A great Tae Kwon-Do instructor has more than just a checklist of talent and training.
Of course, there are the basics: a deep knowledge, the ability to “do” and demonstrate Tae Kwon-Do, loving Tae Kwon-Do more than anything, and the desire to inspire that same love for Tae Kwon-Do in other people.
Simply checking all of those boxes might make you a pretty decent Tae Kwon-Do instructor. But we’re not interested in being decent instructors. We want to be great. For our students, for our fellow instructors, and for ourselves.
A Great Tae Kwon-Do Instructor is…Confident
They must be confident in their level of knowledge and in their ability. Sometimes they may come off as cocky. But the quarterback of a football team needs to have a little attitude. They need to believe they can thread the needle between two defenders and hit a receiver in the numbers, all while a bunch of 300-pound linebackers are trying to rip their head off. A Tae Kwon-Do instructor needs to exude that same level of confidence in their knowledge and ability to train and inspire others to achieve what they have.
A Great Tae Kwon-Do Instructor is…Humble
Despite sometimes appearing overly confident, great Tae Kwon-Do instructors understand that they are not gods. Regardless of what they have achieved, a great Tae Kwon-Do instructor is still a servant to their students. They must also never stop being students themselves, nor should they ever think they know so much that they have nothing left to learn. They know what they know and they know what they don’t. And they maintain a constant hunger to learn.
A Great Tae Kwon-Do Instructor is…Physically Adept
I can no longer do some of the things I could when I was 30, 40, or even 50. But that just means I have to learn how to use other people to demonstrate for me. That requires me to know my stuff in a new and different way. After I had my hip replacement surgery, I actually had to teach from a chair. But I knew my stuff well enough that I was able to get somebody to demonstrate for me exactly as I would have done. A great Tae Kwon-Do instructor should be able to do the same.
A Great Tae Kwon-Do Instructor is…Adaptable
Not everyone learns the same way. When I was coming up through the ranks, the opposite was true. Instructors had the mindset of “this is how I learned, so this is how you are going to learn!” That’s why, back then, it took so long to get a black belt. As a result, many people quit. It all could have been prevented if instructors would have respected the fact that students learn differently, and adapted their teaching style accordingly.
My job is to transfer Tae Kwon-Do knowledge into people, any which way it takes. For some, it’s method A. For others, it’s method B. As a good Tae Kwon-Do instructor, I need to be able to, in the middle of a class, read each student and adapt to them. I can look at my class, notice someone who is struggling, and change up my method. I can teach directly to that person, while still teaching to the rest of the class as well.
A Great Tae Kwon-Do Instructor is…Understanding
People come to Tae Kwon-Do for reasons other than to be Olympic champions. They have been beaten up, sexually assaulted, mentally or physically abused, etc.
We get a lot of “broken” people. A good instructor needs to be sensitive to the needs of those people and mentor them through their troubled times, without taking that pain on themselves. A good Tae Kwon-Do instructor has to be a bit of a psychologist as well.
A Great Tae Kwon-Do Instructor…Remains Positive
Many students early on have negative thoughts about their abilities.
One of my best students ever was not what you’d call a “natural.” But when I would train on the side of the room, I would notice him watching me. After a while, I asked him to come and train with me a little bit. Everything I taught him, he would go home and work on, then come back and show me he learned it. Eventually, he went on to run his own Tae Kwon-Do school.
I tell people that if they want to open their own school, they have to love Tae Kwon-Do more than anything in the world. There will be days when business is bad or your training is bad. Or business will get so good that it will take you away from your training, and you will fall out of practice (and probably out of shape). You also might start making poor decisions for your school because you’re now making them as a business owner, and not as a Tae Kwon-Do instructor.
So I asked my old student what it was that made him want to do Tae Kwon-Do more than anything else. He told me that he had tried many other sports and activities, but training at our school was the only place that ever let him think that he could do it, then stuck with him until he actually could do it. In other sports, when you can’t do it, they either stick you on the bench, or they cut you completely.
A Great Tae Kwon-Do Instructor…Includes Everyone
You never know who you’re going to reach. A great Tae Kwon-Do instructor can’t care who or what you are. As long as you’re doing Tae Kwon-Do and are willing to give them the effort, they will give it right back.
A Great Tae Kwon-Do Instructor is…Credible
If you can spar well, do patterns well, break well, have had a successful tournament career, etc.; those things don’t necessarily make you a good instructor, but they may help establish credibility in the eyes of students and fellow instructors.
At the end of the day there is one constant: people don’t want to go to a martial arts school to learn from people who aren’t confident, who aren’t strong, and have never proven themselves. They want to learn from an instructor who exudes confidence, has proven themselves, knows how to convey the martial arts message, and inspires people to follow it.
Master Gorino’s Tae Kwon-Do offers a trial program for individuals and families in Buffalo, NY and the surrounding areas that allows you to get a feel for the different classes, meet our instructors, and experience our dojang. It’s a great way to see if Tae Kwon-Do is right for you. To learn more or to sign up, register online or call (716) 836-KICK (5425) and a member of our team will follow up with you on next steps. We look forward to helping you achieve your goals. Pil-Sung!