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99 Things Wong -- 1 Thing Right

If a student does 99 things wrong and 1 thing right...

A poor instructor will criticize and yell at the student 99 times,
but miss the 1 right thing.

A good instructor will acknowledge and encourage
the student for the 1 right thing.

In my experience, criticism and yelling do not work.  If a student does something wrong, an instructor has to ask, "Why is he doing it wrong?"  Since he is the instructor, the problem lies with him.  How could he have taught better so that the student would understand?  What is the student missing?

In addition, a wrong movement is usually just a symptom of a deeper problem.  Yelling at the wrong movement will only draw attention to it.  The more the instructor yells, the more the student will tend to do the movement wrong.

High shoulders, for example, may be a symptom of loose lats.  Yelling about the shoulders will not get the student to squeeze his lats.  The instructor has to address the issues of the lats, and when the student says, "Maybe that's why my shoulders are so tight," that's when the instructor must say, "Yes, that is right!  So, so, so, so!"

All students make mistakes (so do I).  Mistakes are opportunities for progress, not reasons for yelling, punishment, shame, etc.

I remember whenever I made a mistake, my Sensei, Katsuhiko Shinzato, would be patient and have me try again.  Eventually he would say, "Perhaps you might try this..."  Then he would demonstrate a way to move that would address my problem.  He never criticized or embarrassed me -- and I was certainly old enough to take it and experienced enough to deserve it.  He always treated me with kindness and understanding -- and still does.  He taught by his example, by careful explanation, by creative experimentation, by approaching the subject many different ways (to get through to me), by patience, and by encouragement.  And once I could do something a little well, he recognized it (so that I could),  and we moved on and built upon my little progress.  On and on and on.

We have to learn to see the 1 right thing the student does.  We have to learn to encourage it so that the student will progress to 2 right things, then 3, then 99 right things and only 1 wrong thing.  Maybe even 100 right things!  Wouldn't that be great!

My Sensei here in Hawaii is Sensei Rodney Shimabukuro.  I always remember that he could be running five different groups of students, but even if he was standing on the opposite side of the dojo, with his back turned, he could tell when a student did something right.   He would yell out words of encouragement, such as "Good job!" or "That's right!"  He never missed such a moment... even with his back turned on the opposite side of the dojo.  I am still working on such awareness.


Charles C. Goodin