Here is one of the best articles on martial arts learning and coaching theory I’ve ever read. It talks about two approaches to coaching students: the god-coach vs. the puzzle-development-coach approach. The article was written specifically about judo yet it is really universal and can apply to whatever our favorite art or arts might be.
Here is an excerpt. Mentally search-and-replace the word “judoka” with the word “student” and the word “coach” with the word “master”, “sifu”, “sensei”, “teacher”, “laoshi”, whatever:
3.1 The god and the puzzle builder : opposite ideal types of coaches
In Genesis one can read that God created man just like him. Some coaches also show these “godlike urges” and try to create judokas like their own image. This is the type of coach that only teaches and stimulates what he can do or apply. Taking into account the success of their own complex of techniques the ex-topjudokas sometimes fall in the beginning of their coach career into this trap.
On the opposite site you will find the puzzle builder. This type of coach is open for the full technique offer. He does not start by taking himself as an example, but for every situation he tries to find the right solution for each judoka. He is not ashamed to ask for suggestions from his colleagues.
Now that is amazing because once you read it, it seems like common sense, yet common sense is not so common, as Mark Twain said. Reflecting more, it is just one observation from judo’s pedagogical maturity that all other arts (not just bjj and sambo) should emulate. In general, one can reasonably say that judo became one of the most successful martial arts primarily due to its curriculum innovation and standardization and NOT due to some kind of new techniques. Almost 100% of the techniques of the art are found in classical jujutsu. The few that were added are mainly minor variations as far as I can tell. So it did not succeed through different techniques, but through the presentation – the pedagogy or teaching strategy – of the seemingly loose body of techniques. It was a lucky historical accident that Kano was an educator and a master of jujutsu. One can also say that bjj added to all of the above and further innovated in teaching strategies. Other disciplines with whatever technical bent have much to learn from these arts primarily in learning theory. I would like to see IMA in particular learn from these approaches, especially since the principles are often similar or compatible. Otherwise they suffer the same fate as classical jujutsu ryu. Cool and interesting but not really most efficiently educational for middle of the curve students like myself and slowly dying out.