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Types of students


Martial arts students come and go for a variety of reasons. Some students may be helped; others are beyond our ability to help. When students are beyond our ability to change or they are disruptive to other students, we must tell the students or the parents of the students that we can no longer teach them and that they need to find another school.

Students have different needs. All people have inherent instincts that guide their lives. These instincts manifest themselves to different degrees in everyone and one or more instincts may be expressed more than others. The prevailing instincts determine a person's personality type.

Instructors must be aware of the different types of students and tailor their curriculum and teaching methods to attract and retain as many of the different types of students as possible.

Student types

If a person has one prevailing instinct, he or she belongs to a pure type. If a few instincts are equally strong, he or she is a combined type. Students may be classified into types as to their instincts as follows:
  • Egophylum (self-preservation). Students of this type are careful and sober-minded and tend to be distrustful, suspicious, and egocentric. They avoid risk, are unadventurous, and prefer stability. They tend to worry and be hypochondriacs. They tend to be afraid of height, water, and high speed. They mostly value their security and well-being. They are very sensitive to insult and are very proud: therefore, they quite vulnerable to hurt.

    When dealing with students of this type, instructors and other students must be careful what they say and do around them since even the smallest thing may cause them to quit training. As an instructor, you cannot cater to their needs at the expense of other students, but you should be aware of their presence. If you do cater to their insecurities, you will lose other good students.
  • Genophylum (reproduction). Students of this type tend to think in terms of "we" instead of "I," with “we” meaning mainly family. Everything in their lives is geared to the interests of their family and children. They are super-fathers and super-mothers, the keepers of their family.

    To attract and keep student of this type, you must stress family participation in your school and have lots of family-oriented activities. This type of students is not concerned with self-defense; they only want the family to participate in a common activity. They will like well-run tournaments since they can all participate and have fun. They will also enjoy camps and other group activities.
  • Altruistic (compassion). Students of this type are kind, responsive, and compassionate. In their childhood, if they were attacked by a bully, they would not fight to spare the aggressor any pain, while stoically bearing their own pain. They are selfless and devote their lives to helping others, protecting the weak, and taking care of the sick and elderly.

    Students of this type are always good to have in a school. They cause few problems, make everyone feel welcome, and will be extremely helpful in all aspects of the school. These types of students also make good instructors since they enjoy helping others.
  • Research. Students of this type are creative, desirous of knowledge, inventive, seek to understand the essence of all things, and strive to find cause and effect connections. They forego the comforts of life and family in their quest for knowledge. They need to know the reason why something is done a certain way. They do not just want to be told to block a certain way, they want to know why they should block that way, and if they do not agree with the explanation, they will seek to find a better way to do the block.

    When dealing with students of this type, you had better know what you are talking about and not just be repeating something someone told you. Students of this type keep a martial art progressing so it will not stagnate or fall behind times. They help an art shed itself of useless methods and help it develop new methods.
  • Dominance. Students of this type are born leaders. They are logical thinkers, both self-critical and critical. They can foresee how events develop, accept new ideas, and can pick out the essentials. They are responsible, efficient, and practical. They understand other people and are emotionally restrained and steadfast. They know what they want to achieve and how to achieve it, and they are persistent and purposeful in the achievement of their goals. They egocentric, but they accept social interests and values as things necessary to achieving their goals. They think in the interest of the group while often ignoring the interests of the individual.

    Every school needs leaders; they make a school successful and help it grow. Sometimes a school owner is not a leader or an initiator. This is not a fault, it just that he or she is a different type of person. Having a leader in the school who also accepts being subordinate to the owner is good for business and will help make the school successful. However, the owner must reign in his or her ego and give the leader some leeway.
  • Liberophylum (freedom). Students of this type are freedom-loving, with intolerance for restriction, compliance, routine, bureaucracy, and conservatism. They are predisposed to travel and they work independently. They do not like to be controlled by anyone. They are optimistic, rely only on themselves, and live for today. They are revolutionary and seek to overthrow authority.

    Students of this type usually have problems dealing with the structured nature of the martial arts. They do not like authority and will usually be disruptive in class. Before being told to leave, they will probably quit on their own.
  • Dignitophylum (dignity). Students of this type are proud, intolerant to any form of humiliation by a person or entity, and are ready to give up their position, possessions, family, and even their own life in the name of dignity, integrity, and honor. "Honor above all" is their motto. They are not arrogant like egophylums; their pride is noble. Together with liberophylums, they act in a yin and yang relationship to counterbalance any form of authoritarian power naturally.

