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 have to 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 each individual; one or more instincts may be expressed more than the others are expressed. The prevailing instincts determine a person's personality type. 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.
As instructors, we must be aware of the different types of students and tailor our curriculum and teaching methods to attract and retain as many of the types of students as possible. 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 afraid of height, water, and high speed. They mostly value their security and well-being. If they are able to overcome their insecurities and fears, and sign up for a martial arts class, they constantly fight their own fears and torture themselves. They are very sensitive to insult and are very proud, so therefore, quite vulnerable to hurt.
Instructors and other students must be careful what they say and do around this type of students, since even the smallest thing may cause them to quit. 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 life is geared to the interests of family and children. They are super-fathers and super-mothers, the keepers of their family.
To attract and keep this type of students, 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 may all participate and have fun. They will also enjoy camps and other group activities.
Altuistic (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.
This type of student is always good to have in a school. They will cause few problems, make everyone feel welcome in the school, and will be extremely helpful in all aspects of the school. They may be counted on to help out whenever they can. 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.
This type of student needs 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 this type of student, you had better know what you are talking about and not just be repeating something some instructor told you. This type of students keeps 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, and they have the ability to foresee the development of events, to accept new ideas, and to 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. Students of this type are egocentric, but they allow 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. 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 working independently. They do not like to be controlled by anyone. Students of this type are optimistic, rely only on themselves, and live for today. They are revolutionary and seek to overthrow authority.
This type of student usually has problems in dealing with the structured nature of the martial arts. They do not like authority and will usually be disruptive in class. If not 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 an individual 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. Dignitophylums are not arrogant like egophylums; their pride is noble. Together with liberophylums, they act in a yin and yang relationship to counterbalance naturally any form of authoritarian power.
This type of student embodies the oriental culture. The samurai and Hwarang would fall into this category. This type believes in death before dishonor. Admiral Boorda, the Chief of Naval Operations in the 1990's (the highest position in the Navy), had one of his military awards questioned. There was some question as to whether he had actually earned it. On the day he was to be interviewed about it, he committed suicide. He believed he had disgraced the Navy. Later it was found that he was indeed entitled to wear the award.
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 second group, the Yang, consists of the dominance, research, freedom, and dignity instincts, and is characterized as active, socially centered, outwardly oriented toward self-realization among other people and society, with social interests in general. This is a 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 responsibility to keep the two groups, and the type of students that comprise the groups, working together for the common cause of their martial art. Sometimes, this is easy to do; sometimes it is very difficult.
Here are some of my 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 XXX 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. As instructors, we keep teaching these students the way of our martial art in hope that one day they will understand. Sometimes it works; sometimes it does not 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." As instructors, we try to show them how to spar effectively and we 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. As instructors, we must continually push these students to try, praise them when they do try, whether they succeed or not, and scold when they do not try.
Over achievers. These are students who try too much. They come to class everyday 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. As instructors, we must try to slow these students down. We must 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 the best, but they must continually be reigned in.
Low self-confidence. These students are always saying "I'm a klutz,” “I always do it his way,” 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 will just take 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 do like to be told what to do or that they are wrong. As instructors, we cannot 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. As instructors, we 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 schools, such as those within the Taekwondo America organization, guide students into free-sparring gradually. For the first four months in Taekwondo America training, students only practice one-step sparring. For the next 2 months they practice sparring combinations while wearing sparring safety equipment. Then, after six months of training, they began free-sparring. By this time, they have developed basic sparring skills and an awareness of their own sparring abilities.
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