I am a member of an independent TKD organization. We base our techniques on the original ITF style but are not affiliated with it. We have a basic instructor training program, mostly based on hands-on experience. While this form of instruction has been invaluable to me, I feel the need for a more comprehensive instructor training syllabus. While we would not replace our "apprenticeship" system, we would like to supplement it with further study materials and new ideas. I appreciate any suggestions you may have for improving our syllabus.
Most martial art schools use the standard apprentice/trainee model of instructor training. It has worked well for decades in many professions, such as in the electrical, plumbing, mason, and, especially since the martial arts are patterned after the military, in the armed forces, but as with most things, sometimes it needs some updating and improvement.
The standard apprentice/trainee model of instructor training is as follows:
- Students first learn the basics, and, after passing graduated levels of rank proficiency tests, they learn more and more.
- If a student expresses an interest in teaching or the instructor notices the student may have a potential for teaching, the student is encouraged to assist in teaching classes, so the instructor may further evaluate the student’s teaching potential.
- If the instructor thinks the student has teaching potential, the student is encouraged to pursue being an instructor apprentice/trainee.
- The instructor gradually grooms the student for teaching, giving the student extra attention and concentrating on teaching the student to be an instructor.
- When the instructor thinks the student is ready, the student formally enters the apprentice/trainee instructor program by testing for apprentice/trainee status.
- The trainee assists in all aspects of teaching, administering rank testings, working in tournaments and camps, etc. for a number of years to accumulate a required number of assisting/teaching hours.
- Usually there are no special training classes for instructor trainees. They acquire teaching knowledge and skills by osmosis, absorbing information from listening and watching other instructors.
- After student achieves all the minimum instructor certification requirements and the instructor thinks the student is ready, the student tests for final instructor certification.
- The student may be required to attend some type of special instructor course just before or after certification.
- After a set time of satisfactory performance as a certified instructor, the student may be permitted to open his or her own school under the auspices of the school or the organization.
Depending on the organization, individual school, and chief instructor within a school, a formal apprentice training program may be non existent or it may be long, detailed, and arduous. In traditional schools, the apprentice is first treated as a virtual slave (doing medial labor while learning little), gradually gaining more freedom, benefits, and training until the final certification. As stated above, this process is still used by many other professions, such as the armed forces.
In the U.S. Navy enlisted ranks, chief, senior chief, and master chief petty officers are not only the top enlisted ranks; they are the ones who run the day-to-day operations of the Navy. There is little to no formal training on how to achieve the rank of chief, it must be absorbed through years of watching chiefs and learning from them—the apprentice training system at work. After making chief, there is a training course on how to be a proper chief, but there are no training courses for potential chiefs to show them how to become chiefs. If you emulate the wrong chief, you may not become a chief and, even if you do become a chief, you will probably be a poor one and will then pass your poor behavior on to other potential chiefs. I had many sailors complain about my being to tough on them. I had many sailors thank me for being tough on them. However, I never had any sailor thank me for being easy on them
The problem with any apprentice system in Taekwondo is that the apprentice emulates the master. This means that the apprentice emulates the master’s good attributes, as well as the bad ones, and then passes the good, and bad, aspects to other students. The apprentice’s learning is limited to that which the master knows and is able to teach. A master may be proficient at performing Taekwondo and may be proficient at teaching Taekwondo, but does not mean the master is also proficient at teaching others to become teachers. These are separate skills. A master is known for the quality of students he or she produces, but a great master is known for the quality of the instructors he or she produces for they will affect the quality of Taekwondo long after the master is gone.
To be a subject matter expert, a student needs to learn from many different sources, including different instructors, not just ones that have been trained by a central “master.” Students are loyal to their instructor and try to please the instructor by doing things the way the instructor does them, as well as the way the instructor teaches them. Although an instructor may have the best of intentions and may honestly believe that what he or she is teaching is the truth, in fact, what the instructor is teaching may be completely wrong. If students do not seek information from other sources and question unreasonable assertions made by instructors, they may become clones of their instructor, which may or may not be a good thing. Clones are not an improvement; they are merely copies of the original.
Some instructors want their students to be clones of themselves; they are clones of their master and they simply pass along the tradition. In our Taekwondo organization, most of the founding school owners had the same master, so they teach the way they learned from that master and they pass along what they learned, right or wrong, to their students.
Won-hyo pattern has 28 movements. In our organization, the pattern has 27 movements; the preparatory movement to set up for the final side kick is missing. There is no logical reason for the movement to be missing, since the preparatory movement of the first side kick is still used. It appears that at some point the original master of all the instructors left out the step when teaching them the pattern and the mistake has been passed along through the apprentice training system. Other patterns have similar mistakes; they are not changes made for some particular reason, they are just mistakes. These mistakes then are passed on from instructor to apprentice and are seldom questioned since to correct them would upset the status quo of the organization.
The apprentice system has its good points; it teaches humility and it allows trainees to gain experience gradually. However, the system limits the student’s knowledge and experience to that which the head instructor possesses. An instructor training program should address all the aforementioned problems to break the cycle of passing along outdated, improper, unsafe, or wrong information.
Here are some suggestions for designing an effective instructor training program:
- Detailed written procedures and requirements are needed. These should be readily available so trainees may check them to ensure they are teaching the correct information. Key information should be available within the training area for a quick reference. References should be periodically reviewed and changed as necessary. If something needs to be changed, then change it or take action to have it changed, do not simply say, “It has always been done that way.” However, do not create useless or meaningless procedures; each procedure and requirement should a have a definite and obvious reason for its use, otherwise it will be ignored.
- Checkpoints should be established during the course of instruction to check each trainee’s progress and to insure each trainee has properly learned and understands the required information and is effectively conveying that information to the students.
- Trainees should be exposed to instructors from other Taekwondo schools, preferably from instructors that do not have a similar martial arts background or a common master, so they may become familiar with different styles of teaching.
- Trainees should be encouraged to learn all they can about Taekwondo, the martial arts in general, teaching methods and procedures, management, business, finance, psychology, physiology, law, first aid, etc—everything that may be used in teaching Taekwondo. They should be encouraged to learn about other martial arts, to read every martial arts book available, and to watch classes in other martial arts. However, it should be stressed that the instructor, school, and organization each have certain beliefs, procedures, and requirements that must be followed and that any deviation from these must be approved by appropriate authority.
- There should be special courses that teach how to teach. Colleges do not teach potential public school teachers a lot about particular subjects, they teach them how to teach. Teachers do not have to be proficient at the subjects they teach; they have to be proficient at teaching others how to be proficient at the subjects.
- At some point in the training, there should be courses on how to manage and operate a school. An instructor may be an outstanding teacher but a poor business person. Any instructor who has a desire to open a school should be taught how to operate a school properly as a part of his or her instructor training.
- There should be periodic refresher courses to ensure all instructors are teaching the proper subject matter and to insure all instructors are familiar with changes, updates, and improvements within the school curriculum and procedures of the
- school or organization.
- Instructors should be immediately informed of all changes in the curriculum, the school, or the organization so they do not teach the wrong information or get embarrassed in front of students from not knowing about the changes.
- Trainees should be taught proper teaching procedures and how the curriculum should be taught, but then they should be allowed to develop their own teaching style. Do not try to turn them into clones of the instructor; trainees should be allowed to teach in a way that is consistent with their personalities. Teaching should be fun, not just a job.
- Make trainees backup any statement they make with facts. Trainees should not just be recorders that play back what their instructor said. They must be able to substantiate statements they make with medical or scientific facts. Many wise students will question unreasonable statements and want proof.