Teacher Say, Student Do

When I think of effective training, my mind journeys back to the original version of The Karate Kid from (1984). After Daniel and Mr. Miyagi meet, they share an exchange where Mr. Miyagi writes this post:

Miyagi: Problem: attitude.
Daniel: No the problem is, I’m getting my ass kicked every other day, that’s the problem.
Miyagi: Hai, because boys have bad attitude. Karate for defense only.
Daniel: That’s not what these guys are taught.
Miyagi: Hai – can see. No such thing as bad student, only bad teacher. Teacher say, student do.

No one is beyond teaching, and everyone can learn something. The issues with training arise when it is force fed to people who either don’t want it because it doesn’t meet them at their need or because they cannot connect with the trainer.


In the movie, Daniel wasn’t taught conflict resolution, he was taught how to defend himself. He wasn’t taught how to run away faster, but was given the basic fundamentals that would ultimately help him so he’d no longer have to flee.

How did Mr. Miyagi know what training was needed? He assessed the situation. Instead of just teaching what he wanted to teach, he saw what the student needed. What deficiencies existed and how he could build on what was already there.


In creating performance, we cannot afford to let our experience or egos get in our way. Because we’ve taught dozens of classes, we take for granted the fact that there are many different learning styles…and those styles may not line up with the way we teach.

When that employee has the deer in the headlight look, it may not be because the concept is completely foreign, it may be that the lecture or classroom setting doesn’t grab and hold their attention. When that employee acts out or seems disinterested, maybe it’s because they prefer getting their hands dirty and grinding it out.

To train effectively, we must know our audience, recognize when we have to shift gears and adjust accordingly to reach our employees, not try to force them to keep up with us.


I have never been a fan of just throwing employees blindly into a new situation just to see how they react. Especially if that is the companies sole method of training. That is the quickest way to get an employee to hate you and leave. I am however a fan of arming employees with fundamental knowledge and basic skills that will increase their chances of success if placed in a situation that may be difficult to train for.

Daniel-son stained Mr. Miyagi’s deck, painted his fence and waxed his car…as karate training! Daniel didn’t understand what this had to do with self defense nor did he appreciate the fact that he was doing manual labor while still getting beat up at school. While his trainer had a plan, it had not been communicated and the trainee grew frustrated and disinterested. The leader had to bring it together and make it make sense before he started to get the best out of his pupil and before they could take the training to the next level.

Make It Plain

karate_kid1Communicating the relevance and purpose of the training is just as and sometimes more important than the content of the course. The fact is, how well designed the content does no good if no ones wants to hear it or if its over the head of the trainee.

To be effective, our training must actually be what the employees need and we have to show how it’s going to benefit them. It must be taught in a way that the employee understands and feels comfortable applying after the fact. Focusing on the training needs of an employee creates lean, mean, fighting/working machines that are productive for your organization, but an employee that is more likely to stay and help “Miyagi” the next crop of potentials.


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