When I was a teenager Mortal Combat was at it's peak of popularity.
Especially now, as a martial arts guy, I like the concept, but I never was able to get into it.
I know this might not seem relevant to martial arts, but bare with me, it will be...
I think there were two factors that contributed to my not getting in to it deeply. The first was economics: we didn't have the right game console at my house, and we weren't going to, and whenever I went out to the arcade with my friends, I didn't have a ton of money to spend on playing at the arcade either.
My best friend in high school though had both. Consequently, he was very good. Which was the second contributing factor: Whenever we would play, he would just trash me, and quickly. Like a kung fu master, he knew all the advanced combinations that would defeat me before I even had a chance to get started.
Well, there goes my fifty cents. Guess I'm done for the day....
It was the same story any time we would play at his house. He would beat me Like a red headed step child. This is where it starts to get relevant.
There were two possible scenarios here: one was to continue to beat me quickly and easily, each and every time; in which case I learn nothing.
The second was to use his advanced skill to help me learn. This is what GM Sam Chin does with his family's martial art of Zhong Xin Dao I Liq Chuan (which I now teach here in Tempe, Arizona).
By setting his ego aside, he drops his level to just above the person he's working with. He's just out of reach, just enough that you feel like you can reach him. In this way he guides you along, a little bit at a time. He makes you feel like you can almost beat him, it's so close you can taste it...
I started to notice that expert Thai boxing coaches do the same thing. I was watching a short video of Saenchai doing just this while working with a very young, foreign fighter.
As he was working with the boy, he was feigning defeat, as if this little kids kicks and punches were enough to actually put a worldclass fighter on the ropes, and in so doing, he was sacrificing his ego and investing in the younger fighter, building his skill and confidence as a martial artists.
If my friend had been able to set his ego aside long enough to invest in me, he may have had a challenging opponent eventually; one that could truly test his skills and push him to even greater levels, but instead he opted for the ego gratifying option of the quick and easy win over an unskilled opponent, and we both lost out in the big picture.
When you're looking for a "martial arts class near me", look for the one being taught by the humble instructor, the one who's willing to let you win,at least sometimes. Look for the instructor who understands how to invest in loss. If you're learning from the best, buy they're only interested in always reminding you of that, it's very likely that their skill will never become you're skill.
When it comes to finding the right martial arts instructor, it doesn't matter what they can do, it only matters what they can help you to do.