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Teaching methods


When teaching martial arts students, you quickly learn that while one method of teaching may work for most of the students, other students learn more quickly from a different teaching method.
Some students respond to seeing how something is done (visual learners); others prefer to hear explanations (auditory learners), while others prefer to do things (kinesthetic learners). Usually, the best teaching method is a combination of the three methods.
I hear, and I forget
I see, and I remember
I do, and I understand
             - Chinese proverb

Visual method

Visual learners learn predominantly with their eyes; they prefer to see things demonstrated. The majority students are visual learners, which is why there are so many martial art books and instructional videos on the market. During class, visual learners tend to ask, “May I see that again?”

When teaching visual learners:
  • Demonstrate clearly. Ensure you demonstrate things in a complete, detailed, and clear manner. 
  • Demonstrate from all angles. Demonstrate techniques from different angles so visual learners can see all aspects of the techniques;.
  • Encourage movement. Encourage students to move around and find the best viewing angles. 
  • Be the center of attention. Give demonstrations toward the middle of the training area so students may gather around you.
  • Don't rush. Don't rush through the demonstration; show every movement in detail.
  • Do it correctly. Visual learners learn from what they see you do, so if you do something incorrectly, they will do it that way.

Auditory method

Auditory learners learn by hearing. Only a minority of students in a class are auditory learners. They frequently follow instructions after only being told once, tend to concentrate better when they have music in the background, and retain new information better when they talk about it. To help process what you are saying, they will often repeat what you have said back to you. They tend to remember a series of techniques, such as a one-step sparring sequence when the series is stated in a limerick or a rap. During class, auditory learners tend to ask, “Would you explain that again?”

When teaching auditory learners:
  • Speak loudly. Ensure they all hear you by speaking loudly and clearly. Always speak to the last person in the last row.
  • Encourage questions. Auditory learners learn from both hearing and speaking, so, when demonstrating a technique, encourage them to ask questions immediately instead of waiting until the end of the demonstration. 
  • Ask questions. Ask questions of the class to ensure all students are learning properly, including the auditory learners, however, do not make the questions in the form of a test, make them fun.
  • Be detailed. Be detailed in your explanations; state everything you are doing, just as you might do if you were teaching visually impaired students. Be descriptive, such as instead of saying "Put your hand here," say "Put your right hand on the inside of the opponent’s left forearm."
  • Echoing. Use echoing where you have the students repeat back what you just said, such as asking “Which foot moves first?” and then having the entire class to repeat the answer. 

Kinesthetic method

Kinesthetic learners learn by doing. Kinesthetic learners will only be a small portion of a class. When you demonstrate a technique, a kinesthetic learner will tend to volunteer to be the one on which you demonstrate the technique. During class, kinesthetic learners tend to ask, “May I do that?” They tend to mimic your movements as they watch you demonstrate. Kinesthetic learners tend to move around a lot, such as fidgeting; it helps them concentrate.

When teaching auditory learners:
  • Be brief. Kinesthetic learners get bored quickly during the explanation of a technique, they want to do the technique, so be brief in your explanations. 
  • Answer by talking and doing. When answering a question from kinesthetic learners, perform what you are talking about on the students; the tactical feedback helps them learn.


Since classes are a mixture of all three types of learners, it is best to use a mixture of teaching methods in a class. When teaching a new technique, demonstrate the technique for all to see in a precise manner, clearly state what you are doing during each step, and then have the students perform the technique repeatedly, stressing that students be aware of and feel the balance, body position, and force needed while performing the technique.

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