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Friday, July 7, 2017

Bad Students

"No such thing as bad student, only bad teacher"

Such was the wisdom of Mr. Miyagi (if you don't know what I'm talking about, stop reading this, go watch the Karate Kid (the original one, not that nonsense with Will Smith's kid), come back, and keep reading.

Many of Mr. Miyagi's fortune cookie sayings got absorbed into martial arts culture. Like a lot of fortune cookie sayings, it's sometimes right, but sometimes quite wrong.

There are bad students. I've had them. Every teacher has, if they've been teaching long enough.

This article provides a few examples (though #5 doesn't really fit into this category, and I'll talk about that toward the end).

While the article is aimed at BJJ practitioners/teachers, the reality is that these kinds of students exist in every art. The people who want to go too hard, or don't listen to instruction, or have their own ideas about how to do things and act on them during's all problematic.

"But," cry the protesters, "isn't it the job of the teacher to fix those problems? Shouldn't the teacher teach the student the error of their ways?"

The answer is, sure, in a perfect world. But we live in an imperfect world, and teachers can only do so much.

Let me give a quick example:

Several years ago, a gentleman came through my Muay Thai classes who was a 3rd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I know this because he insisted on reminding me and anyone else who tried to coach him that he was a 3rd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Corrections to his movement, stances, kicks, punches, or anything else was met with comments like "well, Master So-and-So says...", or "Well, I'm a third degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, so..."

I'm honestly not sure what this guy wanted from training, but it wasn't to learn Muay Thai.

Brett Jones summed up the issue as "Do you want to learn, or be right?".

A student who is just interested in being right isn't really a student. And at some point, it is not the teacher's duty to change that.

Yes, the teacher can offer corrections. They can explain their reasons. But at the end of the day, if someone doesn't want to learn, they won't, and there is not much of a point in continuing to try and make someone learn if they don't want to.

My father had a small plaque on his office wall for years that read "Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time, and it annoys the pig."

If a student refuses to learn, they aren't a student, and they aren't worth the teacher's time.

Or, as I put it to one such student, "there are twenty people in this class. If you aren't interested in what I have to say, I've got nineteen other people who I can go work with."

There are bad students. Don't be one. Don't waste time teaching them.

(Oh, and because I said I'd address it--#5 from the article above doesn't fit this category at all. Someone who is severely uncoordinated isn't a bad student, they're just severely uncoordinated. It will take them time. Let them take it.)

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