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179278602Every month or two I find myself in the situation to go teach at someone else’s school, or to be the host of a seminar class where new students come to visit me. These new student situations pose issues for the traveling or hosting instructor.

Most events are great and everyone attending enjoys the day, but from time to time issues do arise. Below, I have listed some of the things I do to help make the day a positive experience for everyone.

  • No one really cares what Dan grade you are. They may want to know before they book you to come teach, but once there you need to park the Dan ego at the door.
  • The attendees want to know that you are competent to teach them something worth knowing. I like to lead off with something that hurts; finger breaks, hip throw, chokes. This lets the students see that we are going to work real skills and not just Bunkai for Kata.
  • Bunkai for Kata, save teaching this for when you’re working with students that came specifically for Bunkai.
  • Have the host introduce you. This simple act places a lot of prestige on you and will help when you come across the troublesome student.
  • Publicly thank the host for having you come teach. Students will watch how friendly you and the host interact. Remember the host is their teacher. If you are not friendly to their teacher, they will not be friendly to you.
  • Tell jokes at your own peril. Humor makes for a great class, as I said; your own peril.
  • Practice speaking in front of groups of strangers. It is a practiced skill and one you must master to be good at teaching.
  • Bring your own Uke if you can, but still use some of the attendees as your Uke. I like to start with my own Uke and then have people step in from the audience as the class progresses.
  • Have a syllabus, nothing fancy but don’t make up the class as you go. This will give you base techniques to work from and you can always change directions as necessary.
  • Arrive on time and end on time. Others have a life and you need to respect their commitments.
  • Dress professionally. Clean non stinky clothes. Gi or gym pants to match what is expected from the class. I make sure to not show up for a Combatives class in a Gi and the reverse is true. The hosting school’s website or your point of contact can answer the question for you.
  • Bring your own water bottle, towel, and other small items. Many hosts have no idea how to take care of a visiting instructor, be prepared.
  • Learn where the toilet is before you start to teach.
  • Are you going to teach theory or techniques? Tell the students what you are teaching and why. Don’t just do a technique and have them practice it. You need to explain what you are teaching and why. Then explain how it works.
  • Consider doing fewer techniques and better in-depth study. My personal opinion is that instructors try to do twice as many techniques as they should.
  • If you plan to have the students’ do falls, make certain they know how to fall properly. You might do a few warm-ups with falling before having them do the throws.
  • Work the room after you demonstrate the technique and have conversations with the students. They will never initially get the technique correct so be prepared to continually demonstrate on them. Work the power lever to match what they need. Some students need to see and feel the technique softly and some need to see or feel it with force. You must ask them and read the queues they provide to work the technique with the proper force for their learning style and level. You may need to provide a little pain compliance to the stubborn student. Be judicious when you do this, but if necessary, consider making them really tap out.
  • Control the questions. No questions from the audience and I feel I am not succeeding in reaching them. Too many and I lose control of the class. You must manage the student questions and make them work for the whole class. It may be necessary to answer some questions after the seminar.
  • Every now and then you run into a jerk. Many of the jerks you meet don’t realize they are jerks. They are trying to ask good questions but due to their need to show you how much they know  the two of you clash. They probably aren’t jerks; the two of you are having a communication problem. Take a breath and welcome the question. You can always ask them to come up front and play the Uke. I find this helps with them understanding the technique. If they want to improvise then you need to make the decision to rise to the challenge. Sometimes a quick poke in the ribs is all it takes, sometimes not.
  • I don’t let the students practice the new technique on me till after they have done it with a partner several times. This helps protect me from injury.
  • Smile and be friendly.