One of the things our community is known for is how supportive and helpful we can be to each other. It’s one of many things I love about our gym, and I love it when new members remark on how welcoming other students and instructors are to them. It shows how much we love what we do, and how much we love to share it with other people.
Unfortunately, there is such a thing as being too helpful, and as such, this is a post born of necessity. I will rarely use this blog as a platform to discuss a widespread issue at the gym, but this is one we usually don’t have a lot of time to discuss during class time. You may have heard the instructors talk about self-teaching during the last couple weeks. Self-teaching is when another student or instructor teaches another student during class time other than the primary instructor of that class. This appears in two ways: when your partner starts pointing out the things you are (maybe) doing wrong and tells you how you should be doing that skill or if your partner explains how to do the skill when you don’t know how to do it.
There are a lot of reasons why the instructors do not want students to do this during class, especially in Beginner classes. Usually there is not a lot of time to go over every single reason why we don’t advocate this with your partners during class; you’re in class to train not for a lecture. However, this blog does give me the ability to explore any KMS topic, so I’m going to lay out those reasons here as a quick lesson in why this is generally not a good thing to do as a training partner.
It’s disrespectful to your instructor.
All of our instructors and apprentices at KMS have been there for quite a while. I think the lowest experience level is just under two years. The highest is over a decade. They know what they are talking about. They have been training in Krav Maga for years, and have been or are being trained to teach that material. You have not been. Sometimes it can take a while for the instructor to work around the room, but all of the instructors will come over to a student who is either struggling or asks for help. That time gap is not for any other student to fill in with their own opinions of what that student is doing wrong.
Additionally, they are the ones running the class, and they should earn the same respect as any other authority figure. Some of our instructors have seen students wait until the instructor has turned away before giving their own feedback to their partner or have continued to provide feedback in front of the instructor. Please remember that you are a student in class. You are taking away from both your training and your partner’s training by trying to teach over the instructor, even if the intention is to be helpful. The best course of action if your partner is struggling with a skill is to call the instructor over so they can assist. That interaction is a learning moment for you as well.
Don’t assume your knowledge is higher than your partner’s.
It isn’t uncommon for our upper level students and instructors to take part in lower level classes. It’s actually something we recommend because it helps maintain their skills. That being so, they often get to partner up with less experienced students...who sometimes make the mistake of assuming that they are the new ones and need some coaching. There are several reasons why this is wrong; the chiefmost of which is that the advice given has no bearing on what the student is doing, let alone if they are doing anything incorrectly. An upper level or more experienced student may actually be working on something that may seem incorrect to the inexperienced eye when it is actually spot on. Nevertheless, it is the instructor’s job to make that call, not you as their partner. Unless they are preventing you from being able to train (hitting too hard, holding the pad incorrectly, etc.) then let them do their thing.
You may be giving bad advice.
None of us want to admit that there are some techniques we aren’t as skilled at. Don’t assume that what you think is the core issue with a skill is actually the core issue for that individual. Additionally, don’t assume that you are giving them the correct feedback. More times than not, the instructors overhear a student giving incorrect advice to their partners; in those instances, the student either does not need to fix whatever their partner is suggesting they fix, or it isn’t the core issue but rather a consequence of the core issue. Please remember that this is what our instructors are trained to do. They have been doing Krav Maga for years. We understand that you want to be helpful (and we love the support), but you may be giving your partner feedback that will make them worse, not better. Not only does that make teaching more difficult for the instructor, but it also sets back your partner.
With that being said, here are some ways to deal with a partner who is self-teaching to you if you are unsure or anxious about how to approach it. Be warned, I’m usually not a very subtle person. It may take me awhile to work up to confronting something, but I’m usually direct in how I approach things. Please bring it up to one of your instructors if these ways don’t work for you, and you would like another option. I guarantee all of them have dealt with this in some form and can help you problem solve if it is an issue again.
The authoritative approach: call over an instructor.
Our instructors are good about going to a student that they either see needs help or that calls them over. I have waved over an instructor many times for clarification on techniques. You can always ask an instructor to look over your form (without necessarily calling out your partner) and see what feedback they have. This option either creates an opportunity for the instructor to show your partner that you don’t have an issue they think you do or to clear up confusion on what is required for the technique. It’s always good to have a final say from an instructor to shut down any tension over a skill.
The blunt approach: shut it down.
Communication is key between partners. It makes or breaks a training day. If you are with someone that continues to self-teach, you can always tell them to stop. Then you can bring it up with an instructor if it becomes a greater issue. Here are some ways to politely (or not politely) ask your partner to stop if you decide you do not want to deal with it that day or with that person.
“I understand that you are trying to help, but I would prefer to see what the instructor thinks.”
“Let’s call the instructor over so they can explain the technique more.”
“I’m not sure that is my issue but I will ask the instructor when they walk by next.”
“Thank you, but I think I’ve got it.”
“I’m actually working on something different right now.”
“I appreciate the feedback, but you are self-teaching. I think we should leave that to the
I know it can be hard not to self-teach, especially with a newer person. I have trouble with it sometimes as well; it can be difficult to avoid when your partner asks you specifically if they are doing a technique right or not. However, explaining a technique or giving them feedback on what you think is wrong (even if you may be right) does not help them in the long run. These are things they need to work through, whether that be getting more comfortable to ask the instructor when a skill doesn’t make sense or fixing a technical issue. There are better ways to be a partner without potentially creating tension between you and someone that may not appreciate whatever feedback you are giving them.Please refrain from self-teaching for the sake of the instructors. Again, we love that everyone wants to be helpful. Funnel that positive energy into your own training or encouraging you partner instead.