Monday, August 11, 2014
Teach from the Ground Up
In Martial Arts, the foundation in a physical sense is the lower body, the feet, ankles, legs and waist. If you're looking at a junior student and their form or technique doesn't look quite right start with fixing their stance. Surprisingly, many of the other oddities will vanish. Fixing foundational issues early in a martial artists career, is vital, because trying to fix them later can be all but impossible. As Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 - 1527) said, "He who has not first laid his foundations may be able with great ability to lay them afterwards, but they will be laid with trouble to the architect and danger to the building."
Going one step further, I don't think a student can learn about hand techniques, control of power, balance, speed, or timing until they have begun to understand and demonstrate proper stances. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't teach a good center punch until after three weeks of stance training. I'm only saying that a center punch won't ever be really good, unless the stance is correct. So teach the punch, the strike, and the block, but don't be too concerned with mastery or perfection at first. Concentrate on the stance.
So many times I've witnesses a new instructor leading a class or private lesson attempt to correct everything they feel is incorrect with a student. "Tighten the fist, pull the elbow in, raise your chin, focus the eyes forward, bend the front knee, straighten the back knee, square the shoulders, and, and, ... RELAX!" Geesh, I get nervous and confused just listening. It's no wonder newbies quit with the feeling that Karate just isn't for them.
If you think about it a great deal of personal defense can be accomplished with a good, strong, balanced stance. That alone could keep you on your feet, enable you to exit a confrontation, or signal to an attacker that you're no push-over (sorry).
Martial Art teachers should concentrate on the foundation of their students - their stances. Before correcting anything else, fix the stance. Only after the student has demonstrated proper (or reasonably proper) foundational stances, can you make significant progress on power, speed, technique, endurance, and control.