The Development of Teaching
It is quite evident that our understanding of Taekwondo grows and matures over time, and that our understanding of how to teach Taekwondo deepens. As we implement strategies, give verbal commands, provide explanation of movement and the purpose for the movement, the student begins to grasp concepts, developing his ability and maturing in knowledge. Teaching Chon Ji to a white belt, compared to conveying a higher level of understanding to a higher rank student, is a good example of this principle. After the white belt learns the movements to Chong Ji correctly, the instructor refines the movements further at each belt level. At green belt the pattern is refined further, and the student is better able to comprehend and implement the correct hip rotation on each movement, along with more detail regarding the function of reaction force in the pattern. At black belt that same student will further comprehend the beauty and power of each movement, and make them more fluidly.
Over time, and as our understanding increases, we are better able to communicate more precisely, the beauty and power of each movement.
During the teaching of specific movements, students generally ask questions, stimulating their instructors to think through and verbalize the purpose and design of any given movement. The questioning student actually benefits the instructor (personally, these questions were a great benefit to me. Having no instructor on the west coast to guide me through patterns, floor exercises, drills and sparring strategies, forced me to ponder important questions raised by my students). When I was privileged to spend time with my instructor or a visiting instructor during black belt camps, I asked many questions. The teaching from other instructors profoundly affected my ability to positively communicate truth to the student. This is another application of “constant and never-ending improvement.” As my understanding improved, the student’s understanding also improved.
I have always held the belief that it was my personal responsibility in martial arts to teach technique and movement in the same manner as it was conveyed to me. Following this concept, I would then pass on technique that was credible, because it had been proven over time. Now my students, who are also instructors, are passing on style and technique that they learned from me. In a sense, I now have “grandchildren” in Taekwondo, and shortly will be seeing “great grandchildren.” Conveying truth to the next generation is a serious matter. Passing our knowledge to our student is a little frightening. Our students will then pass this same knowledge to others. We had better be right, or the next generations of students will be affected. Our lives are an example for others to follow. That example can be poor or rich in nature.
Years ago, when Ms. Schwartz was a yellow belt, she was viewing a VHS tape of Mr. Aregis performing patterns. Because of the quality of the tape, etc., she thought she was watching me perform the patterns. The movements appeared to be what she had seen me do during class. When she heard the voice of Mr. Aregis, she realized that it was not her instructor, but Mr. Aregis. This was a great compliment to me, but more importantly, it describes perfectly the very concept written in the previous paragraph. One of the responsibilities of being a student is to implement what you have been taught and perform the patterns as closely as possible to the technique provided by your instructor.
I naturally assume that the higher rank must have greater knowledge of the movements. For this
reason, I have attempted to perform the patterns and movements based upon what I have been taught.
I say this, and then provide a warning: Although we are following our instructor’s teaching and
concepts of technique, we must also seek greater development in our own technique. Without an
instructor present, we may develop poor technique or fail to communicate the patterns properly. In
1994, when Master Hardin was present in California for an advanced belt test, he observed all of my
students performing Yom Gom. Every student, including myself, left out the double knife hand blocks
toward the end of the pattern. After testing Master Hardin asked, “Are you teaching Yom Gom without
the double knife hands?” We made the correction, but I have never forgotten that we all need
instruction. I assumed that this progression of learning would apply to the students. As a result, I
began to teach students each movement based upon their current understanding and rank. As they
progressed in rank, I changed my teaching approach to manage their new ranks and stimulate them to a
higher level of understanding.