    Students of this type embody the martial arts culture. The samurai and hwarang would fall into this category. They believe in death before dishonor. They will probably stay evolved in the martial arts for a lifetime.

Student groups

These instinctive types of students may be divided into two groups:
  • Yin. The first two types possess the instincts of self-preservation, reproduction, and compassion, they make up the Yin group, which is characterized as passive, inhibitive, egocentric, and centered on self and family problems. This is the feminine group of instincts, which generally tends to reflect the innate necessity of security (family), stability, peace, and harmony with nature.
  •  Yang. The remaining types compose the second group, the Yang. Students in this group possess the dominance, research, freedom, and dignity instincts, and are characterized as active, socially centered, outwardly oriented toward self-realization among other people and society, and with social interests in general. This is the masculine group of instincts, which generally tends to reflect the innate necessity of self-affirmation, activity, search for the new, freedom, and preservation of dignity.
As with the basic philosophy of yin and yang, these two groups of students both oppose and support each other. They may be in conflict at times, while at other times, they are in harmony. It is the instructor’s responsibility to keep the two groups working together for the common cause of the helping the school succeed. Sometimes, this is easy to do; sometimes it is very difficult.


Here are some observations about the different types of students, and how to deal with them.
  • Better way. These students always have a better way to do things. When they first start coming to class, they are always talking about how they studied some other style and why it was so much better. These students have two choices: either quit classes and go back to the other style or file the other style away in memory as a learning experience and start learning to do things the way this style does it. There is no middle ground. Instructors should keep teaching these students the way their martial art does things in hope that one day the students will understand. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t work.
  • Not my way of sparring. When these students first start coming to classes, they are always talking about how their way of sparring is so much better than the way being taught. They are always critiquing other fighters and talking about how they could beat them. These students are self-limiting. The closer it comes to the time they are to start free-sparring where they must prove what they have been saying, the less they come to class, until they finally quit coming to class. They are weeded out by the old saying "Put up or shut up." Instructors should try to show them how to spar effectively and encourage them so they will keep training until they start sparring. Hopefully, their bragging will lessen as the time to start sparring approaches so that, when they start sparring, they will not be dejected when they are beaten by "lesser" students.
  • I can't. Instead of trying and continuing to try, these students are always saying "I can't do it" and making excuses for their failure to try. Most of these students quit before very long. If instructors cater to this behavior and allow it to continue, these students will continue their behavior. Instructors must continually push these students to try, praise them when they do try, whether they succeed or not, and scold them when they do not try.
  • Overachievers. These are students who try too much. They come to class every day and push themselves to be the best as quickly as possible. Most will eventually burn out or develop chronic injuries that are not allowed to heal. Instructors should try to slow these students down and encourage them to limit their number of classes per week so their bodies have an opportunity to heal. Like a wild stallion, they may become your best students, but they must continually be reined in.
  • Low self-confidence. These students are always saying "I'm a klutz,” “I always screw up,” or “I’ve always been this way.” If this behavior is allowed to continue, the students will quit. It took a lot of guts for them to come to the first class, so they must have wanted to change their behavior. As instructors, we must encourage these students by telling them "all new students feel this way" and "it just takes time." Never tell these students they are doing something wrong, just continually stress how to do things right. They will gradually gain self-confidence, and many will become your best students
  • Snobs. This type of student is a "better person" than other students or even instructors. They feel it is degrading to refer to others as sir or ma'am. They don’t like to be told what to do or that they are wrong. Instructors can’t fix everything; this type of student will soon quit, and will not be missed.
  • Fear of sparring. These students enjoy the beginning stages training but have apprehension about the prospect of free-sparring. For some, the fear causes them to drop out of training. Instructors should be aware of this fear and guide these students through the training process so that, instead of fear, the students look forward to sparring. Some instructors guide students into free-sparring gradually. For the first few months of training, students only practice one-step sparring. For the next few months, they practice sparring combinations while wearing sparring safety equipment. After these months of training, they began free-sparring. By this time, they have developed basic sparring skills and an awareness of their own sparring abilities and will probably enjoy sparring.

  • Longevity Watch. [Online]. Available:

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