Put yourself to the test…

 As a martial arts instructor of 18 years and teaching over 8,000 classes, I’ve encountered a lot of different situations. I’ve had kids projectile vomit on the floor in the middle of class, other kids wet their pants and break bones…

There’s been times where students have lost teeth, and other times where I’ve had to send students to the ER. I’ve even had gangsters walk into my dojo and “want to show you somethin”. The list goes on…

Sure I learn something everyday through teaching, and by no means have I experienced it all. But teaching and dealing with most challenges is now easy for me – a walk in the park so to speak, without the muggers and stray dogs…

So last week I decided to challenge myself. And boy, this was tricky. This was almost more demanding than all those challenges faced above…

What was it?

Teaching 5 and 6 year olds.

“Yeah, yeah. So what?”, I hear you say, “I teach kids everyday!”

Well as it turns out so do I, but this time I did it differently… and this is why it was sooo difficult.

Last week I decided to teach the entire class as if I were mute. 

Yep, that’s right, I didn’t utter a word for 45 minutes.

From the time we bowed in to the time we bowed out, not a word was spoken.

There was no counting, no “yame!” (stop), or “hajime!” (begin) commands….

There was no, “Hey, Johnny! Eyes to the front and pay attention please!” or “The next thing we’re going to work on is…”.

There was no “Line up at the back of the room…” or “Please pair up for the next exercise…”

Nope, none of that.

Nothing but silence.

And the kids loved it!

They thought it was hilarious and tried desperately to hold back from talking. Little smirks on their faces. For the most part  you could have heard a pin drop, but on the few occasions where one or two students began to open their mouths, I quickly silenced them with my index finger to my lips. And of course my student complied.

There were soooo many times I wanted to break silence. So many occasions where I’d look at the clock and wonder if it’d actually stopped. But once I got into the groove, my class responded well and before I knew it we were almost done.

Students are like sponges or mirrors or whatever metaphor you like to choose. Whatever you give them, for the most part they’ll just soak up or give back just as you give it to them.

(Ever wondered why your students get bored? Or why you hear them repeating words you wished you’d never said?)

And teaching a class in complete silence was testament to that fact. If you’re a dynamic teacher with proper body language you’ll be able to do it. If you usually stand in one place and bark orders like a drill instructor with a chip on his shoulder, you’ll have a really hard time.

Nevertheless, I challenge you to try it.

And it’s not whether you pass or fail the test, it’s what you’ll learn about yourself as an instructor by attempting to teach a class in complete silence.

Try it.

Seienchin Kata Tip…

Last week I was teaching the kata Seienchin to some of my junior students.

If you’re not familiar with the kata, you can see several versions on YouTube – one of which is below.


Anyhow, I was trying to explain the “feeling” one should have when making the 3rd movement in shiko dachi (when the hands are clenched into fists and pulled down to the sides, just before the block and capture).

I explained there should be tension in the technique and to imagine pulling the fists apart and squeezing the shoulder blades together

But it seemed my perfectly logical explanation just wasn’t getting through. Then I asked the juniors to imagine that after their fists separate, they were tearing something apart with their bare hands….

But still I was having trouble getting them to develop the tension and correct posture.

Then, ding! I had a light bulb moment!

We use bicycle inner tubes a lot during training to develop dynamic technique for punching and kicking. So I thought, “What if my students practiced the exact movement we were working on while stretching the tube apart?”

So I gave them each an inner tube and asked them to hold in in front of their body with both hands. Then they practiced the 3rd movement pulling their arms down and apart while stretching the tube.


Pretty soon they were making the movement perfectly. Shoulders down, tension in the arms and squeezing the shoulder blades together.

Of course this idea isn’t just limited to this particular movement. You could come up with similar ideas for other kata that require tension in the movements…

What kata do you know with tension techniques? How do you think you might be able to apply this method for developing strength and tension?

Until next time…

~ Jason