“You should, in science, believe in logic and arguments, carefully drawn, and not authorities.” Richard Feynman
I read the quote above in Feynman’s physics lectures. It encapsulates everything that I love about the sciences. In college during my physics and engineering courses, professors would routinely challenge students to not take them at their word but to actually try to disprove them. The professors earned my trust through showing me how to get their knowledge by evaluating scientific arguments. They were instructing me how to think about science. I learned to trust my teachers but look for proof of their claims within their argument not their academic authority.
This seems like a sensible way to teach martial arts as well. After all, Counterpoint Tactical System won me over by proving that I could learn self defense skills. My philosophy about the STL Counterpoint club is that I am making the argument that Counterpoint Tactical System and Cacoy Doce Pares are worthwhile self defense systems that anyone can learn. I view instruction during class as building proof of that argument. How? By helping the student gain skills to defend themselves. I don’t want students to take my word that the drill they’re doing is important. I want them to see that it is building towards a complete skill set even if they’re not ready for the whole picture. I want them to feel that the drill is increasing their skills. My goal as a club leader is repay the student’s trust with proof.
As I’ve been teaching and thinking about teaching, I have had to examine my methods and what I really want to accomplish. What responsibility do I have to the students of STL Counterpoint? I don’t know if I’ve written them down or told anyone. So, here are my commitments to STL Counterpoint’s students:
To lead by example
To focus on safety during training
To demonstrate the material and not just talk about it
To be transparent in my instruction by showing where the material belongs in the curriculum
To be honest about a student’s progress
To teach skills that build towards a viable self defense system
To make the most of our time together during class
To have drills that are not just busy work
To continue my own exploration of the martial arts
To point out areas where I’ve made mistakes and how to avoid those mistakes
To welcome all respectful questions
To admit when I’m wrong or when I don’t know the answer
I’m sure other instructors have the same commitments to their students. I’m a big believer in writing things down, and with this blog, some things that are written down become public. In my martial arts studies – and with Counterpoint Tactical Systems in particular – I have been fortunate to have instructors that embody each of those qualities. I believe that it’s my responsibility to my instructors to follow their example. It is my responsibility to my students to provide the same quality instruction that I have received.
Students, what do you expect from your instructors? Instructors, what responsibilities do you have towards your students?