So you want to be a Krav Maga Instructor?

Posted: February 20, 2016 by Jonathan Fader in Krav Maga Opinions, Krav Maga Philosophy

It seems that Krav Maga is really starting to take off globally. Whenever a particular style finds success on mass this of course means that many individuals will flock to it like seagulls on fries. The success of Krav Maga has happened because people have come to realize it is has real practical application unlike many of the sports styles out there. Inevitably however, whenever something is successful there are always those out there who seek to benefit from its success simply because it is successful and not for what it actually is or can be. The kind of people that do this in the martial arts world are no different than those in any other field quite simply they are vultures.

So who should be a Krav Maga instructor? The first question a person needs to ask themselves is why do you want to be an instructor? First I would like to address several issues I see with many people I have met or I know that wish to be Krav Maga Instructors.

Are you in it for the Money?

If the answer is simply money, then let me tell you, that the first few years of running a gym or organization means very little money and often a lot of stress about not having enough money. In addition, they say that 4 out of 5 business fail with in the first 5 years. In my experience and looking into it, most gym owners struggle to make it work (this include fitness gyms) and probably have a number closer to 4.9999 out of 5 fail within the first 5 years. So if it’s just money you are after then you might as well just buy a lottery ticket because the odds of winning are just as high with far less work, sweat and blood.

But let’s say, that you are interested in money and you make it big have a chain of gyms and begin pumping out instructors at a monthly rate. This means that you are no different than any other mcdojo out there and are following the trends of several other styles of martial arts that while historically started out as self-defense became nothing more than glorified belt factories.

This is not what Krav Maga is about, and if this is you, please do us all a favor and stop.

Of course there are many out there who look for the cheapest and easiest route to becoming an instructor and to me this is wrong. Consider it an investment.  Training people properly and for the length required is expensive and takes time. So if you pick your instructor course simply because it is the cheapest and most accessible and provides you with minimum startup costs, then I also suggest you are in it for the wrong reason. To this I say, could you please stop and go look for another path in life because if you are going to skimp on your training then I can’t even imagine what kind of training you might offer your potential students.

Do you feel your previous rank entitles you to something?

Another scenario is the individuals out there that believe because they hold a high rank, let’s say black belt, it automatically qualifies them to be an instructor. While many subscribe to this ideology this is something that I strongly disagree with.

I want to firmly establish that there is a BIG difference between a great practitioner and a great instructor or teacher. I have taken classes from black belts or equivalent in many different styles and I can assure you that not all of them are good instructors. Many times I felt like I wasted my time and money. Just because someone has a high belt, competes, or can punch the bag harder and longer than anyone else does not mean they have a clue about what it means to be a good instructor. Remember, it’s just a belt and it usually just means that they have put a lot of time, energy, blood and sweat into earning it. Unfortunately they probably had very little training on how to actually teach in real life.

In the case of Krav Maga we get a lot of practice learning how to fight in real life but most of the high ranking practitioners I have met are mediocre at best when it comes to teaching.

With this being said, I have met many individuals who are already a black belt in one system of martial arts or even Krav Maga and ask if they can get an equivalent ranking automatically in another system or organization. This is just plain wrong. If you go to a new style or organization, you start at the bottom again. If you truly are the rank you say you are you should have no problem proving it again, and again, and again. You should demand that you go through the entire ranking process under any given system or organization whether it be Krav Maga, BJJ or Karate. If you really are the level you say you are they will recognize it appropriately and you will get your rank.

The same goes for instructors, just because you have a black belt does not mean I recognize your ability to teach, but I think I have made this clear. A black belt, does not mean you have the right to have a giant ego so please check it at the door.

How long is your instructor course and is it teaching you how to teach?

While I can’t speak for other countries I can say that in Canada becoming a regular teacher in the school system is not as easy as taking a course over a week and boom you can teach. After you receive your BA you then have to take additional teacher training usually 1-2 years. The problem with this, at least from talking to all my friends who are teachers is that they spend so much time on theory and not enough time on real life application. Usually individuals I know who are teachers generally tell me that they did not really learn how to teach until they actually got some real world experience. This is because people are simply unpredictable and thus you don’t really know how to convey the information until you actually get to see the group of people you are working with.

So if this is what it takes to be a regular teacher why do so many Krav Maga organizations think that individuals can learn to be good instructors by simply taking a course that ranges from 4-7 days on average? Not only that most of these courses, at least the ones I have taken and my colleagues have taken, do very little in the way of teaching to teach. They spend most of the time reviewing the techniques and expecting you to perform them. This means that really what the course is doing is reviewing. And of course double checking to see if you are a good practitioner. In addition to this they rarely fail people, which means really if you pay your money and show up you can be an instructor. Even if you really are not qualified. How much of what you actually learned in such a short time can you repeat verbatim? Individuals I have been teaching for over a year now to be instructors, still cannot remember everything.

In my opinion while an instructor’s course should double check that the individual is reasonably proficient on the techniques, it should focus far more on how to actually teach the techniques. If your course spends most of the time punching a bag and making you sweat then I argue it isn’t really an instructor course but a high level practitioner course, which is not the same thing.

In addition, they should not just accept any one. You should already have had previous Krav Maga training or numberous years of another style that is reasonable close before you even consider becoming an instructor. In BJJ for example, while often there is no instructor’s course, you cannot teach until you have a blue belt which for most part, takes 2- 5 years. This gives you ample time to really pick up not just the art of the fight but also the art of teaching. Yet I have seen and heard stories of various Krav Maga organizations and schools pushing their instructor course after an individual has only been training for 3 months. This is also wrong and yet seems to be acceptable by many usually because these courses are how they sustain their organization financially. To me this just weakens your organization or school and shows you have very little integrity.

