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How to Effectively Select And Train Your Instructors

March 5, 2021

As a school owner, one of the most important decisions you can make is identifying and training your next (or first) instructor. Many of us tend to focus only on someone who is technically proficient – can they properly break down and demonstrate techniques for students of all ages? 

We fail to look closely at interpersonal skills and other important teaching skills. The most technically proficient martial artist, if he/she lacks these other skills, could be hurting both your sign-up rate and your retention rate. For a more in-depth look at how this could affect your budget, see our recent blog on school KPI’s.

So what are some of the other attributes you should be looking for when selecting and grooming your instructors?


Communication skills 

Instructors with poor communication skills will hinder your student’s progress, perhaps ultimately leading to frustration and students dropping out of class. They must be able to properly observe and give feedback to students. Look for these attributes when observing potential instructors:

    • Do they exhibit patience when showing that awkward 9-year-old a new technique?
    • Does their communication motivate or discourage? Observe nonverbal communication as well as spoken word communication. Facial expressions, posture, gestures, and eye movement can be as important as the choice of words.
    • Can they communicate effectively with both adults and children?
    • With the shift to video training brought about by the pandemic, it’s now important that an instructor be able to teach effectively online. Ever watch a Zoom training session with young kids? Can your instructor keep them engaged and focused? According to a study by C.J. Brame, “Effective Educational Videos”, published by Vanderbilt University, an instructor must, ”Use a conversational, enthusiastic style to enhance engagement.” 


Culture, philosophical, and historical knowledge and practice

Within martial arts, the practice goes deeper than the physical aspects of training. Can your potential new instructors develop the broader, non-physical attributes of martial arts training of your students as well?

    • Will they be a positive role model, teaching by example things such as honesty, integrity, self-control, honor, and humility?
    • Spend time with them to get a good sense of their level of maturity and a strong sense of their character. Do their morals and beliefs align with yours and with the mission of your school?
    • Do they genuinely show an interest in helping others achieve the same level of success as they have?



We all know martial arts can profoundly change lives. And the “secret sauce” lies in the instructor believing in the student. Professor and researcher Brene Brown describes empathy as, “Connecting with people so they know they are not alone when struggling.”  When an instructor shows empathy, it lights a lifelong flame for the student to believe in themselves.


Understanding of safe training methods and first aid

This is perhaps the most important aspect of selecting and training an instructor. Do they have a proper understanding of their responsibility with regard to student’s welfare and safety? Are they properly trained in first aid? Can they spot a concussed or otherwise injured student and know when to stop training and apply first aid? 

    • Nothing causes students to consider dropping out (and perhaps even taking legal action against both instructor and school owner) faster than a serious injury. Students must feel safe in the environment you provide. 
    • Your instructors must have both the maturity level and a strong understanding of safe practices in martial arts training. This is especially important when teaching safe sparring. 
    • According to the Martial Arts Industry Association (MAIA), “The most common reason students quit, whether expressed or not, is that students are afraid of sparring.” Check out their Retention Based Sparring program where you will find sparring rules and etiquette, PRIME pledges for parents, instructors, and students (Practical, Responsible, Involved, Mindful, Effective), curriculum, and many more tools to ensure your school is responsibly teaching sparring.  


Perform a background check before making a job offer

A background check is necessary for all hires within your school. Not all background checks are the same. At a minimum it should include:

    • A thorough criminal history check at the county, state, and federal levels. If your candidate previously lived outside the US, ask your provider about an International Criminal Search 
    • Pre-employment Drug Screening
    • Sexual offender registry check
    • Reference checks
    • You may also want to consider requesting a legally compliant social media check. Don’t use the “do-it-yourself” approach or you could set yourself up for a discrimination lawsuit! A 3rd party will filter out protected class information and present you with only business-related information from which to make an informed decision. 
    • There are varying levels of background checks and they differ from state-to-state. Ask your provider for full details and know what you are paying for. Other things to ask your screening provider about include, but are not limited to, social security number trace, educational background, and employment check.
  • If your instructor will ever transport students for any reason, a driving record check is a must. 

What else can you be doing to improve the quality of teaching when you are relying on others to be on the mat and representing you and your school? Before turning them loose to instruct your students, have them assist you for several months so you can monitor their training style first hand. Make sure they constantly hone their physical skills as well as their non-physical attributes. Be even more hands-on in their on-boarding process by finding and funding complete instructor training courses for them. There are numerous full-fledged training programs to be found in the industry, so sending them to learning seminars and camps as continuous training reflects your dedication to them and your students. Another great opportunity for learning can be found every year at the Century/MAIA Supershow.

Why invest so much time in selecting and training your staff? Because it is pivotal to the success of your school! 

Kicksite understands the importance of hiring the right people to teach your students. We want to ensure your success as a school owner, as well as the success of your students while they train! If you have any questions about how else to find the perfect instructor for your business, feel free to reach out to our team and we would be happy to help! To learn more about Kicksite’s membership management software, visit our website.