Guide for the Martial Arts Instructor
In Cuong Nhu and many other martial arts, the instructor is accorded the title of “sensei,” which means “teacher” or “one who has gone on before,” implying that the instructor is simply further along the same “Way” that all students are following. “Sempai” carries the connotation of “senior student.” One of Cuong Nhu’s precepts is that teaching is part of advancement — in rank, as well as along the “Way”. Through teaching, true understanding can be achieved, an understanding not limited only to physical technique. To gain the most from the experience, a good sensei must: • Love teaching and learning. Teaching is the ultimate learning process. • Love people. A sensei is a sharing, caring and compassionate individual. • Love growth and challenges. A sensei exemplifies endurance, perseverance, wisdom and courage. • Love the martial arts. A sensei patiently strives for perfection. • Love the Cuong Nhu philosophy. Martial Arts Teaching Methods in 12 “Tions” To teach effectively, senseis must create an atmosphere in which the students are stimulated to achieve. Each sensei’s teaching method is unique and evolves with time and experience, but to be successful, must include: • Communication. To understand each other, students and teachers must take an occasional break and talk about their training, feelings and philosophies. This creates a relaxed atmosphere in the dojo and prevents misunderstandings. Senseis should also sit down together and discuss their approaches to teaching. • Simplification. It’s easier for a student to concentrate on one thing at a time. Each technique must be broken into several logical steps so that the student can focus on its basic parts. • Explanation. Discussion of how, when and why to use a technique is crucial for understanding. The description must include specifics on what each part of a technique does. • Demonstration. Using slow motion, the sensei can show the student how the separate parts of the technique flow together. Demonstrations should show the technique from different angles, especially front and side views. • Repetition. Practice makes perfect. Students should repeat the technique on one side until proficient, then work toward the same level of competence on the other side. • Correction. The sensei must work with students individually and systematically to correct each technique. Students should repeat each technique at least ten times on each side with individual correction at least twice per side. • Creation. Teaching skills cannot be transferred directly from one sensei to another. Senseis improve through consistent practice and by adding their own creativity to their teaching methods. • Interrelation. Outside of class, members of the dojo can build camaraderie and friendship without the confines of a teacher/student relationship. When all members of a school become friends, the dojo becomes a more inviting and harmonious learning center. • Reflection. Senseis must take time to ponder and analyze input from students and other instructors. They must open their minds and hearts and listen to what others are saying. • Motivation. Enthusiastic encouragement is the key to motivating students. Setting realistic goals for each class and its individual members is also important. Students in any discipline respond best to an instructor who shows understanding and caring. • Evaluation. Periodically, senseis must make an objective assessment of their teaching abilities, class preparation, and overall attitude toward their instructing. By making necessary and thoughtful adjustments, the instructors will feel more in control of their teaching endeavors. • Dedication. By setting a good example, senseis show their commitment to excellence in the martial arts. This, in turn, inspires their students to strive for greater accomplishments. Five Sources of Strength In oriental philosophy, each person’s strength flows from five sources: • Physical, which is expressed in coordinated movements powered by the muscles. • Mental, which is expressed through concentration and a determined mental attitude. • Inner, which is the vital energy circulated through body pathways called meridians. In Japanese this energy is called “ki”, in Chinese, “chi.” • Spiritual, belief in an ultimate power (God). • Heart, (soul) Having courage and belief in yourself. Most individuals can develop their physical and mental abilities to a high degree. The martial artist, however, uses the physical and mental strengths to develop inner strength. Through training, martial artists become more aware of their bodies and develop keen concentration. This deep but relaxed concentration creates a flow of ki energy from the “hara” or “dan dien” (lower abdomen) through the meridian pathways. This flow of inner strength may be compared to drops of water gathering to form a stream. Through nature’s concentration, the stream gradually becomes a river that exhibits a powerful flow of energy. The martial artist learns to call upon this energy on demand. If you persist in the development of ki by coordinating your physical, mental and inner strengths, you will gain a distinct advantage over any opponent who has developed only physical and mental abilities. Neglecting any of the three components, however, can lead to defeat.