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There are thousands of books about the practice of the martial arts full of pictures showing us how to kick, punch, throw, and lock an opponent. How to do an endless numbers of forms and wield a dazzling array of ancient weaponry.
Comparatively, there are only a handful of books about the essence of being a martial arts teacher and what that means in the modern world.
Because of this, The Martial Arts Teacher has a very specific focus and is *not* a book for just everyone. But if you call yourself a coach, guro, shifu, sensei, or sibomnin then this one is for you, bro.
The book is written in a very conversational tone, like Johnathan is sitting there and relating his struggles and triumphs, his insights and ideas, over a cup of tea with you. In this way you can learn from the examples he gives and reflect on how you might handle a similar issue in your own school.
There's a lot written here about the psychology of being a martial arts teacher and that's where I see this book shine.
Especially for the new Black belt who is still thinking in terms of "teaching kicks and punches" this book lets them know that their real job is not about teaching the physical mechanics of the art. It is about "teaching people" and helping them to become better versions of themselves.
For 283 pages, I felt it was quick to read. The chapters are rather short so it's easy to go through a whole bunch of them in a sitting, like eating popcorn. Also this way if a chapter doesn't particularly interest you (the part on Confucianism did nothing for me, but you may love it) it's only a few pages until you're back to something interesting again.
Like any book that is one person's opinion, I don't necessarily agree with everything 100% because he tends to speak in absolutes and I see more nuance to some of the issues (such as having a spouse in class or how to do a new student's initial lesson) but that in no way negates all the good points he raises; it merely extends the conversation in my thoughts afterward.
And in this way, I feel that if you read a book and it makes you ponder your feelings on an issue and think of new creative solutions or applications, then the writer has certainly done their job!
One thing he says that has to be put into context for America or Canada rather than Israel where he teaches is that if a teacher were to slap a child on the cheek for not paying attention - even gently - this would cause an uproar among the parents. Even if another child in the class said to a parent "Teacher slapped Little Johnny in class" it could spell disaster for a school today in the world of moral outrage, social media, and lawyers.
(This literally happened at a Kung Fu school I attended in the early 90's when a junior instructor who'd been assigned to teach the kids class with me gently slapped a student like that and by the next class the kid's mom had talked to all the other parents in the parking lot about how her child was "being beaten in class by these horrible instructors" and most of the parents pulled their kids out of the school. We went from 12 kids in class to 3...all whom had parents who studied at the school and knew us better. The head instructor was furious with us but he was also too damn lazy to teach the kids class himself so in the end nothing changed...)
Today, at most, I'd put a hand on the kid's shoulder to help focus them while looking into their eyes and saying something like, "Ok, John (pause) Get ready to FRONT KICK THE PAD NOW."
(Note the use the name John, an adult name, not Little Johnny, a child's name. Also pay attention to the pause and embedded command to action by accenting the words front kick the pad now which speak to the subconscious mind directly. This is effective with children and adults.)
Small points like this aside, overall if I knew a young Black Belt who was eager to go and teach I would absolutely give them a copy of this book and tell them, "Read this and then let's talk about it."
Of course, these are just my thoughts. The easiest way to find out if you will like it is to download the FREE 60-page sample PDF of "The Martial Arts Teacher". It was reading this preview that convinced me to check out the book, and you may feel the same way too!
All my very best to you,
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