As always, I'll start with a thank you for taking time to visit this blog. Hard to believe that 2010 will leave and 2011 will begin in just a few short days. It has been a year of growth and change for me, and I hope for you as well. If we're not pushing on, then we're probably falling back and that sounds really boring!
As to the content of this post, I'd like to hit 2 quick points: your feedback, and 2 sparring games I played with a few weeks ago.
I got some good feedback over the last few months. A few of you wrote in at the success of music to motivate, change things up and create a constant rhythm for movement. Sensei Proctor likes to run a large part of class with no commands: just the sound of the music and the students copying his movement. I know I’m going to try it.
Sensei Mashell from Palm Bay mentions that she took her kids to a Senior Center to demonstrate this last summer, and also did some sparring in a lake. I know my kids like sparring in the rain, so I'm sure they would like the lake. The sloppier the better, don’t you think?
If you read the post from 9-18-2010, you’ll read about a few different ways I like to change up our sparring routines. Recently, I tried two training games (drills?) that I hadn't used before. The kids and my assistant teachers liked them both.
1. I’ll call this one “Good Sport, Bad Sport”. Start by pairing two kids together in a typical, point match. Explain in the beginning of the match that the plan is to be a good sport whether you win or lose. Keep score. Then the winner and the loser both practice good sportsmanship. (I call good sportsmanship karate courtesy.) Do the match again, and this time practice bad sportsmanship and that is even more fun. There is whining and pouting and gloating. It is loud and riotous.
2. The next game starts by putting the kids in a very large circle facing inward. The adults are in a circle within the circle and they are facing outward. Start playing music and everyone starts scooting in the circle, keeping their hands up and finding their rhythm. (In my experiment, the kids went clockwise and the adults went counter-clockwise.) When the music stops, if the child is in front of an adult, he (or she) attempts to score a point. Children who don't have an adult in front of them, shadow box (work their technique on an imaginary opponent). This drill continues for some minutes and in the process everyone gets excited. Everyone gets to practice being quick off the line. This game was popular with all the participants. I will definitely do it again.
I want to thank you all for taking a minute to read this post. Thank you for wanting to keep kids motivated, strong, and courteous. These are important as they grow.
Don’t forget to comment, or write me direct with all kinds of feedback.
See you in 2011.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Saturday, November 27, 2010
That is a great quote. Karate teachers are in the business (art form) of creating character. Most of us have had days when we questioned whether to stay in training, when we had to pull ourselves up by our boot straps and try again. If we stayed in training, that thing that didn’t kill us DID make us stronger….lesson learned.
Competition is one of the experiences that builds character. We’ve all been there and we all know the strength of character that can emerge from the experience. Competition makes the students practice, causes them to deal with nervousness, and allows them to see their peer group in action. Having said that, here are 3 bullets that I would like to challenge you to think about:
How young is too young?
Are there certain types of children where competition might be harmful?
What is the responsibility of the center judge to be clear, non-biased, and welcoming in the ring? How does the conversation to and about the competitors from the judges affect the competitors self- view?
Let’s Talk About Age
In my opinion children younger than 6 are too young to compare themselves to other children. (There is an exception here and there in life. I know that.) For the most part, since really young children are just realizing that they are not the center of the universe, and that other children might be faster, funnier, smarter….it might set a downward spiral to exaggerate the width of that gap by having them constantly go to competitions and lose. For my very young students I create a demonstration situation and give everyone the same prize. If they stay long enough in karate, they will have plenty of time to experience competition. Talk to your little ones and more importantly HEAR that they don’t really realize that they are going to be compared. Before you test their mettle, give your very young students a chance to create a strong self image through encouragement and humor.
“Karate is for everyone, but everyone is not for karate.” Do you remember that old saying? Here is another one: “Who is the one person that you cannot teach? The student who doesn’t want it.”
The point of those two sayings is that we get all kinds of kids. We get children with obvious learning challenges. When sending our special needs children, we know to talk to the people running the event, so they can be sure to create a positive experience. However, we also get children with less obvious learning challenges like ADHD (saying they can’t sit still is an understatement), and Asperger’s (exaggerated attention disorder, with compulsive tendencies).My rule of thumb, when centering a ring, is to assume that a child is not being intentionally disrespectful and not bark my commands. That way, if the children have special circumstances, no one will be hurt.
