As a teacher, you prepare to show a student a technique from the treatise of your choice. You have art, text, and experience, you’re qualified, you know what you’re doing. Everything is set as you prepare to share your hard-earned wisdom. Besides! Said student came to learn from you- so that’s something!

And yet, as you demonstrate the technique, slowly, the student decides to thwart it.

Pisani-Dossi_MS_7v-e– And now I have your arm behind your back, from here….
– I’d totally just grab your nuts or wriggle out of it like this.
– That’s great. I suppose the only way to make you believe in this, is if I try to break your arm, and having failed or not, carry on with one of the many other plays?
– No.
– What if I let you put me in this position, so that I can’t get out of it?
– That’s fine. I’d totally prevent you from escaping!

They do this for many reasons.

  1. Because they can’t stand losing – even in a drill; The winner
  2. Because they are problem-solvers and see the drill as a thing to defeat; The solver
  3. Because they believe they know more than you do; The heretic.

If it is 1 or 2, both can be worked around. If it’s 3, then said student may not be interested in learning from you at this time. While students can be beaten, impressed, or cajoled into respect, I usually don’t bother unless I genuinely like them and want them in my cult.

So, when you have the above type of student what should you do? Here are some of my solutions.

The Winner

For the winner, have yourself in the losing position and guide your student to victory in the technique. This can be a little harder to do because you can’t model correct behavior to begin with. In this way the student feels victorious. After this, most students are willing to be put in the losing position having had ‘won’ first.

The Solver

For the solver, explain that you are doing a technique drill and that the drill is, at first, done slowly with compliance. Explain that non-compliance comes later, and may in fact lead to other plays. A student often wants validation about how their solution works. If it does, then indeed validate them, but remind them that the technique as depicted in the treatises needs to be done first. If pressed for time, remind the student of that, and promise them time after class to discuss the matter.

The Heretic

For the heretic, if the the student seems incredulous about the technique in general, it may be because of how slowly it’s done. A little speed may help as well as explaining if both opponents move at the same rate of speed how the technique plays out opposed to when the teacher moves slow and the student fast. The heretic may indeed have a better way, but if it doesn’t match the imagery and text of what you are showing, then it is something different. Like with the solver, if pressed for time, remind them of such and debate after class.

Why can’t I just do the techniques and beat them into compliance?

beatdownYou can!

I call it, “Making a believer”. And from time to time I have done this. I don’t like it as my go-to solution though. As a teacher, with numerous students, I do not have the time to beat everyone (nor can I) into belief. Also, the venue matters. If I’m teaching a seminar, we are pressed for time and I do not have the time to beat a student into belief.

Usually, after my seminars I do spar a bit with the students, and this is mostly done as a way for them to showcase what they have learned, but it also showcases what I know as the teacher.

Why can’t I just kick them out?

You can!

However, I don’t like this as a the go-to solution. If a student just likes to be the ‘winner’, then this can be worked around. Have them do the technique first, and then they tend to be more agreeable to having it done to them later.

If a student is a problem-solver, then they are on the right track and just a little bit of guidance will lead them where you want to.

If a student is a heretic, they are the most likely to get kicked out, if prior teaching techniques do not work.

Hume’s Guillotine. – No, it isn’t an MMA choke-hold. Isn’t it my students’ responsibility to be ‘good students’?


But as 18th century Scottish philosopher David Hume would say, “They ought to be, yet they are not.”

There are a myriad of reasons for this. Many don’t want to be a ‘sheeple’ and think of themselves as independent thinkers. They indeed are, they are also unaware of the social rules of society and the phrase, ‘time and place’.

I too get bored in long meetings. I too feel I know much and it needs to be shared. And yet… I have not taken my cell-phone out and started texting and smiling during a funeral. Nor have I told the person delivering the eulogy to step aside – because I can do it better.