roXor media

martial arts, computers, dorks

Giving advice in class

I was doing some dummy work at my Wing Chun class the other day, and noticed a guy working next to me. As part of the green belt test at my school we have to perform the wooden dummy form in a minute or less. This is actually quite challenging as it’s more about the efficiency of motion and proper structure then it is about speed. If you focus on the speed aspect of it, you get stuck using too much power to be fast, you have to force yourself to use relaxed energy.

This of course is just setup for my actual post. So… I was watching this guy doing his form, working on getting it under a minute, which I had just tested for 2 months ago, so it was still fresh in my head. I suggested that he relax, breath, and most of all not lean into the dummy. Leaning into the dummy is a common mistake, one that I still struggle with myself.

I gently said, “you should occasionally stop during your form, and make sure your posture is correct, it looks like you might be leaning forward.”, trying not to say “your form is wrong”. He stopped leaning forward and turned out his form was faster.

He later told me that he started out not really listening to me, to quote him “I was thinking, oh no another sifu wanna be”. This made me realize two things.

One is the importance of listening, I’ve learned things from people that had been at my school for a week, you should take in everything, filter out what doesn’t fit for you. Not just block everything out that doesn’t come from a source that you think is the only one you should listen to (heck, that person might be wrong).

The second is the importance of teaching “softly” when you are not the instructor. When you aren’t an instructor, you are a peer with everyone else in the class and everyone else in the class should be treated as such. When you give advice or direction, you need to do it from a place of respectful consideration, not “my belt is darker, so you need to listen to me”. The more respect you give others the more they will give to you.


Written by Dan

March 30, 2009 at 8:56 am

4 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. One thing I’ve learned is that people don’t generally respond well to unsolicited advice. A good way to handle those situations is to begin a general conversation (in this case about about dummy work), and then work in your piece of advice nonchalantly. This will allow the person to check themselves for the problem without feeling lectured at.

    Another strategy you can use is tell them the kind of mistakes you have made in the past, joke around about them, and then work the conversation into an analysis of what they are doing. This will create a feeling of common ground.

    Matt "Ikigai"

    March 31, 2009 at 1:30 am

    • Good points. And I would say if you’re a lower rank, never give unsolicited advice. It potentially undermines the person you’re giving advice to.

      I’ve had fellow students that have high ranks in other styles (some their own schools). I’m not sure if they’re “dojo busting” or what, but they’re quick to make sure everyone knows their opinion.

      Thanks for the comment


      March 31, 2009 at 8:31 am

  2. I can’t quite go with never giving advice to someone higher ranked – but it should definitely be done with an extra-large helping of respect.

    I restarted at white within the same art (Isshinryu) after a long hiatus, so I frequently did have more experience than the people a belt or two above me. I would say I offered advice maybe once for every hundred times it occurred to me that I could help. Most usually I would use Matt’s method, sometimes I would ask if I could start working a form side-by-side with them and try to demonstrate my advice rather than verbalizing it. If someone was badly wrong, yet I didn’t feel it was a good time to offer advice, then I’d ask a question I knew they would refer up the line to sensei, and have him offer the advice or correction.

    Perpetual Beginner

    April 5, 2009 at 8:20 pm

  3. That’s a good point, and a good technique. The old “I’m confused? I thought sensei showed it to me this way” is a great way to guide someone while still claiming ignorance and not seeming critical, if their a good student, they’ll double check.

    Great, now I gotta find a different wordpress template so people can see these comments on the main page 🙂


    April 6, 2009 at 8:04 am

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: