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#307465 - 12/12/06 05:12 AM Elevate the few or the many?
sure Offline

Registered: 07/05/05
Posts: 13
Some martial arts places where I've trained seem to consciously place an emphasis on cultivating their good students (i.e. the ones with natural ability) while others have clearly made a decision to raise the general level of student performance, rather than concentrate on the outstanding students. In my experience, neither approach is exclusive of the other category of students; they just get a lot less attention.

Where the individual high performer/s are the focus, they get most of the instructor's personal attention and extra tuition (in the class and sometimes outside of class time). Other students will get personal instruction, but a lot less time. An emphasis is placed on them learning from the interaction between the high performing student/s and instructor.

At the other end, the philosophy seems to be that good students will learn under any circumstances and they may even get less individual instruction than other more "average" students. The emphasis appears to be on raising the overall performance standard, but perhaps at the loss of achieving the excellent standard that only a few students are capable of achieving.

Do people have a view about which is the best instructional mode? Which instructional style would be your preference to study your martial art?

#307466 - 12/12/06 06:37 AM Re: Elevate the few or the many? [Re: sure]
JKogas Offline

Registered: 01/25/03
Posts: 10818
Loc: North Carolina
The best learning mode is one in which fundamentals supersede advanced technique and, where performance in those fundamentals ranks above “technique collection”.

Technique collection seems to be the main focus of many martial arts schools. In those cases, performance ability always takes a backseat. Its no WONDER people don’t improve very much.

Less definitely IS more.

People tend to put the cart before the horse because for so many, their objectives isn’t improvement, but chasing the next belt. Performance ability and rank don’t always go together (otherwise you’d not have guys like Fred Ettish, a 6th degree black belt in Shorin Ryu who couldn’t fight his way off a elementary school playground. I’m quite sure that Fred knew a LOT of “techniques”.)

So if a school places their premium on performance, the environment of that school will be completely focused on that end. Then, if you have in place a tiered mode of training (like the I-Method; introduction, isolation and integration), EVERYONE will improve to the limits of their own natural abilities.

The more experienced can train with the less experienced if people use progressive resistance and variable intensity. The experienced guys “dial down” their levels to meet the needs of the inexperienced. And when the experienced guys need to be challenged, they simply train with people of their own level. Still, everyone benefits, and with the right coaching, everyone is progressively challenged. When skill is in place, more tools are then added, but not before an individual can actually perform the techniques successfully, against his peers.

Hopefully that made some sense.


#307467 - 12/12/06 07:33 AM Re: Elevate the few or the many? [Re: JKogas]
Mark Hill Offline

Registered: 08/12/04
Posts: 1068
Loc: Australia

It is the best and brightest who have trouble training, they only get a marginal benefit from their partners.

But everyone else loves it when they turn up!
It takes a village to stone somebody to death.

#307468 - 12/12/06 08:10 AM Re: Elevate the few or the many? [Re: sure]
harlan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 07/31/04
Posts: 6665
Loc: Amherst, MA
The McDojos that I've seen stress personal attention on the moneymaker students; the ones that pay extra in private classes...either they or their kids (what do you know...the kids are usually enrolled/invested in the 'family venture' as well)...get the lion's share of attention in group classes as well. They move up faster, are tapped to start teaching, and become invested in the school in various ways.

Can't blame them...just the strategy. Personally, I'm all about getting all the attention as well. Face it: the more personal teaching and the more hand's on...the better. My strategy was to skip all the BS associated with a large school...and pursue private instruction.


Do people have a view about which is the best instructional mode? Which instructional style would be your preference to study your martial art?

#307469 - 12/12/06 10:17 AM Re: Elevate the few or the many? [Re: harlan]
tkd_high_green Offline

Registered: 05/16/05
Posts: 1031
Loc: Vermont
I can't say what works and what doesn't, only what happens at my school. I would have to say that the lower ranking students tend to get more individual attention than higher ranking students in class, which makes sense. Lower ranking students have more to work on and are still working on the basic techniques and its better if they get it right early on then have to correct it later, which is harder than learning right the first time.

Higher ranking students get less, but more focused attention, because these students have learned the basics and can see what is being asked much quicker and can be left alone to practice. Too much attention at a higher rank can be dangerous to your health

Higher ranking students will get more extra curricular attention, seminars or special classes because they have shown they are ready for the information.

Those high ranking student who show an aptitude for teaching get additional lessons on how to teach more effectively and advanced techniques that we can then turn around and teach our students.

I enjoy private instruction and the one on one attention, but I would not want it to be that way all the time because I enjoy the group atmosphere and friendly competition. There are a lot of opportunities you miss in a private lesson, such as competing against different people and learning to adjust for different sizes.