There is another situation that is less visible. What about a child who doesn’t have a label, loves the training, loves to fight, but doesn’t have a great confidence line in life or in showmanship? I know that we all realize how much this child needs the dojo and how much he shouldn’t be pressured into competition. To make matters more complicated, this child is usually quiet, and does what he is told….so his discomfort will go unnoticed until he quits showing up for training. The best case scenario is that the teacher works directly with the parents and everyone watches the growth and development with ease and comfort. If this child ends up in your ring, be gentle in their lack of fighting spirit, or their lack of natural physical talent. They are gaining so much more from their training, don’t you think?
The Role of the Center Judge
All of us have stories of judges who made us feel like they knew us, even though they didn’t. All of us have had the opposite experience. If there was one piece of advice that I would like all of you to keep with you in class and in competitions it is to actually be aware of the fact that everything you say, every nuance, is noticed by the students /competitors. The center might be having a conversation with another judge about something unrelated to the competition and utter the phrase “That sucks.” The child, hearing just that part of the conversation……you see where this ends.
A miscommunication can occur when the competitor is presenting himself. The center judge, being funny (?) says things like “Didn’t your Sensei tell you to wear your WHOLE gi?” “Get some patches on that gi before you come back.” This nonchalant speaking style doesn’t take into account that, for the most part, the center judge doesn’t really know this student. There are many different types of students going to a competition. All of them have stories of parents with too much money, no money, parents who feed them and dress them before bringing them and parents who drop them at grandma’s to handle it…..we don’t know each competitor’s back story. Realizing that karate should be character BUILDING, we should not use sarcasm as a means to be funny at the expense of competitors we don’t really know. The center judge should keep an eye on the eyes of the competitor and use their own experience and insight to make everyone as comfortable as possible.
Another job of the center is making sure the other judges are quiet, paying attention, and informed of the judging criteria. When the ring ends, and the judges walk over to talk to the competitors, it wouldn’t hurt to use the old rule of compliment, critique, compliment instead of running a litany of why the child didn’t win. These simple tricks will make it a great experience for the competitors whether they win or lose.
A Few More Thoughts
Although I love the look on the faces of my kids when they win, I don’t stress winning in competition. The main thing that I want children to get out of competition is the ability to take a risk without letting the fear of failure stop them before they have begun. That is a skill that is important in life and lacking in many modern people (in my opinion).
This is what I say to the children before we go to competition:
Be a good sport. Learn to win and lose gracefully.
Meet new people.
Do your best.
We practice sportsmanship in both winning and losing. Although it is MUCH harder to do in real life, it is a fun class and we always exaggerate the bad sportsmanship role – both the winning gloat and the losing pout – for fun and laughter in the dojo. It is an easy and fun way to discuss karate courtesy.
When we return from competition, I don’t ask the children what place they took. Whatever they do I am proud of them. What I do ask is: “What do you want to tell me about the competition?” The children all have different takes on the day. Some tell me how they placed. Some tell me who they met. Some talk about the fun, or excitement, or fear. Whatever they say, I accept it, tell them how proud of them I am, and we move on.
My goal with my students is that they look at risk taking as an ordinary part of life. Since the majority of students who enter the dojo are not going to continue to train for many, many years, I use the karate competition to try to create a person who will continue that risk taking ability into the next life experience they attempt.
Thank you for reading this, for loving karate, and bringing karate to future generations.
Monday, September 13, 2010
One thing I really remind myself of often is to start each day fresh with the children. If I have a really tough discipline / courtesy day with a student, it is a test of strength for me to start fresh the next day. It is, however, imperative for the growth of the student to give them another chance to do better. It is important that I not be one of those teachers that label students. I would like to hear from you on this one. Do you find this challenging too?
1. Sometimes, if I have a little extra time I play a game where we bother each other and try to ignore it, so kids can learn what ignoring something is.
2. If you think about it, the choices we give the kids are the same ones we have to learn to live with.
Well, it is a short post today, but I'm anxious to get back in touch. I'll begin m next post right away, so I'll be more timely.
Thanks for reading and sharing.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Thursday, May 13, 2010
The point of the story is this: we all need to be aware of the power of our voice. If we use the same tone all the time, then we run the risk of being dismissed as and ignored. We have both a loud and quiet voice as well as many tones (serious, playful, really mad, distracted) to call on. And we have the look in our eyes. How we use them with our students is going to affect how the relationship grows and changes.
