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Patient Training (and Teaching)

Each person learns at his or her own rate. No two people learn in exactly the same manner or at the same rate. Some students learn very quickly but then lose interest. Others learn slowly, but keep going for their entire lives.

One of my teachers used to say that you should not learn like paper. Paper lights easily but burns out equally quickly. He said that you should learn like a big log. It is harder to light, but burns for a long time.

For those of us who have trained since we were children (I started training at about the age of 7), we will go through many phases in our lives. As we progress from elementary school, to intermediate school, to to high school, to college, to post graduate studies, through various jobs, to our chosen career, from dating, to marriage, to children, to purchasing our first home, to seeing our children graduate from college, to seeing our grandchildren -- our Karate training will have many highs and lows.

I can honestly say that I did not have much time to practice Karate while I was studying for the bar examination. But once my law office was established, I had more time and could open a dojo.

If you met me during my bar studies, you would probably think I was a neglectful Karate student. If you meet me now, you might think that I go overboard sometimes. But I am the same person.

My point is that as our training progresses, has high and low points, it changes over our life. When you are teaching a student, you have to ask where that student is in their Karate life at that moment? Are they trying their best but barely have time to practice? Are they at the point when their years of training is suddenly starting to make sense and come together? Are they trying to get back into training after many years of absence?

We have to be able to teach each student at his or her stage of training at that specific moment in their life. Sometimes we have to tell the student to take some time off to deal with family and work matters. Sometimes we need to encourage the student to try harder -- the best way to do this is usually to try harder ourself (set a good example).

Some students appear to be lazy. Sometimes this is because they are exhausted. Sometimes it is because they do not really want to be in class. If the student is forced to learn Karate by his or her parents, I will speak to them and say, "well, let's make the best of it." My expectations won't be too high, but I will try to give the student something to feel good about -- learning a new technique or kata, helping a younger student, etc.

You really can't teach a student, you can only help them to learn -- to ignite their interest and then feed it. And they won't learn if they are not in class. When you feel like telling a student to quit, you should remember the times it was difficult for you to train. What if you quit then?

Many of the best instructors where not the best students when they started. Many of the best instructors had to overcome many problems to gain their skills -- to earn their skills. At some point in their lives, a sensei inspired them and gave them the motivation to keep going. We are at our best when we inspire our students.


Charles C. Goodin