The Prejudiced Sign Installer…

I’m moving my dojo again for the 3rd time in 7 years…

This time within the same parking lot where we’re currently located but in a MUCH more exposed location. It’s right at the main entrance clearly visible to every car that drives down.

So last week I had the new window decals put up and our overhead signage installed, and it all looks great. During the installation I started a conversation with the installer and he said, “You know I like you. You have a good attitude. So many people in your position aren’t very nice…”

Hmmmm, I pondered. “What do you mean exactly?”


“So many people who do what you do are arrogant and use their position to intimidate people”, said the installer, “but I like you. You’re different.”

Wow, I thought.

For almost 25 years I’ve been involved in martial arts and there’s only been a handful of people who I really didn’t like. I guess the installer guy must have had a bad experience in the past to say something like that?

Or perhaps he’s the kind of person who has only seen martial arts on TV? And he made the incorrect assumption that every martial artist is a tatted up, trash-talking arrogant brawler.

(Not that tattoos make you arrogant or a trash talker, but you know what I’m talking about. The MMA world has a few stand-out fighters who fit that description that people tend to remember…)

Anyhow, the point is whether you’re teaching class, talking to a sign installer, a prospective student or ANYBODY for that matter it’s important to realize some people have preconceived ideas about you. It’s even more important as a representative of your dojo, that you do everything you can to show them that you’re a friendly, courteous and professional person.

Why?

Because statistics show on average a dissatisfied customer tells 10 people about their bad experience while a happy customer tells only 4. You can see how it’s already an uphill battle to get the good word out there!

“Word of mouth” is a two-way street. You and I need to do everything we can to drive positive remarks and conversation down that road. That’s what brings us students…

At the end of the day I want my dojo to be remarkable in a good way…

Don’t you?

Until next time…

– Jason

Jenny, a cup and a coin…

Yesterday in my kids’ class one of my junior white belt girls could not help dropping her hands while making mae geri (front kick).

When I corrected Jenny’s technique, I asked her what her hands were supposed to do, then explained and demonstrated how it should be done, and she was in complete agreement with me. Jenny clearly understood for traditional technique her hikite (pull back hand / pulling hand) was to remain above her hip on her side and not to fall away as she kicked…

However every time she kicked she dropped her hands faster than a naughty kid trying to hide something behind their back…

I asked if she knew what her hands were doing when she kicked and she thought they were staying right where they were. Though Jenny THOUGHT she was doing the technique correctly, it was clearly evident that she was completely unaware of her mistake.

So right at that moment I asked myself, “How can I help HER REALIZE that she is dropping her hands?

In the past I’ve used a digital camera to record a student’s movement and then play it back to them to provide “proof” of their action, but since I didn’t have my camera I came up with a simple idea to get the point across.

I grabbed a paper cup and a dime from reception. I placed the coin in the cup and had my student hold the cup with her hikite. Now my theory was if she was to drop her hand when she kicked, the coin should fall out onto the floor, providing overwhelming and undeniable proof to her that her hand was falling during the technique. In the absence of the camera, surely this would convince her!

So as suspected Jenny kicked and the coin fell out onto the floor. The look on her face was one of disbelief. Just to be sure it *really* happened, she kicked once more and again the coin fell to the floor. Though not yet 100% convinced, this was clearly her moment of realization that she may have been dropping her hands during her technique.

After a few more repetitions Jenny finally became aware of her body mechanics and within a few minutes she was able to kick without the coin dropping to the floor, as her pull back hand stayed secure in its position.

Problem solved!

This was a simple and creative way to illustrate a point, rather than simply “telling and yelling” until the student got the technique right. I invite you to try this exercise out in your classes to help your students also.

Until next time…

– Jason

P.S. In my 125 Dynamite Drills there are literally hundreds of drills and exercises, hints, tips and ideas to help both students improve their karate skills and for you to improve your teaching skills. Click here to learn more…

Teacher or Tyrant?

A few years ago I had a family who had both young boys and their dad train at my dojo.

They were lovely people and always enjoyed being part of the club. They wanted to help out where they could, always attended club activities and always spoke highly of the school recruiting new people whenever they could. During their short time with my club they would have brought in at least 3 other families who became long term students.

Sadly a couple of years ago with the downturn in the economy they were forced to move out of California to a small town in Nevada, where they bought a beautiful new house on a golf course with amazing desert views. They still live there and love the small town atmosphere away from the hustle and bustle of California.

However they tell me there is only one karate school in this town, where the teacher is a tyrant. Apparently he yells and screams at his students, takes the “drill instructor” attitude and treats 5 year olds, teens and adults all the same way.

Though I’m sure the dad could no doubt handle whatever the instructor dished out, the kids were absolutely scared to death of their new karate teacher. So much so that they would leave class crying, begging dad never to take them back. And of course after dad saw how the instructor taught, he pulled his kids out faster than you could say yame.

In the area where I live, this school wouldn’t last 6 months. There are about 30 martial arts schools within a 20 mile radius, and people vote with their feet when they’re not happy. But I guess in a small town with no competition you can run a dojo how you want. Where there’s nothing better, often people will put up with poor instruction and service so they (or their kids) can possess a sense of belonging.

This year I have a favor to ask you. No matter where you are in the world whether it’s a small town in the middle of nowhere or a big city, I ask you to  hold yourself, your instructors and your dojo to a higher standard. Be more patient with your students, give more than what is required, strive to improve your teaching skills, yell less, and always maintain your integrity.

These new seeds you plant will grow enormous fruit for you to enjoy.

Until next time…

– Jason

I used a stick on my students!


So 15 minutes into the first class of 2010 and I’d had enough…

I grabbed a stick off the wall and used it on my students!

Yep… I let them have it!

You might think that’s this is a little harsh?

Well, YES I used it on my students but not in the way you might imagine. 😉

You see I was teaching neko ashi dachi (cat stance) to some new students and they were having trouble getting their weight distribution correct. As they’d only practiced forward stance up until this point, getting them to do cat stance was definitely a challenge…

Many of them were putting too much weight on their front foot, and making their stances too long. And even though I’d explained that in cat stance that their rear hip needed to be directly “above” their rear heel in a straight line, many insisted on leaning foward instead of “sitting down” over their back foot.

Right at that moment I had a thought…

“I know they HEAR what I’m saying, and I know I’ve SHOWN them how to do it… Is there any possibility that they THINK they are doing what I’m teaching, but don’t actually REALIZE that they’re not?”

 So that’s when I grabbed the stick…

I asked each student to stand in cat stance and then using the stick as a “straight edge” I placed one end against the back of their heel and held the stick vertically. Now if they were doing what I had been teaching then their hip should also have been touching the stick.

This was a great way to accurately measure the geometry of their stance. And when each student realized that their stance required adjustment to be technically correct they had their own moments of realization. They were able to make the distinction between their stance being too long, too much weight forward, incorrect hip position, and what the correct stance should be.

Armed with their new knowledge and my new benchmarking tool my students were able to quickly adapt and make their stances right.

Of course using a straight edge staff or similar can be used to test the lengths, widths and geometry of other stances too. You’ve just got be a little creative in the way you teach. Next week I’ll share with you another way you can use a stick to help your students with their kata.

Until then… isn’t it about time you used a stick on your students?

– Jason

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