What actual rank you hold is a little less important depending on what organization you came from previously. As one organization’s yellow belt may be another’s blue belt. I think you get the idea. But this is because of the general lack of unified standards in the Krav Maga world. Though your organization or school, should have a minimum standard as to what level in your ranking system is required as a minimum, prior to doing the instructor’s course.

So to sum this section up, very few instructor’s courses are actually preparing instructors with integrity especially if they are so short, rarely fail people and are open to most paying customers.

You only have time for a Crash Courses

One can reasonably say they cannot take a year or two out of their regular life to go train at a specific location in order to become an instructor. This of course in our ever-changing and busy world is a very reasonable concern, especially if there is no financial guarantee of success after the fact (though in the modern world the same can be said for a 4 year BA). Enter the crash course, which is the format most organizations offer now except that to me they are still way too short.

A crash course should be a minimum of 6 weeks to 3 months of training. Whether this is done in one go or in modules is of less importance but allows a proper amount of time to develop the skills of teaching over time.

Also such a course should also first check if they are proficient enough in skill to be ranked at your minimum level prior to moving on to anything else.

In addition, your instructor training course should focus on real instructor training which should include theory, history of your art, other organizations background knowledge, firearms knowledge, shooting practice etc… as well as the regular hand to hand combative one would expect.

If you say this is too much time to commit to, then again I suggest you choose something else as your life’s vocation. And let’s face it, most people are willing to shell out thousands more and years more time for a traditional education why are they so unwilling to put in the proper time to be both a great practitioner and a great instructor? It is a mystery I still cannot figure out…

Does your program require Firearms training?

That’s right, you read it correctly. If you didn’t already pick it up from the previous section this is an area that is SEVERELY lacking in most instructor programs. If you know my work then you know how I feel about instructors teaching gun disarms without ever having fired a gun or with very little experience. If you don’t know how I feel about this then let me remind you. It is a great way to get individuals killed. If your instructor program does not have a firearms section that includes live fire (where permissible and legal) then you are not training your instructors properly. IF you are offering it as a separate course elsewhere then you are probably just in it for the money and again offering courses for the wrong reasons.

As Krav Maga must cover all possible scenarios required in self-defense it is inevitable that at some point you may have to train a scenario in which you have to use the gun you just took away from an attacker. How can you possible do this as a practitioner, let alone and instructor if you have little to no working knowledge of firearms?

If your country or region has very tight control on firearms then try to use simulation guns such as airsoft and add in that much more theory and break down of the operation of firearms in your instructor training.

Does Military or Police experience matter?

Something else that comes up a lot is the issue of military or police experience of a candidate. The short answer is that no it is not required HOWEVER, it is a huge bonus especially when it comes to more complicated situations that require military or police tactics in order to walk away safely. I do not want to cover this issue to much as I plan on writing a longer in depth piece on this later, but the short answer is no you do not require operational experience to be an instructor. But if you don’t have said experience then you better try your hardest to catch up in the training they receive which can be found all over the world from various organizations.

So do you still think you have what it takes to be a Krav Maga Instructor?

Ok if you made it this far you have probably thought that according to me it’s impossible to be an instructor but this is not true. So far I have pointed out a few things.

  1. Money is not a good reason to want to be a Krav Maga Instructor, because quite frankly you are more likely to be broke, especially if you have no business sense.
  2. If you have an ego take it elsewhere. Teaching Krav Maga is about teaching others to defend themselves from all situations, not to prove how awesome you are and how good your resume is.
  3. Much of the instructor training out there does little to do with actually teaching to teach. Which means if you want to be really good, you have to train with lots of different organizations and styles to hone your own skills.
  4. Becoming an instructor should be no different than any other form of higher education. It is going to take time, commitment and there will be some costs associated with it. But hey you get what you put into it whether it be time or money.

So let’s talk about what makes a good instructor in my opinion, which is really quite simple.

  1. NO EGO!!!
  2. Good communication skills and easy to understand
  3. A good sense of humor
  4. The ability to learn and grow and never stop doing this
  5. Real world experience or the training to make up for it
  6. Be a reasonaby proficient practitioner.

Notice that I put actual practical skill as the last item. That is because I would rather have a good practioner who can learn to be a great instructor than an amazing practitioner who cannot learn and grow. Not to mention numerous studies suggest that one of the best ways to get better at something is to teach it. So if you maintain reasonable training and teach most of the time you may find yourself getting better at Krav Maga than an individual who puts hours in training physically. This is because the mind does not always know the difference between actually doing, and thinking about doing. This means that a good instructor is developing his or her practical muscles through a more cerebral and calmer state of mind than a person who has simply adopted the aggressive nature that often is associated with Krav Maga.

Lastly, you have to really love doing it, because if you don’t then the people you are teaching will not enjoy themselves as much as they should.

So, regardless of what organization you go with, know that if you want to be a good instructor you must never stop developing yourself so that you can always continue to develop your students. If you take a course and then never re train again, you are doing yourself, your students and your school a disservice.

So you want to be a Krav Maga Instructor? Make sure you are willing to put in the time, the commitment and make sure you are actually learning how to be a better instructor and not just a better practitioner.

And remember, do it, so that we all may walk in peace.

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