Some time ago, I wrote the article Finding yourself as an instructor.  This was to help you begin to think about and develop your own teaching style that makes YOU unique.  Whether you’re a full-time instructor or occasionally undertake martial arts instructing, I truly feel that a good part of your personal growth rests in your commitment to build on your skills, to deliver your teaching authentically, and to teach in a way that also portrays you as a person. In this article, I draw upon my own experiences to share with you how I made my martial arts instructing unique.  I hope that this would help make the process easier for finding yourself as an instructor, especially if you are currently reviewing your own self-development.

The art of being yourself

I’ve loved teaching ever since the first time I was asked to instruct a small group of practitioners.  I think my first teaching experience was six months in.  I certainly learnt A LOT over the years. This was through trial and error, asking for advice and feedback, and attending specialised training sessions.  A key message that seemed to be repeated was ‘just be yourself’.

Initially, I took this to mean not to be nervous.  Over time, however, the more I thought, the more I began to realise that ‘just be yourself’ literally meant just that: let your students know who you are.  From this revelation, I had a good reflection about who I was, truly.

So, who am I?

Art and animation are close to my heart.  I’ve been fond of them since I was first able to pick up a pencil.  When I say art and animation, I mostly mean the cartoon form.  I am as fascinated about the artwork and story that goes into an animation, as I am about the over-exaggerated expressions that make the characters entertaining. I therefore decided to incorporate this passion to make my martial arts instructing unique.

The performance begins

I’d like to think that my martial arts instructing style is simply getting into character for an animated performance.  This essentially means that I would teach students in an entertaining way by incorporating concepts from animation. This includes: occasional over-exaggeration, change of voice, various facial expressions, and cartoon references.

I enjoy doing this the most with children, particularly because they are very receptive to my teaching style.  However, I’ll still adopt this style with teens and adults because this is where I am being myself and it makes my martial arts instructing unique. Saying that, I would water my style down slightly so that they’d think I’m less strange!

It’s important to note that my style is essentially the same regardless of what I teach even outside martial arts, because it reflects me.  What varies is how my style is applied, depending on the context.  For example, when teaching university students, I may introduce a comic sketch or short animation to help convey a point.  I also love memes. 

What teaching means to me

It may surprise you to learn that I’m naturally a quiet person.  However, when I teach, I can be quite expressive – and in my own view – quite comical too!  I feel it’s the creative and arty side within me that has the opportunity to show itself.  As an instructor, when you have energy and passion, it naturally rubs off on your students too.

So, what about you?

Whether you’re just beginning to teach or have more experience, I believe that the opportunities to learn and grow for self-development are endless. At the core of all this is the importance to ‘just be yourself’.  I encourage you to reflect on who you are: your likes, character, and other passions – and see if you can fuse any of them into your teaching style.  A lot of this process is learning from experience.  Some ideas might instantly work, others will need refinement, whilst others yet might need to be abandoned.  It may help to have a few ideas written down and to discuss with others. 

Over the years, I’ve noticed that the most memorable sessions are those where practitioners are not simply teaching for the sake of it. Instead, they go that extra step by becoming personable through communicating who they really are. This takes time and hard work, and will constantly evolve as you do. However, it’s a good way to provide students with a great learning experience, and makes instructing more fun – even for those who may find it quite daunting at present.

Do you already merge your other passions into martial arts teaching? Or maybe you’d like to discuss some ideas with me?  Either way, drop me a comment below!


Sabrina Mistry

As a qualified Personal Trainer and 2nd Dan traditional martial artist, Sabrina combines both to deliver workout programmes, martial arts instruction and fitness classes that are designed with the longer-term health of the body in mind. Get connected on Instagram and Facebook: @beyondthedojang

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