#307470 - 12/12/06 10:23 AM Re: Elevate the few or the many? [Re: JKogas]
cxt Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 09/11/03
Posts: 5843
Loc: USA

"Thebest learning mode is one where fundamentals superceed advanved technique and where performance in those fundamentals ranks above "technique collection"......Technique collection seems to be the main focus of many schools> In those cases performaence ability always takes a backseat--its no wonder people don't improve much."

Very well put--and a very good warning!

"Less is more."

Most of the time it IS.

Edited by cxt (12/12/06 10:24 AM)
I did battle with ignorance today.......and ignorance won. Huey.

#307471 - 12/12/06 10:44 AM Re: Elevate the few or the many? [Re: tkd_high_green]
ITFunity Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 07/15/06
Posts: 2053
Well I have a different take on this. In a system or school that follows a scientific or organized approach, less is taught when a student is a beginner. First, they know nothing at all. Second, it will be hard for them to grasp different concepts. However, if they concentrate their effort on forging & conditioning their bodies for their lifelong journey of study, the ride will be smoother. Additionally, a few basic techniques, if grounded soundly, will benefit the student forever. Therefore, a beginner learns few actual techniques & can be eligible for promotion in one month. As they move up the ranks, the techniques taught become more difficult, advanced & complex. They are also taught more volume of techniques. Therefore, the time between testing rises from 1 month, to 2 months, to 3 months to 4 months, to 5/6 months, then finally years between gradings.

It has been my experience, that what is taught & to who, is usually more about the instructor than the student. What I mean by this is that the reason it seems that the talented get more attention is because they are gifted & easier to teach. Instructors gravitate to them, as it makes their job easier. Also the results make them look better, even though it has less to do with them - then it does with the student's natural gift. Believe me, I learned the hard way. It was a humbling experience. The worth of a teacher, is not showing some hot shot some flashy technique, but rather having the average Jane or Joe, progress to a level where Jane & Joe would be proud.

I am aamzed at people who teach or work with special needs people. Those are the great teachers IMHO.

#307472 - 12/12/06 12:04 PM Re: Elevate the few or the many? [Re: sure]
MikeC Offline

Registered: 09/23/05
Posts: 130
Loc: Kingston Ontario
When I teach it is from the top down using a model more or less based on pre 1930's Okinawa model/ Japanese Koryu instruction. The student who has been with me the longest deserves more of my attention than the beginner who has just walked into the building. Also if you believe training is a test of character because what we teach is a dangerous practice in the wrong hands, than you will have few students and often they will be the better athletically and mentally. You will find a few with dogged determination with lesser abilities will stay around, but they than will also deserve to get the best of training depending on how much they can do and absorb. Training is not only about passing on a skill; it is a test of character. When a beginner walks in the doorway, you are limited to knowing what their character is. As one instructor said to me, “Karate is for everyone but not everyone is for Karate.”

I also have usually found that Natural Ability does not make a good student. They become bored easily. So unless, you stroke their egos, they often quit. Good training is not about stroking students/beginners egos.

#307473 - 12/12/06 12:10 PM Re: Elevate the few or the many? [Re: MikeC]
harlan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 07/31/04
Posts: 6665
Loc: Amherst, MA
An aspect I think that is often forgotten.


Also if you believe training is a test of character because what we teach is a dangerous practice in the wrong hands, than you will have few students.... Training is not only about passing on a skill; it is a test of character.

#307474 - 12/16/06 08:45 PM Re: Elevate the few or the many? [Re: harlan]
sure Offline

Registered: 07/05/05
Posts: 13
The issue of an instructor's attitude as ITFUnity has described it is one aspect about which I have been thinking in terms of teaching/learning effectiveness. If you are identified as a good student, this is usually well-based on fact; but there also is an element of self-fulfilling prophecy that comes into play.

Because you are a good student and this provides benefits to the instructor, you receive more instruction time...and you improve more and faster as a result than students who don't received this level of attention...and because you continue to perform or outperform, etc and this then sets up an iterative cycle.

But could this be a legitimate training approach (i.e. rather than a reflection of instructor personal gratification?) For example, you want the best people to stay and because you concentrate on raising the benchmark to its highest by concentrating on the best students, by so doing raise the benchmark of performance for all. This may result in fewer people staying, but the people who do stay may be more committed to high levels of achievement?

My personal preference is for a more equal distribution of instruction time. My observation is that it sets up a different group dynamic (greater sense of overall involvement) and a greater sense of student commitment (there's an opportunity for each individual to achieve)...but I could also see that this might not provide the best investment for an instructor's limited time.

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