In most traditional martial arts schools, praise is rarely given. You will hear a lot of constructive criticism, but not a lot of compliments. That is generally how it works in our dojo, but it varies depending on the Sensei. Some of them are less old school and are more likely to offer positive comments, while others almost never do.
When I am teaching, I have a bad habit of constantly praising my students. I will say things like “That was really good, but why don’t you try doing it this way.” It’s my way of softening the blow when I have to correct them. I don’t want to tell them they’re doing anything wrong, because I don’t want to hurt their feelings. I’m all soft like that. It’s funny that I have no qualms about trying to beat the living crap out of people, as long as their feelings don’t get hurt. In competition, I always praise my opponents afterward. I feel bad for the people who lose, even if I am the one who beat them. I just don’t want anyone to be discouraged. So, if I’ve ever told you how great you are, it probably doesn’t mean anything, because I tell everyone that.
Once when I was a scared new white belt in karate, I had to do a drill with a cocky young green belt. After I messed up the counter, I said to him “Oh, I always do that wrong.” He replied “Yeah, and almost everything else, too.” He wasn’t joking. I hate to say it, but that was the first time I cried at the dojo. I got my sweet revenge when I earned my black belt though, because he never got one. If I ever see him again, I think I will punch him in the kidney.
There has to be a middle ground between those two extremes. As a teacher, I need to learn how to correct my students without feeling bad about it, or making them feel bad. I’m so afraid of hurting their feelings, that sometimes I think I am hurting their training instead.