Which one are you a Black Belt, a Coach, an Instructor or Teacher?

In this blog I want to talk about teaching.

The martial arts is a minefield of politics and ego.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that, no matter how delicately you say things, someone will take offence or worse take it as a personal attack on their reputations or style.

We all look at things differently and that comes down to our own personal experiences and mental filters. I have stolen a lot over the years from some cracking instructors and thank them for all their help.

But the people I thank the most are the ones I see doing it wrong. They are the ones that make me try harder and look at what I do.

So before we go any further, these are my opinions and reflect my own personal view of my business. They are not mean to offend or call into question whatever business practices you have in place. They have come together over nearly 30 years in the arts but rest assured I will change if I find something better.

The big question for this blog is in the title, which one are you?

As most words are subjective to some degree we need some definitions, for which we’ll use http://www.collinsdictionary.com

If you doubt how much your personal experiences will affect the meaning of a word, consider this..

If I ask a room full of people to describe a balloon we could get an infinite number of answers. From big and red with a string on it, to long and blue tied into the shape of a dog.

Let look at definitions:

Black Belt – (noun)(martial arts)

1) a black belt worn by an instructor or expert competitor in the dan grades, usually from first to fifth dan
2) a person entitled to wear this

Coach – (noun)
4) a trainer or instructor ⇒ a drama coach
5) a tutor who prepares students for examinations

Instructor – (noun)
1) someone who instructs; teacher
2) (US & Canadian) a university teacher ranking below assistant professor

Teacher – (noun)
1) a person whose occupation is teaching others, esp children
2) a personified concept that teaches ⇒ nature is a good teacher

Now these are all good definitions, even though I left out the first 3 definitions for a coach. But I feel there is a bit missing, there is no mention of competence, qualifications or ability.

I think it can be taken as a given that a black belt needs to be earned and a suitable test of ability will have taken place. But this will be an in-house assessment which is often not accepted by other organisations.

The general public consider most black belts to be masters and therefore expert teachers, unfortunately most associations do not even test the candidates ability to teach. This leaves the door open for people to teach who aren’t fit for purpose.

Most sports and activities have governing bodies, they set the level of competency and knowledge that a teacher needs. They have all set out minimum standards and practices. Most have even gone the route of accredited qualifications from external awarding bodies.

The martial arts though, has no one/specific governing body to steer us in the right direction. It is fragmented and divided with major differences in techniques and belts in individual arts, let alone across styles and associations.

So where does that leave the level of teaching in martial arts, well in my opinion it is sadly lacking and far behind the needs of the students.

Please don’t take from that statement that I am criticising all martial arts instructors. That is far from the case, there are some incredible instructors out there. But i think that is more by luck rather than by design.

Teaching in the martial arts is often an association offered in-house course, normally a certificate of attendance with no real examination. This type of certification is not usually accepted by other organisations, meaning attendance of another in-house course to allow instructors to teach at seminars.

As the world we live in gets more litigious, the need to prove “due diligence” will become greater. I believe that if we are to progress and evolve, then we’ll need to match other professions and have formally recognised qualifications.

With that in mind, we have a minimum standard to become a registered instructor with the SBA. This includes a level 3 teaching/coaching qualification from a UK recognised awarding body. This is costly for instructors and although we run suitable courses, it is not a money making scheme as we do not require the course to be completed under us.

We have turned down some great instructors over the years, who wanted to join the SBA, as they didn’t believe in the need for qualifications.

Quoting tradition as a reason to avoid change is all well and good but I wouldn’t accept it from any of my daughter’s teachers. Students deserve the best instructor they can get, they are our customers after all.

To me, it’s all about raising the standards of the association through the instructors we have and therefore producing better students. I’ll let others worry about having large numbers of instructors and name dropping.

Some people use the saying “Quality over quantity”, I disagree I think your quality brings quantity.

Back to the question, which are you?

Leave your answer or comments in the box below.

For free advice on Teaching, Qualifications or training email Scottishbudo@aol.com

Speak to you soon..



You might be interested in a free report, on alternative funding and investment, that we are offering to everyone who joins the GSG Training mailing list in March.
Join now at http://eepurl.com/J8pyn


Risky Business..

As a martial artists I just want to train..

Unfortunately as the head of the association, most of my time is taken up with teaching and admin.

I hate paper work but no one else will do it for me, I’ve tried delegating but with no success. I could always hire someone to do it but that would mean putting class fee’s up.

I know I have mentioned it before but as instructors we need to look at our clubs as businesses. Any additional costs need to be made up by either increased student numbers or increased fee’s.

So I do the paper work myself, a bit of a chore but as Old Blue Eyes said “That’s Life..”.
On the plus side it has given me new challenges to overcome.

Once I started to look at the association as a business rather than my hobby, I realised that I needed all the same paperwork as I had in my other businesses.

“..It is a legal requirement for every employer and self-employed person to make an assessment of the health and safety risks arising out of his work. The purpose of the assessment is to identify what needs to be done to control health and safety risks. Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999…”
HSE Website – http://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/faq.htm

So I asked myself ..

Are there any risks attached to martial arts?

Of course there are.

You might not have thought about it but martial arts practice involves many topics that are covered by health and safety law, including :

– Manual handling
– First Aid
– Fire Safety
– Infection Control
– Working at Height
– P.U.W.E.R.
– Child Protection

So our risk assessments should cover all of the above, now this is a large and daunting task but the HSE website is full of information and templates.

The HSE says:

“You do not necessarily need specific training or qualifications to carry out a risk assessment. As an employer, however, you must appoint someone competent to help you meet your health and safety duties. A competent person is someone with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience. You could appoint one or a combination of:
– yourself;
– one or more of your workers;
– someone from outside your business….”
HSE Website http://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/faq.htm

Now I have to point out that the HSE site is for guidance only and they even have a disclaimer that states:

“Every effort is made to ensure that the information provided on all HSE’s websites and online services is accurate and up to date, but no legal responsibility is accepted for any errors, omissions or misleading statements..”

HSE Website – http://www.hse.gov.uk/disclaimer.htm

I’m no lawyer but I don’t think that a law can be changed by the guidance notes of a government department and although they say in their statement that no qualifications are needed to carry out a risk assessment, Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states:

“(2) Without prejudice to the generality of an employer’s duty under the preceding subsection, the matters to which that duty extends include in particular—
(c) the provision of such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of his employees;..”

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 – http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1974/37

This would suggest that, if you made risk assessing part of an employee’s job role, training would be required for both the employee and anyone who supervises them.

Remember, If you ever find yourself in court defending a breach of health and safety law, the competence of any risk assessment could be called into question if it had been written by an untrained individual. This could invalidate your insurance leaving you liable to court costs, fines and any compensation awarded.

The easy way to avoid this and to prove due diligence as an employer would be to commission training for you and your staff.

Training is a business expense and can be claimed back.

For free advice on health and saftey, risk assessment or training email gsgtraining@aol.co.uk

Speak to you soon..



You might be interested in a free report, on alternative funding and investment, that we are offering to everyone who joins the GSG Training mailing list in March.
Join now at http://eepurl.com/J8pyn