Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Five Drills for Variety in Training

Welcome Back
I hope that some of the hints that I’ve mentioned in the previous posts have come in handy and that you and your students are having an adventurous time in the dojo. This post will be an easy read.

I am going to make a list of drills (I call them games) you can put into different portions of the training. Try one or all of them and let me know how they work for you. Some of these drills were used when I was a kyu, in an adult class. I will mark those with an asterisk.

Shark and Eagle*
Description of Drill: Place one student in a ground fighting position and one in a fighting stance. Have the standing student try to tag the ground fighting student with a kick or a punch in the belly or the head. Have the ground fighting student use his guard position, movement on the ground, and kicking / grabbing to defend.
When to use it: This one works at the beginning, middle, and end of class. There is no end to the uses of this game.
Other details of interest: Everyone loves this game, even adults. This drill really improves the student’s ability to move in the ground fighting position and the attack from the ground.

Spin and Find the Knife*
Description of Drill: Get a rubber knife. (This also works with a wooden gun and even karate weapons.) Have all the kids stand in a circle and explain how to play: One child will go into the middle of the circle and start spinning around “helicopter” style. While he is spinning, you drop the knife somewhere in the circle. After he is sufficiently dizzy, have him stop and try to find the knife, pick it up by the handle, and take his guard position. Let everyone have a turn.
When to use it: Good at the end of the day, or after working knife techniques. It really opens the door for discussion on the danger of weapons.
Other details of interest: This is a popular game. As an adult kyu, we played this game to simulate what it feels like to have your ears boxed. That came in handy later when I did have my ears boxed. What a case of vertigo!!

Description of Drill:
The blocker is a staple when teaching blocking systems to anyone under the age of 8. After the repetition of the blocking system, use the blocker to hit the children. I hit them, first in the order that I worked the blocks and then randomly, strictly for the laughter. All ages like it, but under the age of 8 it is the ‘reward’ for staying focused.
When to use it: Obviously, this drill fits best after working repetition on blocking, whether at the beginning, middle, or end of class.
Other details of interest: Although the blocker wasn’t around when I was a kyu, it is a daily tool in my teaching bag. I try to bring it to every class and miss it when I forget. Even though this photo shows one student and teacher. More often, I am using a blocker on 10 or more kids at the same time. I am running up and down the rows and they are blocking and laughing. Everyone is getting stronger.

Blocker vs. Blocker
Description of Drill: Hand each child a blocker and let them strike at each other. Before you let them start, explain that the soft part of the blocker is the hitting part. If they hit with the handle it will hurt them both. (Inevitably, someone will catch their finger in the clashing handles, but at least you warned them.)
When to use it: This game fits in the middle and at the end of class. It is a great stress reliever if you have been focusing on technology for a long period. Or, it is a treat instead of sparring at the end of class.
Other details of interest: The kids call this playing “star wars”. Try it once and watch their excitement. Let me know if your kids love it as much as mine.

Double-Ended Blockers
Description of Drill: Each participant has a double ended blocker and they block and strike each other for an allotted period of time. I keep my matches under 45 seconds to keep the injuries down.
When to use it: It is an end of the day game. I use it about 4 times a year as a special event.
Other details of interest: In this picture, Cody and Kyle are having some fun, don't you think?This game requires 4 blockers and 2 couplers. This is about a $50 or $75 investment. (I have tried making my own out of PVC and padding, but they don’t hold up, they are too heavy, and they don’t work very well.

Jump rope
Description of Drill: The jump rope I am referring to is about 10 feet long. Hook one end to a chair and hold the other end. Have the participants earn their jump rope turn by answering a karate question or showing a karate skill. I give them three choices of how to pass through the rope:
1. Just run through the turning rope.
2. Just jump rope and run out when you have jumped 5 or more times. (That is up to the teacher. Make sure everyone is allowed to jump the same number of times).
3. Run in and jump rope (5 times). Run out when you are done.
When to use it: This game fits in all parts of training. I use it almost exclusively at the end of class. I use the game to review history and philosophy of karate by having the students answer questions in order to get their turn.
Other details of interest: This drill is as popular as any of the drills I use. It is, as all my drills are, a way to vary the repetition of training. It also builds timing, speed, and agility in movement. The first time I ever saw anyone using the jump rope was while teaching with Sensei Nick Brown over 20 years ago. I have tweaked it a little over the years, but have been using consistently throughout my teaching.
One quick note: If your class is oversized (30 kids) it might take 25 or 30 minutes to do some of these drills. Therefore, I recommend that you divide the children into groups of 10. One group can work stretch, exercise, basics etc. One group can work technology. One group can “play” with one of these drills. If you try to do 30 children in the jump rope game or the spin and find the knife game or the blocker vs. blocker game, the kids have too much down time and it isn’t good use of the time.
Use the drills and let me know if you have questions, failures, or successes.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Using Assistant Karate Teachers

Tip: Watch the eyes of your students. You can tell right away when students are saturated with technology, when they don’t understand the words you are using, when they are glued to your energy and ready for more.
Keep An Eye On The Eyes.
Here you can see Yoli keeping an eye on Stephanie’s eyes.

