Many people seek champions to be their instructor, but is this necessarily the person you want teaching you? A tournament champion might very well be an effective teacher, but does a good coach need to be a tournament champion? Does one require the other to be true? The surprising answer to this is no. You can be one and not be the other or you can be both. There are many great examples of this to include star athletes who never made the step into coaching. This includes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was a highly talented basketball player, most career points among other records; yet he never made it into coaching (although he has expressed desires to be a coach). Steve Kerr who did not have All-Star NBA talent, but made himself a valuable commodity as a role player is now a coach for the Golden State Warriors. Cus D’Amato was a legendary boxing trainer, who trained two well-known Heavyweight Boxing champions including Mike Tyson and Floyd Patterson, but was never a champion as he could never get licensed due to an eye-injury. Lenny Wilkens is the rare example of a Hall of Fame Player and Coach.
A champion may have qualities that made them successful as a competitor that might actually be a detriment to those seeking to be a student of this instructor. What a student must consider is a number of things ranging from ability to timing to even the drive of the champion. One such factor that must be considered is the athletic ability of the champion. A champion may simply be a freak athlete who is quick, strong, great cardio, mentally disciplined, injury free or even a combination of them. These traits may make this individual an extremely good competitor but how many of his students possess those same traits? You simply cannot gain athletic ability through osmosis. Does he know how to impart knowledge to an individual who is weak due to injury with horrible cardio? That said champion may never have had to worry about these factors and as a result never considered how to apply techniques without these advantages. The champion might also have had been the right person at the right time. How so? Well tournaments are often single match elimination so a good seeding, with low turnout, and luck can ensure a win. How so? Let’s just say the division only has 16 people due to weight class and rank. The person only needs four matches to win the championship, a first opponent might simply be a weak opponent, the second opponent might have gotten injured after winning their first match and can’t fight (so they get a bye), the third opponent, might have gotten injured and is not even 50% (so being healthy against an injured opponent is a huge advantage), and the forth opponent might do some illegal technique and had gotten disqualified in the last match. The champion now has a first place in his division with very little to show for it. Is this person a true champion in your eyes? Did he have to work hard for it?
A good coach (which is what you should seek) is typically able to relate and impart knowledge to his students. He may have entered into martial arts at an older age, possibly with many injuries, and quite slow. He may have had to work hard, learn different ways of doing techniques, or learn to utilize “crafty veteran moves” in order to improve through the ranks. Simply put that individual may not have relied on raw talent in order to succeed. He should be able to take into consideration the body types, strengths and the weaknesses of his students and modify techniques so that they are able to perform techniques at par with other students. Quite simply, martial art is not at all cookie cutter, where one size fits all. A person with short thick legs might need to do a triangle choke differently from someone with long thin legs. The coach should additionally be able to have the time to teach and focus on his students and not worry (about his own training and travels).
In the end, it is your own training, yes it might sound good to train under a champion, but unless you are Rogue from the X-Men, you’re not getting their abilities by training under them. Make sure that they are able to impart the required knowledge to help you become the best you can be. They should be aware of what you need to improve and the best way to impart that knowledge; so you will be able to become the best you can be. This is your time, your money, and your training.