Learning Styles and Martial Linguistics

Teacher vs Trainer

As I continue to study and hone my craft over what has become 38 years of development, I always look for new and intuitive ways to disseminate its information. This is the path of the teacher – the consistent pursuit of analysis, of communication. This is also where many talented fighters turned “trainer” fall short. The understanding of how, when and why and more importantly, how to impart the message to others by individual learning style.


Many years ago, during my formative years in Filipino Martial Arts, I had the blessed opportunity to train on several occasions with Guro Bob Orlando (may he rest in peace) in Kuntao Silat. He explained that conventional martial arts are often irrespective of how people absorb information and many students get left behind in the process. This is largely driven by ego with instructors, who can’t seem to “make” a kid learn, so they send them off to a corner to do reverse punches while they work with an advanced practitioner.

Guro Bob often spoke about people being audio, visual or kinesthetic learners, and that has greatly influenced my personal teaching style over the years. It is in my humble opinion, our job as coaches / teachers is to find the one student in the class, who is not learning and figure out how to help them learn.

Martial Arts as a Language

Traditional African percussion often refers to drumming as a language, and is reflected in how they teach “talking drum”. To this end, one can see the commonalities in exchanges of fighting.

When running pad drills I liken each combination to a sentence with a beginning, middle and end. I teach it broken into pieces first, then strung together, and finally with variations for the last set. In theory, I am asking a question, followed by the body of sentence yet, the response can and will change, so we develop further options for the dialogue from there. You ask, I respond, so on and so forth. And so, our enigmatic little drama plays out in combat over and again.

Oh, how I love a good conversation.


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