Instructors>Student issues>Teamwork

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The martial arts are not just concerned with the development of combat skills, they are also concerned with the development of character and community.
A woman touring a mental institution was surprised to find only three guards watching over 100 dangerous patients. She asked the guards why they were not afraid of the patients overpowering them. They said, "Lunatics never unite!" 
A group working as a team may accomplish much more than each person in the group working individually.

Building teamwork

To build teamwork in a group of martial arts students:
  • Ensure each student knows he or she is a part of a team.
  • Ensure all students know they are required to help other students
  • Structure classes to foster communication and interaction Make each student interdependent.
  • Curtail misplaced internal competition and work to prevent it.
  • Create a common goal with rewards that may be achieved by working together.
  • Identify the rewards for working against each other and remove them.
  • Create or identify common threats.
  • Reward based on how people contribute to the group as a whole.
  • Reward for giving help to each other.
  • Stimulate frequent interaction between students Do not allow groups or individuals to become withdrawn and isolated from each other.
  • Build teamwork with pride and recognition. Coach Bear Bryant said,
If anything goes bad, I did it 
If anything goes semi-good, we did it
If anything goes really good, you did it.

Most important words

Use the "most important words" in communicating with students:
  • Six most important words, "I admit I made a mistake"
  • Five most important words, "You did a good job"
  • Four most important words, "What is your opinion"
  • Three most important words, "Let's work together"
  • Two most important words, "Thank you"
  • Single most important word, "We"
Many people think tactful, polite communications is nothing but a lot of hot air, but as Marshall Fock once said, "There is nothing but air in a tire, but it makes riding in a car very smooth and pleasant."

Teach to the capabilities

Martial arts instructors realize that each individual student possesses different natural abilities, such as size, strength, coordination, agility, etc. Once students have developed a proficiency in the basics, instructors individualize their training to match their physical and mental capabilities so they may maximize their kills. While working as a part of a team, each student not only develops his or her individual skills but shares these skills with other team members.

Social promotions

This does not mean there is a weakening of standards. A system of "social promotions" is prevalent on many boards of education and, regrettably, it is also prevalent in many martial arts schools. Social promotion involves promoting a student to the next level even if the student is not performing at that level. The reasoning is that the student will stay with his or her peers and will not feel like a failure. This is the equivalent of lowering the promotion standards, which weakens the significance of the promotion to the student and to other students who have worked hard enough to meet the original high standards.

When approached by students complaining that they have not been promoted in a long time. Ask them if they were doing their best. If they say no, then increase your efforts to help them to do their best. If they said they are truly doing their best, then it is your responsibility to explain to them that they have reached the limits of their abilities and that they may never be promoted again. Standards should never be lowered for a student; the student must rise to meet the standards. A student should not be promoted to a level that is not justly earned. Life is tough; not everyone gets what he or she wants.

The Peter Principle states that people achieve their highest level of incompetence. People get promoted until they reach the level where they cannot perform properly. When students are socially promoted, at some point they will reach a level of total incompetence where they are an embarrassment to themselves, the school, and the instructor.

Be a coach, not a master

Traditionally, the martial arts instructor is the "master" who teaches a class as an autocracy (it is either my way or the highway). In modern martial arts classes, the instructor should teach a class as a democracy. The instructor should be a coach who, while maintaining strict control and adherence to rules, teaches and guides both individual members of the team and the team as a whole toward the common goal of martial arts proficiency. An instructor should be open to new ideas and techniques suggested by students and encourage students to question anything they think may be ineffective.
A fisherman heard a thump on the side of his boat and saw a snake with a frog in its mouth. The fisherman grabbed the snake and released the frog. The frog was happy and hopped away. The fisherman felt bad for the snake losing its meal so he poured some whiskey down its throat and let it go. Later, he heard another thump on the side of the boat and looked over the side. There was the snake—holding up two frogs in its mouth. 
This parable illustrates two lessons:
  • You get more of the behavior you reward. 
  • Things that get rewarded get done!

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