Way before Valkyrie, I had the idea to start teaching people how to teach martial arts. Back in the Scatha Combat Guild days, we put a ton of work into creating a program and booklet to do just that thing. It had a lot of value, and had much of my experience in it. We even started to teach it to a few people, but it faded away. Looking back on it now, it was clear why. I had no real vision of what was needed, or what I saw as an ideal. Without those simple core ideas, my extrapolations to methods and techniques were flawed.

So it was a bit tough for me to realize that the time to pick this project up was overdue. Valkyrie had been talking about creating a new training program for some time now. We certainly have the tools…honestly Valkyrie for me has been a years-long experiment on how to great the best damn martial arts coaches in the world, and I’ve absolutely succeeded.

Clearly the next step is to record and formalize that knowledge, and pass it on. To that end, I’ve announced a Valkyrie Coach Online Training program, and the first cohort filled up all available spots in a few hours.

Now the work begins.

One thing I’ve learned over the year is that the first few classes are the most important. It should never be just a bland introduction to the basics, run by a bored junior instructor. The first things you teach should be the core that everything is built on. The entire art should unpack from those first lessons.

The lesson I’m finding myself struggling with here is that I put so much weight on getting that opening right, especially in this case, that I find myself overthinking into blankness. As I begin to put the material together, by brain gets involved and tells me to check one more source, research one more thing, and it feeds this loop until all I am left with is the sure knowledge that I don’t know anything. All I’ve got is a few sentences I can say in less than a minute, and the rest is common sense.

No one needs to hear from me, I’m fooling myself to think so. When I start to talk, everyone will know that I am empty of all knowledge, and of no use to anyone.

That’s the voice inside my head before every class I teach. Before I sit down to write everything. On a bad day, it’s the only voice in my head, for every single thing I need to do. It’s been a constant chorus since I was about five, with variants. Some really good therapy sometimes makes it get quiet for a while, and if I maintain effortful Stoic practice, I can keep it manageable.

It’s a voice that’s wrecked most of my life, in various ways. Self-sabotage is the dark half of me, a twin that never parts. It’s a neurological issue. My brain isn’t formed the same as other peoples, so this is a part of me. But that darkness is also a kind of light, and I have to acknowledge that. The light it shines is an acute awareness, with razor-sharp focus, on the people around me and how they interact. The darkness shows me rejection and pain and all sorts of other things, but if I instead focus on the darklight…that’s the strength of me as a coach. The darklight (Or Active Inference if you read your Friston) means I see more than most people do. I see not just how people move, but all the emotions and thoughts that shape those movements. I am able to see that when they exercise, when they spar, when they compete. And I’ve learned over the years to strip that ability from my darklight and make it a concrete skill that has recognizable elements. And I’ve learn how to teach others not just to look for the same things, but how to build an environment that lets a student learn to strip those elements from themselves and build up their own awareness of how their body might move, outside of the reality they have created for themselves with their own darklight.

From a quirk of my brain, we have a solid and repeatable method of teaching good martial arts. The learning for me now is to look to my students (The Valkyrie Coaches) and let them teach me what they have learned, so that I don’t need to re-create my words every time. Kaja has written up a beautiful book that contains many of our secrets, and will be pretty much a required text for the coaching class, along with Marozzo’s wonderful manual.

I’ve also tricked myself, before I started this process, by writing down a full blueprint of everything I want to teach, and the sequence of teaching it in. So when the voice starts to talk, I can look at my list of things, and start to add up how long it will take to teach it all, and start to groan inside at how much I have to cut.

Regardless, I am now committed to this endeavor of learning. In a few months, there will be some new Valkyrie coaches out there in the world, and they will have taught me a lot. I’ll try to share what I learn here, as I learn it.