Coaching Martial Arts: What Makes a "Good Coach?"


Sticking with our theme of Education in the 6E journey to Eudaimonia, this week, we explore the qualities of "good coaching." Ikkaido promotes, imparts and develops proper, inclusive coaching. Participation and Recreation through Inclusive Martial Arts E-learning (PRIMAE) is a suite of accessible and inclusive coaching qualifications that provide training in how to be an effective and inclusive coach.


Pictured: CEO of Ikkaido, Ray Sweeney. Ray was ranked 37th in World's Most Influential Coaches. His contributions to innovative and inclusive coaching methods are significant in enabling martial arts to be accessible to everybody.


Coaching in Martial Arts


There is a notable lack of accredited coach education in martial arts. Possessing great technical skill alone is not enough to qualify someone as a coach. Without proper education, they can be unprepared and underqualified for the responsibilities that come with it. Coaching martial arts requires more than imparting knowledge of technical skills to another person. A black belt martial artist may possess prodigious skill, but often lacks the knowledge of how to coach someone. Therefore, it is important to identify what the qualities of a good coach are (in addition to understanding technical skill), and differentiate between a "coach" and someone who is a skilled martial artist.


The qualities of what makes a truly great coach - developing people and positively impacting your community - are embedded in the philosophy of martial arts. Unfortunately, few are trained in how to do it. Traditional martial arts philosophy promotes the inclusion and development of everybody. Our Inclusive Martial Arts qualifications have been developed with a focus on coaching and inclusion theory as core modules. In order to tackle the lack of education on how to develop participants, PRIMAE offers qualifications in the skills of coaching, along with honouring the martial arts philosophy of inclusion and personal development.


Ray pictured coaching J, using innovative and inclusive methods.


What Makes a Good Coach?


There are many facets of coaching that reach far beyond a detailed understanding of correct technique. The responsibility of a coach is to support and develop people. In order to do this, a coach must be able to assess and improve a person's overall wellbeing. Therefore, good coaching is dependant on understanding and improving a persons physical, mental, nutritional, social and intellectual well-being. Some of the skills a good coach should have and know, but are not limited to, include:

  • How and when to develop children physically

  • Fine and gross motor skill development; what stages people should develop those skills

  • Nutrition for a healthy mind and body

  • Mental development

  • Strength and conditioning

  • Athletic development

  • Building strategy for a type of performance, including aims for competing at a particular level of competition

  • Short-term and long-term goal-reaching strategies

  • First aid

  • Safeguarding

  • Sport psychology; including personal motivations, aspirations and understanding emotional intelligence

  • Developing soft and hard skills

  • Inclusive communication

  • Adult development

  • Assessment of strengths and weaknesses

  • Supporting and understanding the needs of a community and participant environments


A good coach does more than instruct people on how to perform; real coaching is someone who possesses the skills to develop people. Good coaching has a positive impact on the community and its development. A good coach shares their knowledge, educates and empowers those around them, and encourages others to do the same. A coach should possess the capacity to teach diverse groups of people and utilise a varied skill set to get the best out of a community. A good martial arts coach should reflect the philosophy that underpins Martial Arts, based on the Seven Virtues of Bushido; Right Behaviour, Integrity and Honesty, Benevolence and Compassion, Determination, Sincerity, Right Action and Responsibility. The mark of a good coach is developing character and supporting people on their journey to improving not just as a martial artist, performer and athlete, but as a citizen in their community, too.


“The ultimate aim of karate lies not in victory nor defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants ” (Gichin Funakoshi, founder of Shotokan Karate-do)

PRIMAE addresses the need to implement more opportunities for formal and regulated coaching qualifications in martial arts, in order to reflect the different levels and competencies of a coach. For example, level 1 coaching indicates that someone has enough knowledge to be an assistant coach. Level 2 demonstrates that someone possesses the coaching ability to coach independently and contribute to community development. Level 3 indicates that someone is able to coach people in the pathway to competition. In response to this, Ikkaido made a step-change in the landscape of Inclusive Martial Art coaching through the creation of PRIMAE. PRIMAE offers inclusive training for prospective coaches, where participants can progress through levels 1-4 in modules on training and education in martial arts. Through PRIMAE, participants will gain official accredited and OFQUAL regulated certification of their thorough knowledge and skillset as a martial arts coach.


One of the qualities of being a good coach is enabling inclusion and having the ability to coach anybody. This includes working with persons with a disability, people with fewer opportunities, disadvantaged people and children. It is important to equip oneself, as a coach, with the tools to protect yourself and implement safeguarding in your community. Coach education in martial arts is necessary to protect the safety not just of the learning participant, but the coach, too. Proper training and qualifications in coaching will build the confidence of the coach and their student, and will offer clear guidance on protection and safety. There is a difference between being a leader and/or instructor and being a coach: coaching is about the law, including the roles and responsibilities that people take on as a coach. Safeguarding is fundamental to nurturing and protecting the wellbeing of participants, and wellbeing is essential to good coaching.

“Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power” (Lao Tzu)

A good coach is always undergoing continuous professional development on their own journey of self-improvement. Coaching is a path of personal development, whereupon the coach develops themselves at the same time as developing the people they teach. There is always room to develop your own skills as learning in martial arts, as in life, is continuous. Coaching others can be one of the best ways to learn more about martial arts, yourself, other people, and life itself. Being a coach can be one of the most formative and enriching experiences, and the best coaches are those who remain open to learning themselves.


Martial arts philosophy emphasises the on-going nurturing aspects of personal development that are embedded and maintained through coaching.


There is no finish line. When you reach one goal, find a new one. (Chuck Norris)

Look out for Professor Richard Bailey, internationally recognised expert in coaching theory and practice, discussing more about the qualities of "good coaching" on our social media platforms.


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