Teaching the Timid

31 01 2016

Today we will discuss some tips to help you come up with ways to teach one of our more difficult types of students:  The passive student.

Due to the way the Chinese martial arts have been labeled by the community–as well as how we have marketed them–Kung Fu schools have always attracted students who were not as interested in fighting and combat. Or perhaps they wanted to learn to fight, but feared sparring or training with contact. This is not commonplace for other martial arts, such as the grappling arts or stick-based arts, because those styles keep sparring and combat as a yardstick for measuring skill. In the Chinese arts, we highlight forms, the age of the systems, lion dance, health benefits, etc. Because of this, students come to the CMA not expecting to touch gloves, while in other martial cultures they simply assume that actual combat will be practiced regularly.

I have seen personally, and entire classroom of students get nervous when the Sifu announced that they will be sparring that day. A culture of prearranged defense and lack of emphasis of sparring has created entire generations of martial arts students who are here more for the “art” than the “martial”. In other words, we have entire generations of students who fear sparring. Sadly, a timid student becomes a timid Sifu, and nothing is worse than a school led by a Sifu who never learned to fight. Even worse than that, however, are students being put into fight competition by a Sifu who does not know how to fight.

To keep it simple, we will offer some solutions in bullet format:

  • Fear of fighting can either come from two places:  1. embarassment from failure (or fear of losing), or 2. fear of getting hurt
  • Fear of failure can be eliminated by drilling techniques, both attack and defense with a partner, in such high numbers, the student actually develops a high level of proficiency with those skills. Often, the lack of confidence is due to one’s realization that he/she has a low level of skill
  • Fear of getting hurt is eliminated by introducing the student to contact gradually. This is accomplished through holding pads during power hitting practice, allowing contact in drills–first lightly, and then increasing the amount allowed gradually. Most people can develop a high pain tolerance level, but the barrier is psychological. As students allow themselves to be hit more and more, they lose the fear of pain as they discover they can take it
  • Giving students ample time in practice for impact training. Too often, Kung Fu training is practiced solo, or students are instructed to pull techniques when face to face. Using a combination of kicking shields, focus mitts, and striking bags and posts–having students hit with power as well as being on the receiving end of the blows will give your fighters more confidence and build up their levels of aggression (referred to in the Jow Ga system as “fighting spirit”)
  • Impact training also leads to another type of confidence. When martial arts students realize the potential for damage with their skills, they also will develop a respect for their knowledge. Martial artists must learn what these arts can do to an opponent so that they do not become reckless with it. Irresponsible students who have never been hit in the jaw may deliver such strikes to opponents and training partners unnecessarily because they are unaware what it feels like. Once they have been on the receiving end, students can then regulate when, where, and how much power to use–as well as when not to use it
  • Do not fear allowing for mistakes in the gym. You cannot protect your students from getting hurt or minor accidents all the time. Let them sort it out themselves; not so much that you have students getting injured daily–but allow them to slip up and get popped. These lessons are valuable and helps to build resistance and pain tolerance
  • Another important source of confidence comes from physical strength. Many Kung Fu schools all but ignore strength-building exercises such as pushups, pull-ups and dips. Doing exercises that build muscular strength gives students powerful limbs and a strong physique, which leads to self-confidence. Although a muscular body is not indicative of fighting skill, it does give students a psychological edge against their opponents and provides physical resistance to injury. Strength of the core also helps the fighters resist injury when being hit
  • When introducing sparring, you consider having students spar with only two or three techniques. For example one student must use punches against opponents who are only allowed to use their right arm and leg to fight with. Be creative. This isolation builds competency quickly, is challenging and gives quick-thinkers an edge over some more physically gifted classmates, and is fun. Additionally, by isolating techniques, your fighters are forced to learn to adapt their skills to a number of attacks
  • Finally, the most basic way to deal with the timid:  Simply have them spar more. Gradually, of course, but do it more often. The more your students spar, the less they fear it, and surely, the better they become at it. It’s that simple!

Hopefully, we’ve given you some useful tips and make sure to give your students time to develop. The results won’t come overnight, but if they have had enough time–you will definitely see an improvement.

If you like this or any other article on this blog, please share and spread the word! And remember to subscribe! Thank you for visiting the DC Jow Ga Federation. We welcome any tips, criticism and comments below.

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