When one thinks about teaching English, martial arts doesn't really come to mind (unless you've got a REALLY rowdy school).
One of the best things I ever did in my life was deciding to seriously start studying martial arts and the philosophy behind them.
At the time, studying martial arts was somewhat of a necessity for me as I was working as a security guard.
However, most of us don't roll around getting into street fights. So then what's the point, right?
After years of practicing in the dojo, listening to my teachers, and reading A LOT of books, I came to find that martial arts is more about conditioning the mind than the body.
I don't remember where I read it, but I remember one book stating that the goal of any martial art should be to create an indomitable will
The lessons and discipline I've learned in the dojo have helped me in many parts of my life, even teaching English!
With that in mind, I figured it was time to share how you can become a more effective teacher by using these martial arts principles.
1. Start with respect, end with respect
One of the first things we learn in martial arts before we learn any actual techniques is etiquette (like greetings, how to bow, etc).
How you carry yourself in (and out of) the workplace says a lot about your character.
If you always manage to show respect while staying positive and appreciative of the opportunity you've been given, you'll go a long way in Japan.
This doesn't mean that you have to be uptight 24 hours a day, but you definitely don't want to be disrespectful of the country that decided to put you up and give you a job.
2. The basics matter
No matter how fancy your skills get, stick with the basics. Like martial arts, the basic building blocks of English.
"I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times."
By keeping this in mind, try to make lessons that incorporate some of the very basic parts of English. Making simple (yet effective) lessons with a lot of repetition (without getting mundane) will really boost the skills of your students.
3. Economy of energy
This can best be defined as having the greatest impact with the least amount of effort. That's not saying that someone should be lazy. Rather, it means that one should not expend more energy than necessary to complete a task.
In the dojo, or on the street, that means having no wasted motion when you defend yourself. In the classroom, it means cutting the fluff from your lessons.
When you are making a lesson, look for the simplest, most direct way to achieve the goal for that lesson. By keeping the goal in mind and having your idea for how to get there int he most effective and efficient way possible, your lessons should run smoothly.
This one took me a long time to get. I remember my teacher constantly asking me:
Sensei: "Hey, David! Are you relaxed yet?"
Me: "Yes, sensei."
Sensei: "I don't believe you. You roll like a ton of bricks."
Being a good martial artist requires one to relax. If you're tense all the time, you'll expend a lot of useless energy.
If you've never tried it before, you can consciously relax by individually tensing your muscles and relaxing them. You may be surprised by how tense you are throughout the day.
Make your breathing steady, even, and deep. This will help with the nerves too.
5. Never stop learning
In many of my martial arts classes, the only feedback we'd get is how to get better. This is often true of English classes as well.
If you don't get any negative feedback, consider it a compliment.
One of the tenets of martial arts is to constantly seek feedback from those who have been practicing longer so you can learn from their experience and grow.
In the days of the samurai, your ability to learn from others and your own mistakes could have meant the difference between life or death. In the modern classroom, you won't die if you make a mistake but you can save yourself a lot of time and trouble if you seek to constantly improve your skills.
6. Always be ready
One of the rules in the dojos that I studied in is that you are always protecting yourself at all times. This can be taken to a hyper-vigilant extreme, but it does pay to be aware of your surroundings and ready to respond to whatever may come your way.
When using martial arts for self-defense, you can't choose when you're going to be attacked.
Much in the same way, we often have little control over what will happen during the day at our jobs.
If you're always ready by being prepared, you'll be ready when the unexpected happens.
7. Always give 100%
If you were to actually get into a street fight, you wouldn't hold back if your life was on the line, right?
In your classes, you should always be trying to give your maximum effort. That's not to say that you blow all your energy by talking super loud and being extra animated. Rather, it means that you are teaching with purpose and intention.
The class isn't just something that happens. It's something that YOU make happen through your effort.
If you always give your best effort and continue improving, you should be able to have a good result in your classes.