What NATO taught me about being a Krav Maga instructor: 4 points about leadership and teamwork

Posted: October 25, 2016 by urbantacticskravmaga in Krav Maga Instruction
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I have been serving with the army for about 14 years now and recently experienced something interesting that I want to share. While participating in one of the biggest NATO exercises with a very serious group of military professionals, I was able to observe examples of leadership in the group. There were both fine leaders as well as some pretty questionable leaders.

One lesson I learned in particular through this experience was the consequence of forming cliques within a large organization. I witnessed people creating their own sub-groups, taking all the resources from other teams, becoming overly protective of their own teammates or subordinates, and unwilling to participate in or contribute to group work or the success of the team as a whole.

As Krav Maga instructors, we can learn from this…

For example, at UTKM, we have different instructors teaching each day. Greg teaches on Monday, Dave on Tuesdays, Josh on another day, and so on. Some students only attend certain instructor’s classes due to their personal schedule and/or preference.

Four points come to my mind as guidelines for Krav Maga instructors (and other instructors as well) to maintain unity and solidarity as a school. Keep these four things in mind to help you and your team ensure that you are a cohesive unit!

SCHOOL CULTURE, NOT PERSONAL CULT

Oftentimes, we have to be aware of creating a cult under individual instructors or classes. We must take steps to avoid doing our own thing in class and straying from the curriculum. To do this, we must acknowledge above all things that our students are people who choose to train under our school. Maybe they enjoy your personality or style as well, but ultimately they are students of the school.

As the school grows, we run the risk of allowing personal preferences to change the curriculum in a way that does not reflect the school anymore. It could create a different culture, or subculture within various instructor-led classes. Some students who are sensitive to a cult of personality could consider themselves more elite than other students or classes.

GO BY THE BOOK, THEN ADD YOUR STYLE

When implementing techniques, everyone has their own personal flair, but there is always the textbook reference. In classes, always follow the textbook first, then show your personal preference later. Students need to have a common foundation to understand the moves, and they also need to be able to attend different instructor’s classes and receive the same training.

Every instructor has different strengths and weaknesses, style and preferences. While training new instructors for UTKM, I have seen that some of them are great at being aggressive, some are very technical, some are very patient, some are very lively. I am constantly amazed by how different instructors bring something unique to class, and each provide something similar but original to students. For example, Jon is someone who pays incredible attention to detail, and the depth of knowledge he teaches to students is not something I can do myself.

Think of the textbook reference as your bone structure, and personal style as muscle. We all have the same bone structure, but our muscles are different. The point is that it is good for us to have variation in teaching styles and methodology, but it is more important for the curriculum and materials to be the same.

COMMITMENT

Know your reason for being here, know your mission, and do what you promise. This is what I learned during my NATO experience. On the contrary, at UTKM, we always give instructors the right to say no to things due to schedule conflicts, or other reasons. However, there is a difference between prioritizing personal affairs, and neglecting responsibility.

We all have to commit to doing what we say because it has an impact on everyone else in the group. The success of one person’s job is important for the success of one team’s mission, which is vital to the success of the other teams, which is crucial for the success of the organization as a whole. The key to ensuring the individual and the team does their jobs well, is to let them know how important their tasks are and how their piece of the puzzle informs the bigger picture.

vimy_ridge_-_canadian_machine_gun_crewsFor example, one of Canada’s great triumphs was Vimy Ridge in WWI. At Vimy Ridge, Canadians inflicted a significant defeat on the Germans, causing the German commander-in-chief, General Erich Ludendorff, to admit that their campaign was “the black day of the German army.” The key to the Canadian military success was that every soldier, from Private to General knew exactly what their job was and, even in the absence of leadership (happens a lot in war and business), everyone could still finish their task. Therefore, the overall mission was successfully completed. It was a daring attack that marked a turning point in the war, and as Sir General Arthur Currie said, it was “the grandest day the Canadian Corps ever had.”

Believe it or not, we are fighting a war

In this world. Right now. Every one of our students has the potential to use what we teach them in a life or death situation (many have done so already). If we fail as instructors, our students suffer, get hurt, or die. The leadership we need to take in class is not just about how good you are or how nice your personal style is.

Think team and think big – bigger than just your class, bigger than just our school. Think of our society as a whole, and think of the world.

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