Monday, 13 October 2014

Teaching karate - harder than you might think

This is probably a bit of an daft point to make but teaching karate is a lot harder than you might think.

There was a bit of a kerfuffle a my club last week, the senior instructor and myself (I'm the assistant club instructor) were both away from training last Wednesday and we had to leave things with one of the other more junior (in terms of age, although technically he is a higher grade in Shukokai karate than me - he's in his early 20's and I'm 44) black belts to run the club for the night.

The problem was a group of quite young junior grades who from the sound of it kind of run rings around him and basically messed him around all night. Cue complaints and comments from watching parents and so forth. Ironically the parents said, after the fact, pretty unanimously that the kids should have been treated more strictly and the junior black belt felt he couldn't shout at these juniors for fear of upsetting the parents - bit of a catch 22 situation.

Teaching karate and in particular kids takes a lot of skills beyond knowing your stuff technically. You have to have strategies. Strategies for dealing with parents, with higher grades, lower grades and especially for kids. You have to create a lesson plan, even if it is only in your mind (after 34 years of training and 28 years as a dan grade I kind of do that more or less automatically) but be prepared to be flexible as the session evolves. In particular you need to develop a style of teaching that whilst confident and authoritative matches your personal style of communicating. My personal style is to have a zero tolerance to chatting, untidy gi's and lack of discipline but once the class is quiet and focused I like to relax and enjoy - have a joke but keep people on point. With kids I make sure they know what they're doing and throw in the odd extra set of press ups to make sure when their mind wanders they know there are consequences.

The important thing to remember is that these skills and strategies do not develop overnight - when I started this new (to me) style of karate in 2010 it took me a few months to get into the mind set of the new style and years to understand the changed teaching methods - even now I sometimes struggle for the next thing to pass on to the class - the important thing though is not what you say or teach to the class but rather that you do it with some authority - expect to be obeyed and people will obey you. Dither about and people will be unsure, especially kids and when kids don't know what to do they revert to type and mess around.

So the message to the junior black belt is to work harder on developing their style and not being afraid to 'take charge'. We've also had to have a rethink in the short term and make sure one of the senior guys is there regardless.

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