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Saturday, 9 January 2010

Why I Teach

Before explaining more about my training background and what I teach I though it might be useful to write some thoughts about why I teach (apart from "it beats getting a proper job....)
My aim is to give people good "general" self defence skills that will help them cope with day to day difficulties. It's important to me that the training methods foster good general fitness and health. I also hope to encourage an open-minded attitude in people, to make them inquisitive (nothing is above questioning), adaptable and as self-reliant as possible.

I hope that the training reflects that - and that while covering all the generalities (which of course the principle-based approach allows us to do ) we also have time for some specifics. Some of our people need these for their work, be they prison staff, serving military, etc and it's interesting for the other guys to cover these areas as well. Where I can't teach specifics myself, we are lucky in having a wide range of skill sets across the group (from English backswording to hot-wiring a car...) to draw upon. . Outside of that we can always look to call in other groups or people for their expertise

I try to make the training multi-faceted and evolving. Everyone has input in the process (a standard practice in Systema classes), there are no divisions of grade, rank or experience. The training should be progressive with varying levels of pressure to test understanding and encourage skill development. There is no emphasis on competition (in the sporting sense) or being glued to a syllabus (in the traditional sense). Hopefully the lessons learned are universal in their application. I tend not to distinguish between training for this or that, to me it's all just training - the application is up to you.

There are some things any instructor has to balance and these are the most challenging areas of teaching. There is realism vs safety (training is never real, there is always a compromise, the balance is in minimising the compromise). There is information overload vs in-at-the-deep-end. I tend not to be an especially technical instructor, nor someone who explains every minute facet. Having said that it's important to ensure everyone has at least some understanding of a drill or exercise. Sometimes the meaning is layered and sometimes students come up with their own understanding too, which is something to encourage.

The needs of the individual vs the group. I'm lucky in having an experienced group of guys who work well with each other or with new people. There's always a balance between helping someone who is struggling (which is all of us at some point) and keeping a level appropriate to the group as a whole. There is also a danger of always playing to the strengths or needs of one or two people in the class (and that includes the instructor!)

Which leads to - personal skills vs student skills. What I mean by that is not to be an instructor who wants to develop people in his own image, but encouraging people to develop their own strengths. Of course we all have areas of particular skill and ability, but the balance is in recognising what our students need, not what we like to do. The same can be said for projecting our own fears or psychological hang-ups onto our students (believe me I could write a book...)

In short I see my job as an instructor to construct an environment in which people can develop their skills, develop their ideas and test their understanding in a challenging but safe way. It's not for me to say how successful I am, but, with a small measure of pride I'm pleased to see how the Regulars have developed, especially over the last year or so. On the one hand it makes my job easier - everyone knows to just get on with it. On the other it's harder to find new challenges and to keep things fresh and dynamic for all of us.

But the main reason I kept until last - I enjoy it! The day I don't is the day to stop doing it.....even if it means getting a "proper" job....

You can see clips of our class and workshop training at my Youtube page

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