I coached beginner’s classes for years before I started learning how to give a one-on-one lesson. I started with the children in my beginner’s classes – pulling one aside at a time for a few drills while another coach supervised bouting. The first full half-hour private lesson I gave was a tremendous learning experience.
Near the beginning of the first lesson I gave, I gently touched my student to adjust her hip alignment… and she flinched. It turns out that she’s ticklish! I apologized and made a mental note. I was hit by a number of realizations all at the same time:
- If my fencer had had some sort of trauma in her past, my correction could have turned out very badly. I made a mental note and a verbal promise to always ask my student for permission before touching her.
- If I were a man, the whole interaction might have looked very different, both from her perspective and from that of an outside observer.
- She won’t tell me I can’t do something, and she won’t tell me that something I did was wrong. Even on day one, my student has a great deal of trust in me. After the initial surprise, she apologized to me (for being ticklish?) and told me I could do whatever I thought was best. I’m now very conscious of the fact that I have to be the one who sets the boundaries in this relationship. That’s a lot of responsibility!
But in addition to the responsibility, building a close working relationship with students is tremendously rewarding. After just a month with that student I could already see real improvement in fundamentals like posture, hand before foot, arm position on the extension. I can’t wait to see where the next season takes us!
What did you learn when you took your first lesson? Or gave it?