Now, for the back story:
I walked into one of my schools and a teacher said one of my students was biting. I sat with the student to talk about what happened and what to do instead of biting. The teacher was sitting with me. As I was talking and listening to my student the teacher constantly interjected in a yelling voice: “Do you hear her? You are in real trouble. You had better listen and change.”
Finally, I asked the teacher to leave us alone and I finished with my student. We discussed alternative choices when you are frustrated. We also discussed consequences if things remained the same. (I used kid friendly words rather than the grown up ones.) I haven’t had a problem since.
Lastly, I went to the teacher one on one and tried to discuss not always yelling. It did not go well, because she was yelling! I accepted that no change would come today and moved on.
I know this isn’t the most exciting post. But the point is important: We need to build respect and trust while we command and demand. We need to remember that our students are going to become what we are, not what we tell them to be (no matter how loud we say it!). Even with all the time I spend with students, I let daily distractions and the business of class get in the way of this very important point. I figured we could all use this reminder.
Friday, April 2, 2010
Hope 2010 is giving you plenty of opportunities to grow as a teacher and as a karateka. I would like to talk about weapons. (Stay with me for a sample “class” for your use and enjoyment.) Most of our Goju syles do weapons in some form. For example, USAGF has weapons seminars that the children can challenge themselves by attending. I have found that another way weapons can be used to the benefit of the student and teacher is by including them (especially escrima and bo) as a tool to change the stretch and exercise routine. Using weapons at the beginning of class is a great way to introduce kids to the responsibility needed to handle something that is potentially dangerous. It is also a great way to get around the boredom of repetitive exercising. And, another benefit is that touching the weapons often builds hand eye coordination. I will talk about two different plans that can incorporate weapons into the children’s routine.
Plan 1: There are only two of us teaching. One of us runs an entire class based on weapons, while the other person takes out individuals or small groups for their kata / rank technology work.
Let’s start by saying that I am assuming that one person will be running weapons for 50 ( out of 60) minutes. Another teacher will be pulling small groups for Rank based work in 7 – 10 minute increments. (Plan 1.) Here is a suggestion on what to do:
Even though I am including a fairly detailed workout, don’t limit yourself to my choices. Use the lists below as suggestions.
Start with stretching, exercising, and dexterity. (12 ish minutes) When I do this part of class, I don’t lump all the exercises together. I do a stretch, an exercise, and a dexterity. Then I repeat that. The children in this workout situation are not required to understand which is the exercise and which is the dexterity. So, let them have more variety and fun! Here are some suggestions:
Weapon vs Empty Hand:
1. Do a simple escape from a front choke (hands on the shoulders of the opponent). Follow up with a kick.
2. Do a simple escape from a front choke (hands on the shoulders of the opponent). Follow up with a U punch using the weapon.
3. Do an escape from a rear bear hug. Follow up with a back kick.
4. Do an escape from a rear bear hug. Follow up with a poke to the ribs of the attacker.
Weapons vs Weapon:
1. From Fighting Position: Use the weapon to block an overhead attack. Follow up with a U punch with the weapon.
2. From Fighting Position: Use the weapon to a strike coming from the side. Follow up with a poke with the weapon.
3. From a Fighting Position: Use the weapon to block an overhead attack. Follow up with a front kick.
4. From a Fighting Position: Use the weapon to block a strike coming from the side. Follow up with a side kick.
5. Teach the group how to block over, under, and side to side. Then teach the group how to hit over under, side to side. Let them try blocking and striking for 4 strikes. Keep an eye on the kids while they are doing this. It is a little dangerous, but fun.
Don’t forget that your helper has been pulling small groups for their rank technology throughout all this weapons work. Each group has missed some part of your work. However, it is my experience that the kids have enough time with me to be ready to push on. At this point we are somewhere between ½ and 2/3rds of the way through class. This is where you must assess what else you can get done. In order to do this you will want to answer these few questions: Did helpers show up? Do you have more or less than a dozen kids in the room? Have you got some higher ranking kids that can lead and essentially help you? Depending on the answers to the questions, pick between:
a.Taking the kids outside and letting them throw the weapons. Or:
b.Dividing them into small enough groups that they can build little bunkai based on the technique you were teaching. If you have helpers and ½ the class left, you can build the bunkai and watch all the skits. It is pretty cool.
If you don’t have time to build bunkai, the kids will really love throwing.
At the end of class, you will have a great opportunity to teach the group about the courtesy involved in bowing with weapons. They can sit in their formal kneeling position, show respect to the weapon, meditate, and bow…. All with the weapon.
