It may sound obvious, but one of the hallmarks of a good instructor, is one who has time for every student. In addition, one of the hallmarks of a truly great club, is one where there is a diverse mix of personalities, goals, skill levels and backgrounds amongst the students. What I mean by this, is that some clubs are for fighters only, and others are for fitness or grades. There is nothing wrong with either, but a truly great club can be all of these.


Yes, it is great for the club to be able to boast a high percentage of local, national or even international champions, or black belts for example, but is this a universal attraction to the club? Every club needs new members coming through the door, and for those new members to become regular members, who bring more new members, otherwise, the club ceases to function. It is a fact of life that people have to move on, or give things up for varying reasons, therefore, for the club to survive, it has to attract new blood.


Competitive success is a goal, and a motivation, but it is only one of the many goals that can be strived for in Martial Arts and Combat Sports. Some people are motivated purely by the health benefits, stress relief or to build confidence. The timid personality, not necessarily a child, who is being bullied at either work or school, is as much a part of the club as the seasoned competitor training for their next bout, or the star pupil preparing for their next Black Belt grading. A good instructor or coach will have time for all of them, and be able to work the sessions to benefit all. True, one week the focus may be on one group more than another, but as long as this is shifted and spread about, then the balance is restored. Plus, even the most seasoned practitioners need to spend time on the fundamental basics of their art.


There comes a common problem among Combat Sports and Martial Arts clubs. Every club has this person at some point, and sometimes more than one. They are not necessarily a vindictive or malicious person, perhaps over enthusiastic, driven, or their ambition is just not equalled by their coordination. This is the person that everybody dreads partnering during the session, whether that be to practice techniques or combinations, or to spar with. The pair work is often worse with this person, because you have to ultimately take their over enthusiastic blows, or suffer the pain of the bone on bone block, with which they consistently manage to catch you in the same, traumatised spot.


Sparring with this person can become a test of extreme courage every time you touch gloves with them. Some of these people do calm down. Some of them need to be knocked down by a senior student or the instructor to get the message, “either calm down or don’t come back,” but there are some who just won’t get the message. The harder you hit them, the more they enjoy it, and the more it escalates. Yes, this type of sparring does have its uses for others training for fights, but to have to do it all the time is unsustainable. Sometimes, say after a long, tiring day at work, you may not be in the mood to have to go flat out in order to avoid injury. Most people have to work to earn a living. No wage, no training! So the number of people willing to work with this individual becomes less and less.


In addition to this, the worst time for the timid beginner to walk through the doors is when this person is in full flow, mid sparring session. It is intimidating enough walking in to a club full of black belts and senior colour belts, or just being the new addition to the club among seasoned regulars, without wondering if this person is going to be unleashed on you.


This type of person has to be managed carefully, and sometimes it will take a very strong instructor to do this. Some clubs have the luxury of being able to run fighters only sessions, away from the view of those who do not wish to go down this route, but sometimes this person is too much of a liability to work with the fighters, who cannot afford to be injured, either because that means taking time off work, or it disrupts their preparation for their next competitive event.


No instructor wants to ban somebody from the club, but sometimes, for the sake of the club and the other students, there is no option. It is sad and difficult decision for the instructor to make. It is much easier if this person is a sadistic bully (sadly, you do encounter these in any walk of life, including Combat Sports and Martial Arts), but when it is somebody who basically has a good heart, but can’t control themselves, it becomes so much harder. However, so that the others, the single mother needing her release, the timid, bullied teenager, the older man trying to get active and avoid ill health in his later life, as well as the other potential competitors and seasoned fighters, it sometimes has to be done. As well as a good instructor, a great club will be filled with good, rounded people, who will understand and be grateful that their mentor has taken action for the good of the many.