Improving Martial Art Classes & Keeping your Students

Keeping your students coming back for more is not easy, there are several factors why students get tired of Martial Arts till they stop showing up for class.

1.- Every white belt gets amazed with the first couple of classes but like all of us, we need motivation. If the classes turn to be repetitive, the same exercises over and over then it tends to get anyone bored. We as human beings like a challenge, we like to experience something new, maybe a new exercise where you push yourself to a new limit but is safe for anyone. Are your classes repetitive? Do you have different routines or all classes are almost the same?

2.- “My instructor talks too much”, I have seen this many times when the instructor talks too much and it tends to get boring. When the students are warmed up, stretched then jump into the action but explain by showing rather than talking and talking too much. We learn by doing. “Once I was in a class where we were warmed up and ready, but the instructors 10-minute explanation got us all cold and by the time we had to do the drill we were all cold and we run out of time.

3.- “My instructor talks but never does the techniques”, when a student sees his instructor doing something he is motivating them to do it too, because if he can then his students can. If he shows the proper way on the spot he does not have to correct someone who is demonstrating for the class and not wastes time. Make the students want to be like you and imitate what you are doing.

4.- Be a role model! This is going to sound cruel and might not be an insult to many but is the truth, well no one likes to hear the truth sometimes. If you want your students to respect you then be the role model, here is a list of 5 complaints that I have heard in person in these countries (Chile, Peru, Mexico, Argentina, and USA)

1.- “My instructor was swearing at someone without noticing my mom and I were there for class”, how would you feel when you see your own instructor swearing like a sailor at someone in person or by the phone? This could be anywhere, not necessarily at the karate studio, but since you are part of the community then you are a local figure.

2.- “The class is boring now, it is always the same thing” It is good to have a routine for 1-hour class but do you always do the same? Do the same and your students will lose the interest, challenge them with something new, make them compete against each other, a new kicking drill, a circuit.

3.- “My sensei eats at MC Donald!” How would you feel if you walk into your karate school and your instructor is having fries, a burger, and coke… By the way, the instructor is overweight and mom does not like it there anymore. Not a good role model for my kid.

4.- “I don’t want to look like my sensei when I get to black belt” this is what a kid once told me in a school in the United States, little kids tell the truth because they are innocent and they see everything in a different way. If my instructor is not in shape then I don’t want to look like him when I get a black belt, no way. I know you have seen some overweight martial art black belts who do not train but talk and talk till you snore.

5.- “My sensei doesn’t like tournaments”, competing is healthy, it makes us try harder to get better. If every student sees their sensei, instructor or master competing then they will want to do it too, they see him stepping on the mat doing his best. But unfortunately, most of the black belts you see at tournaments do not want to compete due to all kinds of excuses, don’t want to spar? then do forms but become the role model you need to be for your students!

If we teach martial arts, we are teaching people how to survive in the jungle of concrete. We teach with our actions but we are responsible to provide proper training and quality of knowledge. Think of you as a student of yourself, if you were a student rate your class. What would you have done to make it better? Why do you think a certain number of students who were so eager to learn don’t come anymore?

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Peter A Soto is a Black Belt with more than 20 years of experience, athlete, teacher and webmaster. Based in the city of San Diego, California.