Oos to all who are still reading, and those who are here for the first time. I recommend reading past posts, just to get an idea of things we have been discussing.

Here is an example:
You have 20 kids. The ranks are 5 beginners, 3 are 7th kyu, 5 are 6th kyu, 2 at 5th kyu, 2 at 4th, and 3 are 3rd through 1st kyu. Set the workout to run all the way to the end of class. Have your assistant take out the small groups quietly. He / she should drop kids back in and remove new ones without interrupting the flow of the class. (The first time you are going to do this, tell the children what you are doing so that they are ready to walk away from the group quietly and THEN turn and do the courtesy bow to you. This will allow you to keep the flow going.) The helper should start by figuring out how much time to spend with each group. If they begin 5 minutes after class starts, and go to 10 minutes before class ends, they will have 45 minutes for 6 groups. That will give them a little more than 5 minutes per group. They have to hustle. I suggest the individual instructor start with the ‘brown’ belts (3 – 1 kyu). You and your helper need to decide in advance what technology each rank should be working on. It flows well. He or she will keep trading one group for the next. The time will fly.

In this shot Sensei Jackie is helping one student, while the others work in the background.

Meanwhile, you have an hour long class set up in your head. Of course, you can start with a few minutes of meditation. Then do 15 minutes of stretch and exercise and another 10 minutes on stances, blocking, striking and history. Then you can go to bag work, or self defense or kata basics for another 10 – 15 minutes. Now it is time to spar, with just enough time to do meditation and announcements before bowing out.

This class structure works really well. If your helper comes on time, you can have him / her run the class while YOU look at individual growth and technology.

Now that I have given you a structure to try in your dojo (Let me know how it works.), I would like to talk a little about how to get more people to show up as helpers. Here are some ideas that have worked for me:

Take a minute in adult class to:
Talk about the benefits of coming in early and helping. Remind them that they will master ONLY through teaching. Publicly recognize the people who showed up and helped. (“Thanks to John and Sally for showing up and helping”)
Spend a minute at the beginning of adult class talking about what worked and what didn’t work when they were working with the kids. That will make the other students care. In this shot I am going over a chasing game with some instructors:

Take a minute at the end of kid’s class to:
Have the kids thank the assistant teachers that aren’t black belts. Give them their props.

Finally and most importantly actually USE the helpers that do show up. That means that occasionally you won’t get to run the show. They get to warm up class (see below), be in charge of the end of the day event / sparring / whatever it is, and teach something other than blocking and Tekkie 1. It took me a few years before I became even slightly comfortable managing helpers instead of running class. It was a big change for me, but a huge plus for the children to have small work groups with a teacher instead of being lost in a sea of kids who already know the material.
Let me know if any of these pointers help out.

In my dojo, these days, it is unusual for me to have only one helper and even more rare for me to be alone. I make it a point to give the helpers teaching jobs that will let them grow. I take on the hard to teach students myself. I use my peripheral vision to watch the other groups and give my helpers pointers on how to keep the kids attention or use words that the kids will understand when I notice they had a problem. I always thank my helpers for showing up.

Here is a photo. Look closely and you will see 4 different groups; in the front you can see Randy and Isaiah, behind him are Andrea and Andrew, I am in the far right with a new student and the bo kids are on the far left.

So here is the bottom line:
To get helpers you are going to need to encourage them, motivate them, thank them and give them jobs that challenge them (not like in the old days when we sat and waited for Sensei to give us a job, remember that?) Everyone wins when adults show up for the kid’s class. The adults are pumped for their class, already warmed up, the kids get the attention they need and attach themselves to people other than you. (That is awesome the first few times you see it, by the way.) Last, and very importantly, you are free to see the big picture and figure out where to go from here.

Please let me know how this works out for you. Next post I am torn between talking about how to use more than one helper (do a lot of you have more than one?) and talking about ways to vary the repetition in the dojo.

Keep on teaching the punch and keep in touch,