As already discussed, your first impression of your 52 Blocks instructor may determine whether or not you come back for more 52 Blocks training. The first time you meet your instructor, you are likely to be a bit tense. Your instructor should take time to ask you some general questions that tell you he is interested in your progress. Once you bow in, the setting will be more formal. But you shouldn’t fear going to your instructor with concerns or questions you may have. You might want to ask him to give you some information about himself as well. For example, ask him about his experience and the masters that he has studied under.

The first lesson should be interesting, without overemphasizing any particular task. If your 52 Blocks instructor gives you a half-hour talk about how deadly the art is, he will probably do you a disservice. It is also important that he doesn’t start with teaching techniques designed to impress or frighten you, such as a sparring session where he beats you black and blue in order to determine if you have heart. These sorts of lessons are not perceived well in today’s society where martial arts schools are a dime a dozen. We tend to assume that people study the martial arts because they want to learn how to fight or defend themselves. But the fact is that many arts are traditional. The instructor intends to develop your life philosophy in addition to your self-defense skills

The first lesson is the beginning of a journey that should lead to a good relationship with your instructor and set the course for future training. If you are new to the martial arts, much of the first lesson should be used to familiarize you with the experience. When you leave, you should be looking forward to coming back. The first lesson should make a favorable impression by teaching you something useful, such as how to clench your fist and throw a punch correctly. The first lesson should also leave you with something to think about. You should have an idea of how the first few weeks will look, when you can expect to enter your first tournament, or how belt promotions work.

In the second lesson, you will be a bit more relaxed and more information will therefore sink in. As you become familiar with the etiquette of the training hall, you can learn the material more rapidly without having to focus on remembering rituals. You will begin to understand your mistakes and visualize the learning process. Still, it often takes up to two years before students break through the mechanical stage and find a connection between the techniques they have learned.

Many schools ask students what they hope to gain from the lessons. Consider asking your instructor about the primary aim of the school. His aim does not have to be identical to the aims of other schools, but he should be able to state it clearly.

1. Does the school have a mission statement that is short, clear and to the point?

2. What sets your school apart from other schools?

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