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ralph haenel, hänelwingtsun, wing tsun kung fu instructor, author, publisher, self-defense expert Sifu Ralph Haenel, learning and teaching Wing Tsun Kung Fu since 1984
Changing lives, one punch at a time.
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Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver Blog
Tuesday, 12 October 2010

More than 28 tips on how to be a better (Wing Tsun Kung Fu) trainer!

Is there anything a trainer can’t do?

Helen Stortini, I know Kung Fu - Roadshow stop: Kung Fu Instructor at http://unemploymentroadshow.com/2010/01/15/i-know-kung-fu/Over the years, I have talked to many instructors of different martial arts, also to fitness trainers and dance teachers. Whenever it comes to a general description of the job, many smile and explain it half joking and half serious as kind of a mix of being a teacher, good technician, psychologist, marketing expert, educator, even comedian, store manager, fighter, motivator, entertainer, showman, collection agent, and then some. All that mentioned in no particular order, I might add. Let’s not forget, in today’s world the instructor also needs to be a social media wizard. Do you have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or LinkedIn?

photo: Helen Stortini from UnemploymentRoadShow.com at Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver. Click here to read her story: "I know Kung Fu!"

While working in Wing Tsun classes on becoming a better instructor, the following pointers might help you to take a step back and review your own performance. After all, you teach the student to get better, which should also mean that you personally improve with each teaching experience!

Let’s assume, for our example here, the instructor gets in front of the class and starts to teach the form training. He is teaching the Siu-Nim-Tau, the first form of the Wing Tsun Kung Fu system.

Which pointers could improve, how we help the student to make progress, to understand the exercise, to get ideas for their home training?

- As instructor, one should look around and find out who is new in class.
- If you don’t know their names, ask and address the student by name.
- Ensure that everyone is facing the mirror, even senior members.
- Don’t just stand in front of the class, explain what they are working on right now, get out of your stance and walk around to help.
- Check where you need to correct a movement.

- Observe who may still be stuck in a previous part of the exercise or didn’t quite grasp the next step.
- Make eye contact.
- Does your explanation need clarity? Can you find better or more relevant examples to explain a movement, a technique?
- Further a better understanding of the purpose of the form, while opening eyes to finer details.
- Create points of reference, “bookmarks” if you will, to ease navigation through the form, which to the beginner may seem like a jungle of a thousand techniques.

- Don’t forget, you are able to start the form from beginning to end, show it backwards, or jump at the snap of the finger into each part of the form, you know all the benefits, you are well versed in the applications, know how to breath, which muscles to feel. But, a beginner or at times even a intermediate learner will get lost.
- In which direction are you speaking? Maybe the people in front of you can hear you, but what about the person to the very left or right?
- How is your pronunciation? Does everyone know what you are talking about or do you yourself get lost in insider lingo? Never assume you are being heard or understood. Ask, explain again, show, demonstrate, share stories which will be remembered.
- Regularly encourage questions; a student might have a great question you never asked yourself, but answering it helps others.
- Help everyone to focus on the detail in the moment, find out when eyes start to wander, checking out the ceiling, or the floor, or the clock.

- Induce a sense of teamwork while mentioning good performance, don’t forget or single anyone out, people do notice, - it doesn’t matter how old we are or where we stand in life, everyone can use a pat on the back for effort or accomplishment.
- Make sure beginners stand next to advanced members. This way they can watch you, and themselves in the mirror, yet also the person to their left and right, to copy movements until they are part of their routine.
- Build a easy to understand road map of the form. For example: “We are right now training this detail of the left hand segment of part four of the first form, it being part four out of eight.”
- Do you speak too fast? Too monotone? Do your explanations spark the trainees’ enthusiasm over the achievement of what they are doing right now? You wouldn’t want to create the boredom of a half-dead necessary routine. Even form training can lead to new heights of performance.
- Have people smile while the sweat is running down their face, while the arms or shoulders are shaking. Nobody feels as good as in the moment when you realize you performed beyond of what you think you can do!

- Mention again the benefits of the form. One should know why we go through particular sets of exercises.
- Explain the name of, and idea behind techniques.
- Explain the place of the form or single technique, their importance within the system of Wing Tsun. You want to create ‘aha-moments,’ during which the student recognizes how seemingly dead parts of the form come later on to life during partner exercises.
- At any given time pay attention to who follows your teachings, who is ahead and has to be led back to the detail training at hand, who is stuck and can’t find their way back into following you. Maybe give a quick review of what has been done so far.
- Check your examples. Do they make sense to everyone. Review your comparisons. Will they be understood without inside knowledge?

- At the end; encourage questions, lead somebody’s arm, correct their shoulder position. Some need to feel the movement, others need to hear the explanations, some need to look at example scenarios from different directions. Show muscle groups involved. Move! Make a clear distinction between right and wrong movement.
- Finally; take into consideration the ability to perform, the recognition of details and the understanding of its value at different points in time during one’s training.
I received feedback from people, who said: “I always heard you explaining the exercise, but never really got it. Today I felt something in my shoulder, now I understand it for the first time, what you have been telling me for so long.”
Another example? “I thought I knew what you meant with your teachings, yet only now I really get it!” Don’t forget! Even this understanding might change yet again over the months and years.
- Never assume anything!

Now. Are you ready to be a teacher, entertainer, technical specialist, historian, motivator, showman ... and more?

Are you a speaker? Are you a storyteller?

There is nothing a good trainer can’t do, or isn’t willing to add to teach better!

Or, if you are the student; help your trainer to evolve, ask questions, ask again, ask differently, ask for direction. Without going into even more detail, instructor and student can always benefit from each other.

Want to read stories of persistence, perseverance and patience? Go to http://trainerteam.wingtsunkungfu.com.

Rarely is anyone born a great teacher! Work on it! Train, teach, help!

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Posted by ralph haenel at 5:53 PM PDT
Updated: Thursday, 18 December 2014 5:05 PM PST

Thursday, 14 October 2010 - 9:07 AM PDT

Name: "Steve McMinn"
Home Page: http://www.fit4real.ca

Excellent post Sifu!

Will keep all of this in mind when teaching the SNT next Tuesday! 

Thursday, 28 October 2010 - 4:43 AM PDT

Name: "Brian"
Home Page: http://www.closecombattraining.com/

Wonderful tips worth to keep, learning requires a lot of patience and hard work.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010 - 8:14 AM PST

Name: "Antony "
Home Page: http://www.wing-chun.ws

Thank you for the useful tips that worth to keep as Brian says.

"Practice makes perfect"

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