If you want to apply the above workout in “Plan 2” the adjustment is easy. Shorten the times to allow a technology station in the middle of class. It will go something like this:
10 minutes to introduce the weapon, and do stretch etc.
7 or 8 minutes for the striking drills.
10 minutes of technology work.
10 minutes to build bunkai, 10 minutes to watch in and 5 minutes to bow out.
If you want to throw the weapon instead of building bunkai, you can add time to all the other stations.
I hope you all find success with this workout. Keep me posted on how you are doing. Did you find success with this workout?
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Description of Drill: Everyone knows sparring, I am sure. So I will quickly mention one thing. To me, the most difficult part of sparring at the children’s level is teaching them to hit adults hard but use control when they are with one another. What do you think?
When to Use it: Sparring is versatile. It fits in all parts of class; beginning, middle, and end. Sometimes I start a children’s class with sparring. Then I’ll run exercises at the end of class. (When I do, I play a crazy game for the exercises portion. I will discuss that in another post.) I’m sure all of you have spent the entire class sparring. Sixty minutes of sparring works great with older kids, but isn’t as good if the kids are young and have a short attention span. Traditionally, sparring comes in the last 1/3 of class.
Other Details of Interest: Too many details, too little time. So, here is a tidbit of interest: Do you remember that in the book The Karate Dojo, Peter Urban mentions that someone who is a good fighter is generally not great at kata and visa versa? What do you think about that? I definitely try to raise students who value and perform both equally. It is a challenge.
Description of Drill: This one is easy. We already do it in every weapons seminar. All weapons can be thrown. I choose which weapons to throw and what throwing game to use based on the age and rank of the children. Young children (5 ish) do best with escrimas. One step older, and more experienced and I can add bo. Add another year or two to the children’s age and I can move on to sai….etc. We all know that weapons can be thrown at an object and to a partner. Both games are popular in my dojo. As a change, I will sometimes let the kids throw bos and escrimas as far as they can, just for the fun of distance.
When to Use it: This is an end of the day game for sure. I usually use it at the end of a day where one of two things has been going on. 1. I’ll use this game when we have been working weapons. 2. This game also works at the end of a day when we have been focused all hour on a difficult, detailed concept and everyone is worn out. This game doesn’t take long (10 minutes?) and it is exciting for kids. (After all it made the top 7, out of about 20 different choices!)
Other Details of Interest: This will be the first time that some of the children have been near a target event (throwing at an object). It will definitely be the first time they have been allowed to throw weapons to another person. This is a perfect opportunity to emphasize safety, courtesy and self-control in students. I like to address these aspects before the event. That way, if the students lack one of these important characteristics, they are aware of what I expect. Therefore, the conversation, and punishment, that follows will not be a surprise. A few important things you might mention include these: When throwing and catching make sure you throw TO the partner and not AT him. When throwing at a target make sure everyone who isn’t throwing waits behind the throwing line.
Break Through the Wall
Description of Drill: This is a variation on Red Rover. This is how I play it: All my adult helpers and I make a “wall”. This kids break through the wall one at a time. They should use their wit, power, kiai, and any strikes they want and can remember. (I tell my adults to cover their teeth and their groin.)
It is exciting and adventurous for the kids and it builds fighting spirit. A little craziness is a perfect way to end a day.
When to Use it: This is an end of the day game. It takes quite a bit of time (about 1 minute per child). So you have to allow enough time to give everyone a turn.
Other Details of Interest: This game builds confidence and releases power without restriction. It is loud, fun and a little unpredictable. As the children grow older (11+) they will begin to transition from wanting to break through the wall, to wanting to become part of the wall. This is one of the signs that they are ready to move into the adult class.
Description of Drill: Insanity rules in this variation of a haunted house. Basically, my helpers and I turn out all the lights and invite the children one at a time to come in one door and get out the other. We incorporate the blockers, punching bags, noodles and some basic grabs into the obstacles that the kids need to maneuver as they make their way from the front door to the back. We also take into account the children’s age and rank when we decide how difficult and scary to make the adventure.
When to Use it: The last game of class is the best place to put the dark game. Like break through the wall, this drill is time consuming. I like to allow a few minutes after the game to talk about it. Everyone will want to mention their personal experience. Then I mention how weird it is when it is too dark to see what is going on.
