Sixteen years ago when I first started teaching I remember I was explaining to an adult class how to do a knife disarm – you probably know the one – when the attacker holds the knife against your body and then you raise your hands, strike on the back of their wrist with your palm and on the inside of their forearm with your other open hand?
Well as you might know, the IDEA is that the attacker’s wrist is supposed to bend and cause them to release the knife…
(Incidentally I wouldn’t teach this now as there are better and more effective ways to disarm this type of attack – I just didn’t know anything else back then – but that’s for another time.)
So anyhow, I asked for a volunteer. A new white belt named Jeremy raised his hand and I chose him.
Remember that saying about “Don’t work with children or animals”? Let’s add to that…. “Don’t work with children, animals or white belts”.
I’m not disrespecting white belts as we were all white belts once, it’s just that beginners sometimes have unpredictable actions, stiff limbs, and every now and again an attitude that will turn milk sour.
Fortunately Jeremy didn’t have a disrespectful demeanor. He was just as awkward as a new born foal, and as you might guess when I applied the disarm it didn’t work.
So I tried again.
It still didn’t work – his grip was so strong, and I couldn’t bend his wrist.
When it didn’t work on the 3rd attempt I felt the eyes of the other students burning right through me.
I felt like an idiot.
After all I was a supposed to be the “expert” but I sure looked like a beginner.
And when it came to teaching that’s exactly what I was – a white belt.
I remember I felt so stupid because I didn’t know how to handle it, had no idea why it wouldn’t work, and certainly didn’t even think about WHAT ELSE I could have done instead.
I remember mumbling something like, “Hmmm… I’m not sure why it’s not working. I’ll have to ask Sensei when I see him next and get back to you on that one.”
How much confidence do you think this instilled in my class?
To make matters worse, besides not having a good answer as to why it wouldn’t work, I certainly didn’t have a Plan B. I couldn’t even offer them an alternative solution. Man what a mess!
The important things to take away from my experience are these:
– When demonstrating don’t choose white belts… The law of unpredictability will win. =)
– Make sure you KNOW EXACTLY what you’re teaching before you teach it. Ensure you’ve practiced it enough so that if it fails you understand why and can immediately rectify it…
– Always have a Plan B when you teach.
Draw the parallel between teaching karate and any self defense situation – if you’re relying on just one thing and you’re unsuccessful, it could *really* put you in serious trouble.
Until next time…