Thursday, June 21, 2012

White belts

The people that know the least are often the ones you have to watch out for.

At my dojo, once the white belts (beginners) learn enough, we mix them into the main class for some of the partner drills, usually either a you-punch-and-I-block set or self defense drills.

White belts tend to be the most dangerous in these situations.  They don't necessarily punch the fastest or hit the hardest, but they're unpredictable.  They don't often even know what they're going to do!  They may punch too soon or an odd angle.  They may flail in response or jerk about awkwardly.  We try to set up rules of engagement for safety, but until they understand those rules, injuries can occur.  While it's not common, it's also not unexpected.

As an instructor, I should have enough skill to not get smacked upside the head by an unexpected motion like this, and if safety is really an issue, then I can stop them to make a change.  It would be easy to scold them by telling them how wrong their technique is, but they don't know any better and making them feel like crap isn't going to benefit anyone.  It may be harder for me, but it's better overall to fix their technique in ways that don't leave them feeling down.

Most taiko groups don't have ranks per se, but most have new members. Instead of dangerous techniques, new taiko members are the most likely to ask "dangerous" questions.  They may not know the protocols of your group or that something isn't important at the time, and the questions might be just as awkward as dealing with a punch that's thrown at the wrong time or a flailing limb.

For you who are handling such questions, whether you're a "teacher" or just happening to respond, it's your responsibility to answer them in a way that doesn't make them feel stupid for asking.  The simplest reason is the obvious one: would you want someone to make you feel stupid for asking a question?  Of course not.  On top of that, it speaks to your ability to teach and the person you are to take an "inappropriate" or ill-timed question and answer or resolve it in a way that makes the other person feel like they learned something.  Also, people are going to notice you treating someone poorly, especially someone new.  Why give yourself that reputation?

It's more forgivable if you don't have the right answers to a question than it is to make someone feel bad for asking questions.  Even if you believe there are such things as stupid questions, give back knowledge, not scorn.

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