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Learning Hurts

The Continuing Adventures of a Would-Be Krav Teacher.

Anyone who has taught will tell you that, at least at first, you are your greatest obstacle to being a good teacher. For a variety of reasons, it’s unlikely that a neophyte instructor is going to be particularly good right out of the gate. Sometimes it’s lack of confidence, sometimes too much confidence. Sometimes it’s just that the base -you- isn’t necessarily a great fit as a teacher. Yet.

 

This is not a bad thing because that’s what learning is all about. Before we can teach well, we have to learn well.

More than halfway through my time in the Assistant Instructor Course for Urban Tactics Krav Maga, I have (re)learned the above a few times. Multiple written and verbal tests later, it has at times been a struggle to adapt to a curriculum and regimen not of my setting, while learning skills I don’t yet have. You forget simple things – names, dates, even techniques – you knew. You trip over the different methods for teaching different people, getting the methods and even the people mixed up.

The bright spot in this has been the students. You’d think people that sign up to learn how to survive and defend themselves when things go bad would be a grim, focused lot, bent on the destruction of weakness. Not so. Krav students that I’ve met have been interested, eager, cooperative and fun to teach. Patient when I do something obviously wrong or say something too quickly to understand. It’s a cliche that teachers learn from their students as much as the reverse, but it’s a cliche for a reason.

Learning to teach Krav Maga is an exercise in not only technique and memorization but also forethought and empathy. Patience and perspective. The first two are rote – the rest is the real work of a student teacher. And to get them right means having to adjust how you think and speak and react to people.

Midterms and exams, arduous though they may be, are not where you learn what you don’t know. That comes in class when you’re in front of all those watching eyes. Actually knowing the techniques is just step one. It gets harder after that.

On the bright side, it is pretty fun and it’s a job worth doing. So, onwards towards the final and the oh so fun orange belt test. Onwards!

 

 

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This is part of a series on our instructor training program. To understand this series and how our Assistant Instructor Course and Full Instructor Course work, please start with Part 1. This post is a self-introduction from one of our current Assistant Instructor candidates.

My name is Andrew.  Jon made us give our names. Our real names, too. Dammit. I so wanted to be called “Hawk of Hell”.  I’m one of the people up there in the image above. The rest are my family.

I’ve been studying Krav Maga at UTKM for, oh, a year and a half now, barring downtime for work, illness, etc. I’m currently enrolled in the six-month long Assistant Instructor course, which comprises of hours of weekly classroom study, physical practice, many written and verbal tests, culminating in a final exam and an orange belt test.

By the time I’m an Assistant Instructor, I will know plenty more about every aspect of Krav Maga than I’d ever even thought existed. Technically, I volunteered for this process and this blog post is to explain why. Also, I have to write it or else. Fear is the little death. I must not fear…unless you’ve been kicked a lot in the groin. Then fear. Anyhoo.

As a child and young man, I took a fair amount of beatings, being too smart, too chubby and, mostly, too mouthy in a small rural community where none of those attributes, especially combined, were particularly… appealing to other children. This gave me an early respect for what physical harm can do in terms of motivation and deterrent, as well as a serious desire to not be on the receiving end of said harm.

In the 30+ years since I first tried a martial art (Karate of some kind when I was about 12), I’ve enjoyed the idea that there could be a system to not getting beaten up, as opposed to my more generalized don’t-talk-so-much-oh-crap-run-fast methodology. I’ve tried Karate of various kinds, Kung Fu, and Aiki-Jutsu, mostly dabbling in these as life took me from one place to another. I’ve liked all of them. Some I’ve loved, like Tai Chi. My tiny, murderously precise Tai Chi teacher helped as well. Suffering brings focus, kids!  Wait… small, murdery, hyper-fussy… I may have a “type…” Hmm.

I’ve also been in a few (probably too many) real-life fights and I noticed that outside individual techniques (snap kick, straight punch, etc.), relatively little of what I learned in a dojo or studio translated very well to sudden application in the rain or on the cement or while walking home thinking about math classes (math – where getting punched in the face isn’t the lowest point of your day). Sadly, part-time martial arts training wasn’t really helping me fight safely and by the time I’d learned it well enough, I was actually old enough that people had stopped using their angry bits to get me to stop talking. Mostly.

However, I’d long had an interest in Krav Maga, mostly because I’d read the founder, Imi Lichtenfeld used what became Krav to punch Nazis. Nazis.

nazipunching

The fighting style for Nazi-punching. Hell yes, I’m interested! Sign me up! And my children! And my wife!

This might have gone on as an unrequited love affair forever except my teenage daughter moved to the city with us and (wisely) demanded some self-defense training. A more in-depth study of practical defense systems indicated that Krav Maga was a very solid choice for someone interested not in out-boxing or out-grappling an opponent on a mat, but more in surviving an attempted robbery or rape while on their way home, thinking about math. Also for punching Nazis, should any be so foolish as to rear their dyed blonde heads again. Anti-rape, anti-nazi, so much goodness in one eye-gouging package.

Today, my whole family does Krav – schedules allowing. The young ones for protection, the older ones for fun. Since I’ve already proven I can raise larvae without all of them dying (yet), our Lead Instructor decided that I should be applied to the (theoretically) more durable students. I might have said no, but having been a frequent groin kick-ee has reduced my will to oppose said groin kick-er. It’s a very Krav method of promotion. Just like real life, sometimes “choice” is just a synonym  for “sudden stabbing pain.”

So far, my experience with the Assistant Instructor program can be summed up in that Jon is a cruel bastard with the compassion of a dying wolf spider. Less legs, though.

 

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Our lead instructor, Jonathan among UTKM students after a Yellow Belt test.

 

I hope only to make it through the six (6) two-hour-long exams (no multiple choice, what, are you kidding? You mad fool!), the midterm and the final exam in order to throw up all over my Lead Instructor during my Orange Belt test. Gonna eat hot dogs and clams in oyster sauce just before the test – good luck cleaning that smell out.

Then graduate and do to others what has so thoroughly been done to me. Yesss.

Gotta have dreams, right? Good! Hands up! Look around! Condition yellow, kids. Never know when there’s a big guy with a (padded) bat right behind you…