technique or a set. Written words help the visual types, as do diagrams or visual aides. You can catch visual students watching other students often. If they see themselves making a mistake they will often correct it.
Auditory learners learn best by hearing. They are often talkative themselves and like to hear the technique described in great detail. A quiet teacher who likes to demonstrate but not talk about what is going on can pose difficulties for the auditory learner. You can tell them how they are moving incorrectly and they will fix it.
Kinesthetic learners are those who learn best by doing. They are easy to spot because they will mimic the instructor as the instructor is demonstrating or explaining a technique. They will likely be the first to jump in and start when it is time to practice, but might get impatient when a long verbal description or visual demonstration is given. It is best to physically move them into a proper position to correct a mistake.
There are many other archetypes of learners out there. It can be whittled down to very niche categories, but the above three examples are the most prevalent. Just about everybody has one main learning style and one lesser, secondary learning style in them. An auditory-kinesthetic learner will benefit the most from a detailed verbal description of a technique that they can practice along to either while it is being described or just after.
To ensure that all students retain the maximum amount of information out of a lesson, it is important to try and combine as many different styles of teaching as possible. Instead of just demonstrating how to do a movement, talk in detail about what you are doing as you demonstrate it, and then have them practice. To correct mistakes, incorporate not only verbal corrections but allow them to see in a mirror how they are moving incorrectly and how they should move correctly, and then if needed, physically guide them into the proper position. I have found that it helps certain students to explain why they must move into a certain position (ie: “Do not let your front knee go too far forward because your knee will become injured if you repeatedly do that.”) or provide simile when something is difficult to explain (ie: “Extend your arm as if you were Dracula with a cape.”). If a student seems to be having a hard time understanding something, or repeatedly fails to fix their mistakes after they have been corrected, then it may be that they have been taught in a manner that is incompatible with their learning style, and changing to a different style of teaching could lead to all kinds of revelations for the student. This will result in less frustration for the student, who understands what is being taught, less frustration for the teacher, who can be assured that what they teach is getting through to the student, and overall a higher student retention rate.
Last of all, it is important to look at ourselves and how we learn. Often how we learn best is how we naturally teach. This is even more true for the newer teachers who have not had as much experience to develop a complete teaching style.
Because each person learns differently it is most effective to teach using as many different methods as possible. This will allow each of us to pass on information to more students and create the highest possible quality of learning environment.