Other Details of Interest: This is a variation on a drill Master Kelljchian used to run with us. The drill then was done at night, outside, and usually accompanied a lot of injuries. I keep it a little safer for my kids. This last pic shows what it looks like to the kids - Very Dark.
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.
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: This game requires 4 blockers and 2 couplers. This is about a $50 or $75 investment. I think it is a good use of dojo funds. Managing a stick that is almost 8 feet long is a challenge, even for the older children.
Description of Drill: We all know what bunkai is. (Please excuse any spelling variation that you disagree with.) A quick definition would be that basically, we choreograph a fight for the kids. At the end of the class, everyone performs their bunkai (with proper bows, of course). This activity is a big hit with our parent audience.
When to use it: I usually put bunkai at the end of a day when I have emphasized self-defense techniques. Obviously, I use the techniques I taught that night in the bunkai. This gives the kids a chance to do the techniques spontaneously, thereby learning that things rarely go as planned!
Other details of interest: Bunkai builds many skills that I want in my students. It is creative, builds independence, and reinforces the memory of self-defense technique. This also builds leadership skills in the highest ranking person in the group (which is not necessarily the most outgoing person in the group). For variety, and as the kids get older and more experienced, try incorporating weapons into the bunkai.
One more note: I try to do sparring every third class. That allows me two classes to do another game (activity) with the kids. There are a few reasons why I do this. I have found that if I do sparring every week, it becomes too common and the kids take it for granted: thinking of it as wasted time, or play time. Also, there are many aspects of training that can be strengthened from another game. A few of these aspects include: agility, power, coordination, creativity, and even courage. Finally, I have found that when kids shy away from sparring, they often rise to the idea of blocker v.s. blocker or the dark game. There is something for everyone if I use all the activities available.
Thank you for continuing to read my ideas and thanks for any feedback. Write me at Kickswithkids@aol.com.
Friday, January 1, 2010
Lucky for me I am finally back to an important subject: kids in karate.
I looked back on the old posts before I began writing to help me decide where to go today. I hope, in my absence of new posts, you reread some of the old posts. The reminders are helpful:
The children are more important than the technology.
Modern kids and repetition don’t mix well. It is important to mix it up, often.
Enjoy teaching, and in that enjoyment everyone grows.
I’ve decided to pick up here with some reader feedback. I’ve received a number of great ideas from you and I thank you for that.
I got the most feedback to the kata post. Here are the highlights:
Sensei Mel likes to ask history questions while the kids do kata to test the student’s focus.
Sensei Chrissy likes to have special names for people. That helps get their attention for corrections during kata.
I want to thank the people who wrote in with differing viewpoints. That is helpful. One important point that a few of you brought to my attention is that using the word “no” in kata (refer to the Aug. post) is helpful when the student is headstrong / not listening / and generally full of themselves.
Sensei Mashell from Palm Bay wrote in a few ways that she changes up kata. One suggestion was Crazy Kata day where she does the same kata” nap speed (very slowly) , super sonic speed (self-explanatory), and tournament speed”.
She adds in that in the summer time she’ll do that under the sprinklers! (That is me in the photo trying out Mashell's idea. Thanks Sensei, it was a riot!)
Sensei Mashell also offered the addition of bunkai while explaining / working kata. I hope we all use that one. It is very traditional and necessary.
More than one of you wrote in to do kata blindfolded and facing different directions.
The original post on kata turned out to be very long. Therefore, I’m adding a few kata thoughts that I employ regularly that didn’t make the original post:
Of course we need to emphasize both group kata and individual kata. Have you ever considered why it is important to do both? Group kata is important because the practitioner needs to be willing to compartmentalize his / her ego for the group to perform well. I’d like to say this is harder for kids than adults. However, my experience is that it is difficult for all of us and that when a person is good at group kata, individual kata is more challenging and visa versa. To me this emphasizes the importance of both.
Don’t forget to let kids make up their own kata. That drill is great at holiday time. Everyone puts on a show of their kata at the end of the class. Kids are inventive and the creativity can’t be beat.
One more note:
Sensei Chrissy, after reading the Five Drills post, sent in another use of the noodle. She cuts them in ½ and has the kids use them against each other. Great idea. I’ve used this one. However, I like to put on headgear because the noodles scrape the skin on the kid’s faces sometimes.
So…. That is reader suggestions so far. Please continue to read and write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I will continue to post (much more regularly in 2010 I hope) and we’ll keep making stronger kids!