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39 Things Instructors Should Not Do

1. Don't curse at students. Obviously.

2. Don't get angry, especially when hitting a student. We are supposed to be calm, even when defending ourselves. So why be angry in class? It makes no sense.

3. Don't belittle students, put them down, embarass them. A person will remember an insult forever.

4. Don't overly criticize students. Try to find something positive to say. Correcting is good. Being overly negative is not. Correct one thing and praise two.

5. Teach by example, not by edict. The sensei is the example for the dojo.

6. Don't just stand there shouting commands. Train youself. You should train harder than the students. Don't be a kuchi bushi.

7. Don't speak negatively of other instructors, styles, or art. It only makes you look bad and lowers the class.

8. Don't forget that the newest and youngest students have the most potential. It is up to you to help them to realize that potential.

9. Don't forget that you were once a student too.

10. Don't tell students one thing and do another. Don't tell them to be humble and then dwell on rank, titles and awards.

11. Don't forget who taught you, who taught them, who taught them and so on. We would not be here if not for a long line of teachers.

12. Don't forget to always feel a sense of honor and responsibiity when teaching. My friend and senior Art Ishii often discuss the way that the Judo Sensei we remember growing up were pillars of the community. We might not be pillars (Ishii Sensei is), but at least we should be upright.

13. Don't flirt with students. Training should be free from inappropriate behavior. Students trust you. Do not abuse that trust. When I was young, my sensei often advised me not to date my students. I have seen some marriages ruined by this.

14. Don't come to class drunk or when high on drugs. Do not become drunk at any Karate functions. Some sages become fools when drunk -- and that is how students will remember them.

15. Don't brutalize students, particularly younger ones. If you break a student's spirit, they will never learn Karate. Brutal instructors are often insecure.

16. Don't slack off. If you don't try hard, neither will the students.

17. Don't forget that the highest instructor is still a student. If you are not still learning, how can you teach?

18. Don't expect students to do things that you would not do (unless you have a physical limitation). Like Kyan Chotoku used to say, "if he does it three times, I will do it seven times!"

19. Don't forget to also study the history and traditions of the art of Karate. In that way, you will find many things in common with other styles and systems. A person who knows little only sees differences.

20. Dont' forget that the "secret" of Karate is practice. No matter how poorly a student may perform the techniques and kata or Karate, he will improve with practice. You can't cook a one hour cake in five minutes.

21. Don't copy bad examples. If you teacher did something wrong, that does not mean that you have to. Copy his good traits and avoid any bad ones.

22. Don't forget that some of the youngsters in your class might be smarter than you! Some might be geniuses! Some might go on to be much better at Karate than you. If so, then you have done a great job as a Sensei.

23. Don't teach religion in class -- unless you are qualified to do so and the students have agreed to also learn religion from you. Respect each student's right to his own beliefs.

24. Don't forget that the basics are the most important part of Karate.

25. Don't teach so many kata that the students become good at none.

26. Don't forget that students should learn how to use each movement of a kata -- and ultimately how to counter them too.

27. Don't forget that the most important thing is character. What good is Karate skill with poor character?

28. Don't forget that you are responsible for your students. You must know their character. Don't teach dangerous techniques to students you do not know. Who knows that they will do with them?

29. Don't adjust your student's feet with your feet. Get down and make the adjustment with your hands.

30. Don't be distracted. During class, think only of your class and students. Leave the outside world in your slippers (outside).

31. Don't call yourself "sensei." You are called "sensei" by others.

32. Don't come to class late (unless there is a good reason). The sensei is usually the first to arrive and the last to leave.

33. Don't forget to take part in cleaning the dojo. A person who is too good to clean the dojo, is not too good.

34. Don't forget to enjoy Karate. Don't teach Karate as a way to make students miserable. If you enjoy Karate, your students will enjoy it too. They will catch your fire.

35. Don't think of your senior students as potential competitors. How can you teach them if you think this way? What are you going to do, have them sign noncompetition agreements?

36. Don't neglect your family. Imagine losing them because you pay too much attention to Karate. Now do not let that happen!

37. If Karate is something you do part time or as a hobby, don't neglect your work. Imagine losing your job or livelihood. Now do not let that happen either! I remember a gradute student telling me that he was failing at school because of the demands of his Karate dojo.

38. Don't forget that one day you will become old, your strength will decline, and you will not be able to compete with young men any more -- unless you learn to use "whole body" dynamics.

39. Don't get mad at me for making this list. If you have been around for a while, you've probably seen many of these "don'ts" and perhaps some that were even much worse!


Charles C. Goodin