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Things Instructors Should Not Do (40-62)

Some more things instructors should not do.

40. Don't forget to obtain insurance to cover your dojo. Hopefully, you will never need it. But if you ever do, you will be glad that you got it.

41. Don't forget to have your students (or their parent or guardian) sign a release/consent form when they join your class. See an attorney in your area to discuss this.

42. Don't forget to report income and pay state and federal taxes if you are obligated to do so. Making little or no money does not mean that you are "non-profit" and even being a properly registered non-profit corporation does not make you tax exempt under the federal law. Again, see an attorney in your area to discuss this.

43. Don't let visitors train in your dojo unless you have followed the proper procedure. Did you have them sign a release/consent? Did you discuss their visit with their instructor(s). Do you know the visitor? Is it possible that he could injure himself or your students?

44. Don't neglect your own students. If you are going to teach students around the country or the world, don't forget your students back home. It is hard to be a strong instructor if the students in your home dojo are weak.

45. Don't neglect your own education. If you want to teach karate professionally, it certainly would not hurt to have a college degree, even a graduate degree. To the extent that teaching Karate requires business skills, it could help to have business training. I know one Sensei who refused to promote one of his students until he obtained a college degree.

46. This applies here in Hawaii. Some of my sensei told me -- don't teach Karate as a business. It is very expensive to live in Hawaii. To have enough students to make a comfortable living, you would have to teach multiple times a day in different locations. When you are young, $10,000 or even $50,000 may sound like a lot of money. But after operating expenses, health insurance, pension contributions, etc. there may be little or nothing left for you. Many Sensei I know pursued professions and taught Karate on the side. For example, my son's Kendo Sensei was a thoracic surgeon. My Shorin-Ryu Sensei is a linguistics professor. Having a profession will enable you to provide for your family and will also allow you to underwrite the expenses of teaching Karate. Please don't get me wrong. I have nothing against teaching Karate as a business. It is just that it is very challenging, especially if you want to concentrate on a relatively small group of students. If you are going to teach Karate and work on the side, try to make that side job a skilled profession.

47. Don't think that you will live forever. Groom a successor while you are still strong enough to do so. Too many instructors wait until it is too late and then leave their dojo in disarray.

48. Don't forget to learn other martial arts. My Shorin-Ryu Sensei urged me to study other martial arts. This was around 1978. I subsequently practiced Judo, Aikido, Kendo, and Iaido. This helped my Karate tremendously. In the short term, training in other arts may take away time from your Karate training. But in the long term, it will make you a much better instructor.

49. Don't let your ego get in your way. Thinking you are too good will make you miss opportunities to learn. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Never think that you are too good to learn from someone.

50. Don't fall for the "traditional" trap. Calling a style of Karate "traditional" does not make it so. When it comes down to it, Karate was Okinawan streetfighting, elevated to a very high level. Sometimes, a very "traditional" style will become so crystalized/formalized that it loses its effectiveness as a self-defense art. What is traditional? An art from 1980, 1960, 1940, 1900, 1860?

51. Don't think that "non-traditional" methods are inferior. If something works, you should probably learn how to do it, at least so that you will be better able to counter it. A punch on the nose is a punch on the nose, no matter what you call it.

52. Don't forget to write articles. If you have good ideas about Karate, write them down and try to have them published. It will enhance your visibility as an instructor. And if you think that most Karate articles are shallow or wrong, you have only yourself to blame, unless you write yourself.

53. Don't forget to write about character. If you do write -- and I hope that you will at least try -- write an article or two about character issues. If you only write about tournaments, sports, politics, etc., you should not be surprised when people tend to focus on those things.

54. Don't look back. As soon as you accomplish something as an instructor, move forward. Don't spend too much time looking back at what you have done. You don't need to pat yourself on your back. Let your work speak for itself. If you won a championship in 1960 --LET IT GO.

55. Do not put your rank on your business card. Aside from issues of modesty and propriety, you will have to change your business card every time you are promoted.

56. Don't confuse Karate with the United Nations. It is just Karate. We are not ending starvation in Africa or resolving conflicts in the Middle East. But you'd be surprised how many people get embroiled in Karate politics, so much so that they will even quit the art.

57. Don't think that being a strong fighter means that you are healthy. You might be a great fighter. But if your blood pressure is too high and your cholesterol is out of control, your body will eventually break down. Also, what good is rigorous training if it ruins your knees, hips and shoulders? How can you defend youself if you are a wreck? Practice Karate for self-defense and health.

58. Don't forget that people will not remember you for how good you are -- but for how good your students become!

59. Don't forget that the great "masters" of old were just men too. They become skilled because of hard work -- not magic.

60. Don't become so attached to a way of moving or of perfoming a certain kata. If you tell your students that something has to be done a certain way, you will look bad later when you tell them to move another way. Be attached to the process of learning, not the specifics.

61. Don't do things simply because other Karate instructors do them that way. They could be wrong.

62. Don't forget that you are the example. If you are fat and out of shape, what does that tell people about the way that you teach? I know that some people may have health problems -- we all do. What I mean is this -- you have to train yourself too. A fireman has to be able able to climb a ladder and a Karate instructor has to be able to perform. Get into the best shape possible. One of my Sensei urged me to get into the best shape possible before I turned 50 because the body will naturally weaken after that age. If you are in very good shape, the decline will be more gradual. Be demanding of yourself.


Charles C. Goodin