Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Before class the other day, Master Hughes gathered the brown belts and black belts together to talk about a new class he's going to start.

It's going to be a pedagogy class: all about how to teach TKD.

I'm glad he's doing that. All black belts are supposed to help with instruction at the dojang, but many of our black belts are young and haven't had experience teaching someone to do something. It's hard to instruct well--just because you're good at something does not necessarily mean you'll be good at teaching it. But Master Hughes told us that he wants the teaching at our dojang to be good, even when he's not here.

"Does everyone know about PCP? What does PCP mean?" he asked.

"Praise, Correct, Praise," someone answered.

"That's the way we do instruction around here. First you praise the student for something they're doing right, then offer correction, and praise when they've done it right."

Master Hughes has talked about this before, and I know that it's sound pedagogical advice. As someone who teaches writing, I know that students are more able to listen and learn if they know what they're doing right. As in "Your form looks great--your kicks are good. Your C-block needs some work though. Here let me show you. Yes! That's right."

But, you know what? Master Hughes doesn't completely follow this pattern--at least not the letter of the law.

More often, he'll come up to a student--a child, let's say--and say "what's this?" imitating the child's bad stance with a silly look on his face. "Is this a good stance?" The child will giggle a bit at his antics, say "no sir" and correct the stance.

Or sometimes, he'll come up and hold his hand out for the student to kick. "Higher!" he'll say. "Bring your knee up higher." Then "that's it!"

It seems to me that PCP isn't really a pattern for how to talk to a student, a rote formula to memorize and spit out. It's more an attitude toward teaching and students and the subject matter. Master Hughes embodies this attitude: he loves the material and cares about the students. He knows how to--at one time--challenge and encourage.

I'm not sure everyone is capable of knowing martial arts as well as Master Hughes, but maybe we can aspire to his approach to learning.

"You know," he said at the end of the meeting, "I think of all of you as my kids. You may not really be my kids, but I've brought you up in Tae Kwon Do."

So I guess we're a family, and we'll be learning the family's way of caring for and bringing up one another in martial arts.

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