Teaching Karate with 100% Effort

As an instructor of not only students but other karate teachers, one of the important points I drive home is the need to demonstrate with 100% effort, good form and speed.

Too often it seems that teachers get lazy in demonstrating their karate techniques. Their explanation might be good and sound but the actual demonstration of the technique is too slow, with average form and 50% effort.

It’s important you demonstrate and teach slowly at times so students can see and understand what it is they are supposed to do… but keep in mind that you should also show the technique at combat speed with full force, good form and 100% effort.

Why is this important?

Because that’s what karate is supposed to be! Without speed, concentrated effort and good form it’s not really karate, and it sends a message to your students that their technique should be just like yours – since you’re the black belt, right?

The other reason why this is important is that your students will almost always perform the demonstrated technique at a lesser quality of what you show them. So if you’re demonstrating with 50% form, effort and speed, they’ll probably learn karate at 50% of that! The result is a very watered down, and probably ineffective technique!

Please remember this important point next time you teach, and for every time thereafter.

Hold yourself to a higher teaching standard and enforce the same for your own instructors!

Karate Customer Service

It surprises me to no end how many martial arts instructors want a full time dojo so badly but have struggled for years unable to grow their student count to more than 20 students. And then when they finally go full time they end up folding faster than poker legend Doyle Brunson holding a deuce, 7.

Most believe that it’s anything but themselves that determines their success. Often instructors look outwards for any excuse, when instead the answers are often staring them right in the face.

In my area 3 TKD schools have opened up and closed within 2 years. Yet at my dojo we have gone from strength to strength.

So what’s the difference?

I’ll give you a hint:

It’s not usually WHAT you teach, it’s HOW you teach it, and about HOW you make people FEEL about having YOU as their teacher.

(How many times have you heard people complain about their kid’s new school teacher? “Oh, Johnny’s got Ms. Lucifer this year, I’m really not happy about it!”)

So how do you create a good feeling for your students and families?

It all starts with having a positive attitude and providing great customer service.

And ends with the notion that:  

Happy students continue to train. Unhappy students quit.

Furthermore if you teach mostly kids (as most martial arts schools do) this notion can be expanded to this rule:

Happy kid -> happy parent -> student stays enrolled.
Unhappy kid -> unhappy parent -> student quits.

So how do you keep students and families happy?

Here are 10 tips to providing better customer service for your dojo

  1. Greet people by their name (kids and parents).
  2. Treat each student like they’re your only student by giving them a warm welcome and take the time to LISTEN to what they want to tell you.
  3. Always answer customer service questions and concerns promptly and courteously. If you receive a phone call, return it same day, preferably within the hour. If you receive an email inquiry, set up an autoresponder to let them know you’ve received it and when they can expect a reply.
  4. Always remain calm, but firm, even when dealing with the most high maintenance students/families.
  5. Go the extra step! Do things that other schools don’t. Have special appreciation events for your students, social activities, send thank you cards, etc.
  6. Open the door for people. Thank people when they leave.
  7. Praise students. Yes, even the ones who struggle to do good technique or the ones who have a hard time behaving. Remember any improvement from the previous class is great!
  8. Smile! A lot! You’ll actually improve your mood by forcing yourself to smile. And it’ll rub off on those around you.
  9. Be outrageous! Do things that people remember and talk about. Remember NORMAL is BORING. Have fun in a big way.
  10. Cultivate a warm an inviting atmosphere, not a place where people are scared to go.

I hope each of these quick tips can inspire you to do more… for not only your student’s sake, but your dojo’s also!

Kosokun Dai / Unsu Jump Exercise…

So first off my apologies… it’s been a while since my last post and I’ve had several people ask me if I’m still writing this blog. The good news is, yes I am – have just been extremely busy over the summer.

One of the reasons I’ve had little time to post is that I’ve been away at the 20th KOI World Cup and Training Camp this past couple of weeks, which as per usual was a great learning experience, and a high level competition to boot, that drew competitors from around 15 countries.

Secondly, you might be wondering why at 4:04am I’m up writing this?

Jet lag.


Anyhow I want to share a drill I picked up from one of the KOI instructors during the week. This is a fun exercise to help students develop their vertical jump for such katas as Kosokun Dai, or Unsu. And it’s one that you can do with your youngest students all the way up to your senior grades.

Unsu Team Kata
Image courtesy of https://www.lka.org.uk/

Here’s how it works:

First you need 3 belts tied together, with the last belt wrapped up into a ball to form a weight at one end.

Now, students form a large circle around the sensei. The sensei spins in a circle dragging the weighted belt as they turn. Each student must jump straight up as the belt approaches, being sure to tuck their knees to their chest.

As the exercise progresses the sensei will turn faster and the belt will start to leave the ground forcing students to jump higher. A student is “out” when the belt catches/wraps around their legs and must step back and sit down. The game continues until only one student remains and is declared the winner.

This is a fun exercise you can try with students of any age. It develops their vertical jump and timing.


Special thanks to Sensei Tommy Morris and all the KOI instructors for a great training camp and tournament. See you again next year!