Interrupting Interruptions

There’s a great book by Timothy Ferris called “The Four Hour Work Week”.

One of my favorite sections is one titled “interrupting interruptions”. The basic concept is that when in a corporate environment somebody interrupts your current task it takes up to 45 minutes to get back on task.

Ferris teaches that when someone interrupts you, instead of listening and accepting what they have to say, counter their interruption with one of your own and ask them to send you an email and let them know you’ll take care of it. That way you stay focused on the task at hand and can deal with their stuff later, making your day more productive.

When students interrupt your thought process while you’re teaching karate class we don’t have the luxury of 45 minutes to get back on track. Heck, class is only 45 minutes long sometimes! And when a one student starts to get on the train to tangent city, you better not get on that train with them!

Instead, when their questions aren’t relevant, interrupt their interruption and let them know that you’ll be happy to answer their questions after class or listen to anything else they’d like to tell you then.

Apply this concept and teaching karate will be less of a struggle with disruptive students.

– Jason

Teaching Karate Using Creative Processes

Last week when teaching one of my 4-8 years old karate class they were particularly energetic and enthusiastic. More than usual they started to interrupt during the bow-in and warm-up. Right at that moment I had an epiphany and recalled something that I’d learned years before…

Regarded as the world’s foremost lateral thinker, Edward De bono has a concept called “The Six Thinking Hats”.

The concept is to use the “Six Thinking Hats to improve the quality of your decision-making, to look at the decision from 6 points of view by “wearing” each of the thinking hats in turn.”

For example, the Black Hat is the hat for “caution” – so when evaluating a certain decision while “wearing” the black hat, you would take a cautious approach to avoid any pitfalls that you might not see if you made a hasty decision.

The Green Hat is for creativity – so when evaluating the same decision while “wearing” the green hat you would base your decision on the creative element involved.

There are 4 more hats for data, emotion, positivity and process control.

(If you want to learn more about this concept, go here.)

This process helps shift your mind from one point of view to another, making it easy for you to focus on ONE thing at a time. By actually saying to yourself, “Ok, I’m now wearing the Yellow Hat” and associating that with only positive thinking, you’re putting your mind and body in the best physiological state to achieve whatever it is you’re focusing on.

So what’s this got to do with 4-8 year olds interrupting class?

Glad you asked…

I said to my students, “Ok, I want you to take out your “serious hat” now and place it on your head” as I pretended to reach into my pocket and place the imaginary hat on my head.

All the kids followed my lead, reaching into their imaginary pockets, pulling out their imaginary hats and placing them on their heads.

Instantly their composure changed. Their faces became immediately more serious and the looked intently at me for the next command.


I was amazed.

For the rest of class whenever a student started to mess around I reminded them that they were wearing their “serious hat” and to behave. Sometimes I’d say, “Elijah, it looks like you dropped your serious hat. You better pick it up and put it back on your head.”

Again the level of required seriousness was achieved.

This turned out to be a fun and easy way to change a students “state” and increase their performance.

Contrast this to “If you don’t do as I say you’re getting 50 pushups”, and you can see how teaching with positive and creative methods work like a charm and doesn’t put your students into a negative frame of mind.

In my upcoming publication which is focused on helping you as a teacher become a better communicator and instructor I’ll be sharing loads of tips and tactics for optimizing the performance of your students.

Stay tuned.

– Jason