Are you a good client?

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Or, more broadly speaking, are you a good student, disciple, pupil or any variation of the term? For someone who is only concerned with making a living out of providing a service, a good client can be summed up as someone who pays and stays. For someone truly invested in the work of others, clients results which leads to progress in all other areas of fitness and life, I believe that being a good student oneself leads to being a better coach. The relationship continues beyond the fiduciary aspect of the training.

I always like to stress that I provide clients with a service, but I am not at their service. This has nothing to do with power, rather commitment and accountability. I like to think of it in the following terms: my clients borrow my knowledge, catch a glimpse of the “members only” club, for an hour or so. That still doesn’t answer the question, however, just makes me look mean (but it’s for your own good. I set standards and expectations from clients and myself very high).
To paraphrase something I heard recently at a workshop for fighters, the defensive tactics teacher said the following at the beginning of the workshop: “a good student is like a dog; even when sleeping, ears are always up, alert and listening. A good student is like a hawk; always scanning, watching, observing and quickly grabbing what it’s after. A good student is like a stork; waiting patiently, sometimes on one leg, sometimes on the other, until it finds what it’s looking for. A good student should also be hungry, to avoid desire” (interpret the last one however you wish).

These two attributes are necessary and intrinsic aspects of learning and progressing. One may choose to get a book, DVD or watch a Youtube video. Inevitably, unless you record yourself on video, play it back and correct your form assuming you actually do that and possess the skills to rectify and understand what you did wrong, you will miss something, create an imbalance, miss an important point. That falls under the category of experience, which is essentially doing and you will NOT achieve your goals without it. Knowledge, however, you have to acquire from someone else, in person, directly because that person, that coach/trainer/teacher can find, tweak and improve what it is you need to accomplish, regardless of what it is you are learning.

I’d like to think that I’ve always been a good student. Attentive, disciplined, hard working. I constantly seek knowledge and am humble to recognize what I do not know. Sometimes, the humility comes from an ego-crushing injury, where you find yourself unable to perform at the level you targeted. This in turn becomes an opportunity to fine-tune your work.

I’ve been a martial arts veteran of 24 years in a variety of styles and hold 2 black belts. Yet, I recently learned of ways to refine my kicks, punches. I acquired the knowledge from 2 very learned people, and gained the experience by practicing. Some techniques did little, others did a whole lot! Not because some were better than other, but simply because I am an individual with my individual abilities and weaknesses. Recognizing that is what makes the work of a coach personal, in your training, in your relationship with your trainer and that cannot be acquired in a book or magazine.

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