Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Where I train in karate, the head instructor's son (aged in his mid-20's) has recently taken over most of the classes. This young man (I'll call him Steven) is knowledgeable and experienced. In the past, when he taught occasionally, I enjoyed his classes. He taught us new things, or taught us things we already knew from a different angle.

Since Steven became the main teacher, though, he has become very defensive. He is critical, with very little praise to offer. He bridles at any question regarding techniques, however innocent. With the older students (and there are quite a few of us in the 30-50 age group), he has been particularly curt.

I understand what is going on here. Steven wants to be sure we are all giving him the respect he deserves, as our teacher. The trouble is, he is aggressive, and somewhat disrespectful in his attitude towards the class members. Tonight, when he became annoyed by a 50-ish black belt student who Steven thought was defying him (when actually, the man had made a geniune error), Steven told the man to 'f*#k off' out of his class! To be completely fair, there has been some conflict brewing between Steven and this other man for some time (through misunderstandings, from what I can tell). However, I thought the swearing was extremely unprofessional. But then I guess I'm not 24, and I'm not trying to teach a class ranging in age from 15 to 55 (70 if our oldest member comes along!)

I'm frustrated by karate classes these days. I can feel Steven's defensiveness and aggression. I want to tell him, 'You can't force people to respect you. You must inspire respect. Be a teacher who is firm but patient, who corrects but also encourages." Of course, this would go down like a lead balloon!

Still, I might try speaking to Steven in private. I might tell him how much I've enjoyed his classes, but how I would enjoy some positive feedback as well as correction. I might let him know that I respect him as a teacher but that I sometimes don't feel respected as a diligent student (which I am). Because really, if there is no change, I won't want to continue training. And to leave without at least trying to discuss the issues seems like a cop-out, and a waste of all my years training at that club.

Hmmm. Might sleep on it!


Motherkitty said...

Steven sounds like a real dork with no managerial skills. You can get better results with sugar than with vinegar (as my dear old mother used to say) and that adage certainly seems true in this case. I think the entire class needs to have a serious little talk about respect with Mr. Steven or his father. If I was his "older" student and he talked to me in this manner, I know I would have a big talk with him. After all, you students are actually paying this guy to teach you not abuse you.

Let us know what happens. Maybe the entire class could karate chop this guy into submission then he might straighten up and fly right.

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

I would definitely have a nice chat with Steven and try to explain how he is making everyone feel, without trying to be too critical of him.
Maybe it is just too stressful for him to be taking on so many karate classes or feels intimidated by the older students. A private talk with him would be good...give it your best shot Jelly and see if you get some positive results.
His foul language is unexcusable though.

susan said...

Diplomacy is great and all, but I agree with MK - either tell his dad or a bunch of y'all wait for him after class in the alley behind the building, and show him what you have learned!

T. said...

I have a personal motto: I can't change what I'm not aware of.

Obviously Steven is a little intimidated by his new found responsibility, but perhaps he is so wrapped up by his own nervousness that he just doesn't realize what a tit he is becoming.

I vote to respectfully approach him (not his dad) and just simply state what's going on and how you feel. It may embarrass him, but obviously this guy has a lot of life lessons still to learn.

If that doesn't work, then I'd follow it up with his dad or some higher up at the club, before making the decision not to study at that particular club.

Good luck. And have fun kicking his ass for us!

Anonymous said...

I say, KICK HIS ASS! No, really, that is not the answer. I think you are right to take him aside and speak with him. He may respect it and not be intimidated if the advice is coming from a woman. Some people are just not teachers or leaders, but maybe he is bothered by the age thing. I hope you have sucess with it.

Anonymous said...

How frustrating for you all, especially because you are there because going to these classes usually brings you joy. I would definitely have a chat with Steven - not his dad - going to his dad would probably make him worse not better and make things awkward. Good luck!

Remiman said...

Steven has a problem. How he handles his problem is objectionable to you. Now you have a problem. A.) You can walk away and let your abscence send a message. (maybe not the best coice at this juncture.)
B.) You can approach Steven and ask for some private time at his convience. (this in itself may well set his "anti" response mechanism in motion.) When alone (but not out of sight of others!) explain to him that you have a problem. ie; That you need some positive feedback to make progress. etc. You, Jelly, are very good with words and have a understanding heart and can fill in the blanks here better than I.

I wonder what his relationship was/is with his father. Did his father train him? He may see adult students as a father figure and be resentful. Just a thought.
Good-luck. If you can't tame Steven, no one can. ;-)

All three of my children took Tae Kwan Do lessons for a number af years when they were adolesents.
Steven knows the tenets! He may be a better instructor with younger folks where he doesn't feel threatened by adult authority figures.

Sorry, my verbosity is showing. :-(

shellyC said...

Yep talk to Steven -Or maybe talk to his father? Someone needs to talk to him!!

jellyhead said...

Thanks guys for your suggestions and support - it is very much appreciated! It certainly helped to get some feedback.
I'll be chatting to Steven in the very near future.

Kerri said...

You really got some thoughtful responses there Jelly!
I agree with the general consensus...talk to Steven and see what happens. Rel is right...if anyone can tame him, you can. You do have a wonderful way with words :)
It would be a shame to give up your training, or change clubs because of this situation.

Mimi said...

That is totally inappropriate. I have two black belts and trained in two styles or martial arts for a number of years. It is never ok to use foul language to lead a class, never! In fact, it goes against the internal teaching of any style of martial art.