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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Happy Birthday to the Bagginses

Sept 22nd, is, in fact, the day of the Long Expected Party.

For those who, for whatever reason, find this fact interesting or entertaining.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Martial Arts Game: A New Business, Teaching & Coaching Model For The 21st Century Martial Arts-Life® Coach

The Martial Arts Game: A New Business, Teaching & Coaching Model For The 21st Century Martial Arts-Life® Coach The Martial Arts Game: A New Business, Teaching & Coaching Model For The 21st Century Martial Arts-Life® Coach by Rodney King

Like most American martial artists, I first heard of Rodney King (not to be confused with THAT Rodney King) some years back when he put out a series of DVDs through the Straight Blast Gym. In those DVDs, King introduced to the world his "Crazy Monkey" system, which was, to all appearances, a method of teaching fundamental boxing skills to new students. Depending on who you asked, it was either totally revolutionary, reasonably effective, or total hogwash. In other words, it was received just like every other innovation in the martial arts community.

Truthfully, I never paid that much attention to the system. Because most of my training takes place at a top quality striking school, I didn't feel like I was missing a lot in terms of training or teaching methodologies in that regard. A bit closed-minded of me, perhaps, but there it is. I did follow some of King's writings, and checked out the occasional clip on youtube, but nothing I saw leapt out at me enough to make me want to plunk down $100.

So why did I pick up this book?

A few reasons. First, the book appeared to be about pedagogy, which is something that I am far more interested in than technical material at this point (particularly in regard to empty-handed striking). Second, it appeared to have a lot to do with teaching private clients, which is something I do a lot, and hope to get some ideas from. Third, it appeared to offer a business model similar to the one I've been trying to work with, so I figured that it was probably worth checking out.

And it absolutely was.

The Martial Arts Game is a combination of business manual, self-help book, pedagogical treatise and impassioned plea to the martial arts world. King begins by outlining what he perceives as some of the major problems in the martial arts community. I think some of his observations are dead-on accurate, though they are clearly colored by his long association with the mixed martial arts community. It is through the observations that he comes to suggest a different model of coaching the martial arts.

I almost wrote that it's a new model, but the truth is, what King is suggesting is, for many arts, really a return to an older model. Small classes, with a good student/teacher ratio. Classes that focus on the student's needs, not on some arbitrary desire by the instructor to pass on the "style" to all of his little carbon copy students. It's a model that I think was much more prevelant in the arts in previous centuries, but has been lost with the growth of the martial arts as an industry.

But new or old, it is a great model, especially in today's society. It really allows teacher and student to develop in ways that are much more difficult to do in a large group class. And King outlines the whole model very well, from suggestions about how teach a specific lesson to how to market and run an entire business. At every stage, he provides some examples of the process that he's talking about, though some are more concrete than others.

The book is good, but it's far from perfect. For one thing, it's very general. King seems to have really only scratched the surface of his ideas here, and it seems like there is room for much more detail. His pedagogy and examples are focused entirely around using a combat sport as your teaching methodology, so teachers of "traditional" martial arts may have a hard time adapting his methods to their instruction.

And I confess that I would have a hard time referring to myself as a "Martial Arts Life Coach", but that is my own personal bias. I'm not sure that my skills at coaching martial arts necessarily make me qualified to help people run their lives; on the other hand, I have occasionally turned into something of a therapist in shorts for some of my clients, so what do I know? Maybe King is on to something there.

Actually, I take that back. King is definitely onto something here. If you're a martial arts teacher, whether you have one student or one hundred, this is book is worth reading.