Kung Fu Self Defence From Student to Instructor is Jordan Comerford’s discussion about his insights and experiences gained as a volunteer trainee instructor for the kids classes at the Rowville Golden Lion Academy. Below is Jordan’s story…
From Student to Instructor
Throughout my experience as a student of Kung Fu, I have been faced with numerous challenges. When I first began training almost eight years ago, these challenges came in the form of cultivating skill, technique and a persistent disposition. Being a student was not something new to me, so of course with time, and with the guidance of my instructors, I was able to gain the virtues that have led me here today. As a student on the verge of becoming a black belt, I have embarked on the journey of passing down what I have learned to others, as a volunteer instructor for the children’s class. In many ways, this has been the most challenging yet rewarding experience during my time at the Golden Lion Academy, leading to a consideration and appreciation of the unique skills it takes to teach what one has learned. In this paper, I will discuss the overarching themes that have become pillars of my teaching experience. Relating to these themes, I will explore my experience of earning respect as an instructor, the importance of being genuine and transparent through the teacher-student relationship, and teaching children with special needs. I will conclude the paper with the overall insights of my journey so far, as both a student and instructor.
The Importance of Respect
One of the first virtues you learn as a student of Martial Arts is the importance of respect. It may at times seem like a cliché, but the concept of respect underlies a whole range of virtues that are necessary in order to succeed. As Lumpkin (2013) emphasises in her article relating to Teachers as role models, Teachers must earn respect by demonstrating virtuous behaviours and showing their students that they themselves respect the role they have been granted. With relation to my role as a volunteer instructor, I have personally experienced the need to effectively demonstrate techniques and show my students that I take my role seriously. For example, I recall an experience in which I was teaching my students the need for spirit and strength whilst completing the twenty-four move Tiger Form. The student did not quite understand the concept of spirit, so I took it upon myself to demonstrate the whole form rather than simply comment that they needed to exhibit more energy. This one instance of demonstrating what was required showed the student that I not only knew what I was doing, but that I took pride in completing any form regardless of belt level or who was watching. In this experience, I achieved what Zimmerman and Arnold refer to as learning through social modelling (1977); A psychological phenomena which has been supported by early learning professionals as an effective means to engaging younger and more impressionable students.
Relationship between student and teacher
From the basis of respect, another important part of the teaching process is the nature of the relationship between student and teacher. From my own experiences, what I have found to be essential to an effective learning environment is to be honest and transparent when engaging with students. When I refer to an effective learning environment, I draw reference to a culture of sharing, community and honesty, one in which is argued by Schwartz (2014) to greatly enable both teachers and students to help each other overcome struggles. An example of this from my own teaching experience materialised when I was working with a group of students a few months ago. It was the last day of class for the school year, so myself and the other instructors devised an activity in which the students broke up into smaller groups to create their own demonstration to present to the parents. The group that I was working with was quite young, so naturally, it was common for group members to talk over each other as the excitement grew. I faced a dilemma, because although I wanted the students to guide themselves as an exercise of leadership, I also knew that without help, they would struggle to keep on track for the task at hand. I decided to be transparent with my involvement by saying to the group of students at the start that my job was to help them put all of their ideas together, whilst emphasising the importance of the students working together to create something that was uniquely theirs. Once I told the students this, the group was almost mobilised to take meaningful action, in the sense that they took their roles as team members seriously and began to incorporate each other’s ideas. By the end of the demonstration, I had merely played the role of a facilitator, which allowed the students to practise leadership and teamwork skills without the feeling that they had just been given token autonomy. This experience greatly aided me in realising the necessity of being genuine, especially when working with younger children who will need guidance and role models in their learning environment.
The value of inclusion
As a student of Social Work and Psychology, I entered my role as a volunteer instructor with some knowledge of developmental stages and childhood psychology. Specifically, what I have found of great importance is the need for teachers to have an awareness of how children with special needs and mental health issues may best thrive in a learning environment. As Evans (2017) acknowledges, children with special needs are often catered for in mainstream education. However, when it comes to sport, they can be left behind due to difficulties in concentrating, physical coordination, and relationships with their peers. Although it seems like an easy fix to separate them from the main group, my experience at Golden Lion has emphasised to me the value of inclusion and how this can be a necessary step to a child’s overall wellbeing. I recall an instance in which I was working with a new student of whom their parents told me before class that they suffer from an attention disorder. Because of this, they were easily distracted which could sometimes become frustrating for their schoolteachers and other students. At first, the student was very hesitant to become involved, refusing to partake in the warm up and the first few drills. I would often go up to the student and encourage them, assuring them that whenever they felt like joining in was ok and that they could have a lot of fun. We began practising front kicks when suddenly the student became interested. I found out after class that they had seen those kind of kicks in their favourite Kung Fu movie. Learning this provided an amazing tool for engagement. As classes went on, the student became more and more eager to be like the martial artists in the movies. Being a huge fan of the movies myself, this common ground allowed me a new way to engage with the student, providing an example of how patience, encouragement and unique strategies are absolutely necessary when working with children who are more difficult to engage. Using the element of common interests and never becoming negative in my demeanour are strategies that have allowed me to effectively engage with all kinds of students.
This journey is far from over
In this paper, I have discussed my insights relating to my experience as a volunteer trainee instructor for the kids classes. In this time, I have experienced a great deal of surprises and learning curves, all of which have led me to interesting lessons relating to leadership, being a role model, and engaging with students. However, having now spent a great deal of time both learning and teaching at the Golden Lion Academy, I can say with certainty that I am more uncertain than ever. In many ways, becoming a teacher has illuminated how much I have learned, but also how much I have yet to learn. The same can be said of this next milestone I am approaching in becoming a black belt. It leaves me with feelings of accomplishment and pride. However, what is most clear to me after becoming an instructor is how the journey of being a student is far from over.
Jordan Comerford, Rowville Kung Fu Trainee Instructor
Evans, C. (n.d.). SpecialNeeds.com. Retrieved March 23, 2018, from https://www.specialneeds.com/activities/general-special-needs/sports-programs-special-needs
Lumpkin, A. (2008). Teachers as Role Models Teaching Character and Moral Virtues. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 79(2), 45-50. doi:10.1080/07303084.2008.10598134
Schwartz, K. (2014, September 26). How Transparency Can Transform School Culture. Retrieved March 23, 2018, from https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/35763
Zimmerman, B. J., & Jaffe, A. (1977). Teaching through demonstration: The effects of structuring, imitation, and age. Journal of Educational Psychology, 69(6), 773-778. doi:10.1037//0022-06220.127.116.113