Watching a variety of YouTube Martial Art instructional videos I was struck by the extent of what I would call unintelligent reasoning going on. What the Coaches were saying sounded like structured teaching, but in fact they were focusing on unimportant points in the technique – and how they were explaining them meant that, in my opinion, most students would not be able to perform the movement with any efficiency.
Some students will get better despite the Coach and they will go on to teach in the way that they have been taught and more often than not students with ‘something that looks like’ a good technique end up being graded, making up for the loss of power with heavy breathing, foot stomping, shouting and pulling agonised faces.
Application to Kata can be like a ‘101 things to do with a dead cat’ scenario. No one knows the true reasoning behind the original structure of the techniques and therefore they end up trying to make educated guesses with scanty historical facts that can end up being twisted to suit the answer the researcher wants; they would have been far better to restart the whole training structure from scratch by working backwards from real situations.
Then there’s always the pseudo science, which sounds okay until you start to work it out for yourself – it sounds logical at first but the problem is that there are so many factors to take into account in one movement that you would need more volumes than an Encyclopaedia Britannica to fully analyse how the science behind the movement works – and one bit can easily negate another.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as Bruce Lee said ‘boards don’t hit back’ so hitting a squashy pad, ether foam pad or bag being held by an acquiescing student is not like hitting a human being – and certainly not like hitting one that is trying to hit you! Choreographed pairs work is the same.
So how can you judge whether a Coach is delivering the goods? You need to work out what it is that you want from your Martial Arts training and source the best Instruction in that area. Start from the end product and work backwards looking for a syllabus that is well structured to achieve those ends and has synergy.
Do the basics do the job? Do they teach you good postural alignment, breath control, use of the core muscles and a proper functional mindset? Are these skills taught in balance? Do the basic techniques work in application as they stand? Can the Coach explain the ideas and principles behind them and show how the instruction in them progresses through the training system?
Do the basics match the pairs work and form (kata) at each grade? Does each grade intelligently move you forward in a skillset that builds on the previous grade? Many systems are simply ‘cobbled together’ with no synergy and made up of unrelated movement and techniques with no underlying principles.
Take away all the noise, culture, acting, and surrounding BS and apply your own critical thinking. Does this training system and Coach deliver what you want? Look at the evidence, the experience of the Coach and the quality of those that he/she has trained, do they have the qualities what you are after?
Take responsibility for your own progress, constantly health check what you are learning and know exactly why you are practicing what you are doing. Never be afraid to politely question or challenge what you are being taught. A good Coach always enjoys working with an interested student.
Remember that only you will make you good at Martial Arts – a good Coach and system will be invaluable but you have to choose them and then put in the work yourself to make it happen.