I read an interesting article in the latest “Dramatics” magazine (Don’t judge.  It was the only reading material available where I happened to be “sitting”).  The title of the article is “Getting the best from your acting teacher” by Jon Jory.  He says that “whoever the acting teacher might be, you want to drain them of knowledge like a glass of water in Death Valley” and goes on to list five rules to help you accomplish that goal.

As I read, I realized how many of the same  concepts apply to Martial Arts teachers (or really any other teacher).   For example:

Rule #1 – “you’re serious about acting (karate) so let the teacher see that”.  As it states, teachers want everyone to learn, but can’t help but being interested in the student who really wants to learn.  The reality is that the students that show the most interest and enthusiasm will get more time and attention.  The students that show up and only go through the motions or put in half-hearted effort won’t.  If you can’t muster more energy than the average turnip, you may be helping to pay the studio rent, but you’re probably not going to get a lot of extra time and attention from the Sensei.

Rule #2 – “get up and do it”.  Acting and the martial arts are experiential.  When someone has to demonstrate or volunteer, be one of those that jumps up and gives it a try.  You get
direct and immediate feedback, the opportunity to make mistakes, get corrected, and therefore get better.  Don’t be afraid.

Rule #3 – “ask for individual attention”.  Especially in large group sessions, you don’t get a lot of personal attention.  Instructors are willing to help you, so ask.  Most people don’t.  If there’s an open gym time, take advantage of it.  If you need to pay for a private lesson, save for it.  And come prepared with specific things to work on. As in, “I’m having trouble with this punch/kick/throw/hold”, or “the transition between the first and second parts of the kata is throwing me off”or “how do I improve my conditioning/strength/flexibility so that I can get better at X?”  Ask something specific.  
Rule #4 – “work outside the class so your in-class work is good enough to engage the teacher”.  Teachers want to see their students make progress.  This is very affirming for them and makes it all worthwhile.  So if I show you something, work on it.  If I make a suggestion, fix it.  If I see you continuing to make mistakes or not correct things we’ve gone over, guess how much that makes me want to work with you in the future, or spend time with you vs. other students that are actively working on what I told them?  Right, not very much.  The reality is that we all have limited time, energy and attention span.  And we’re not going to invest it in someone that isn’t valuing it in return.   Those are just the cold, hard facts, ma’am.  
Rule #5 – “ask for a reading list”.  This has a specific context for actors.  But I think it’s also very relevant for martial artists or students of any kind.  You should always be curious and investigating additional things that will make you better.  It may be a list of reading materials or sources that could broaden your horizons.  The history of your style, other
styles, nutrition, strength and conditioning, DVDs, etc.  We live in a golden age of martial arts, with more information available about more arts than ever before in the history of (wo)man.  Granted, some of its complete crap, but that’s why you ask someone like
your teacher for recommendations.  Show an interest in the Martial Arts, follow-up on what you’re told or given, and then ask for a chance to discuss/demonstrate it.  You never know where it will lead and it shows that you’re a serious student of the Arts.

So take a tip from the acting community, internalize these five rules, and see how
your progress accelerates.

Leave a Reply.