Getting More from your Martial Arts Drills and Exercises

If you teach martial arts to kids you’ll know the value of incorporating fun karate drills and exercises into your classes.

One popular one is the “shuttle run” or “relay race” type of exercise. It usually involves dividing a class into equal teams of say 3-5 students, and having them run from one side of the tatami to the other, perform a task and run back before the next person may go.

This simple exercise works great, chews up plenty of time and is enjoyable for just about everyone.

Kudos to the karate relay race.

However, if you do this type of thing frequently, boredom creeps in like tiny spiders into your dojo. Soon your relay race is covered with cobwebs and your students eyes glaze over at the mere thought of another relay race.

So today I wanted to give you some ideas on how to clear away the spider webs, rejuvenate your students’ enthusiasm, and get 10 times more value out of this simple exercise. Furthermore you can use these CONCEPTS to get more from your other martial arts drills and exercises.

So let’s get started using the relay race as an example.

A problem is most often instructors focus on the task at the end of the room as the important part of the exercise – for example, you might have your students run to the other side of the floor and do something like:karate drills

  • 10 pushups, or
  • 10 jumping jacks, or
  • 10 sit-ups, or
  • 10 kicks, or
  • 10 reverse punches
  • etc

before racing back and allowing their teammate to  go.

Instead of focusing on the task at the end, why not make the focus of the race on way students cross the room? For example instead of having students simply run from one side to the other, you could have them do any of the following:

  • run and jump over a pad, or
  • run and crawl under a bo-staff, or
  • run along a stretched-out belt, or
  • weave through cones, or
  • jump from pad to pad, or
  • run backwards, or
  • hop on one leg, or
  • duck walk, or
  • commando crawl
  • etc…

Once they reach the other side, they can still perform the end task you’ve set like 10 front kicks for example. Making this change to the exercise increases the enjoyment and challenges your students both physically and mentally.

In the bonus material that comes with my 125 Dynamite Drills I share helpful teaching strategies, to show you how to increase the difficulty or how to simplify different drills and exercises depending on the skill level and maturity of your students. The above example is just one method – by ADDING a new variable. To simplify, simply REMOVE a variable.

Not exactly rocket science is it? Yet we often overlook these simple ideas.

There are additional ways to get more from your old drills. Another would be to increase the COMPLEXITY of the exercise. Using the example above, you could have the task at the “end” be more challenging mentally, such as performing a multiple technique combination instead of simply a reverse punch.

Or you could have your students do the techniques on their non-preferred side of the body, or BOTH sides of their body instead of one before coming back.

How about adding a CONSTRAINT to increase the pressure of the exercise – such as a limited TIME in which to complete the challenge for each group?

All these methods can scale up or down the difficulty level and complexity of your drills.

What other ways can you think of to manipulate a drill or exercise to increase its half-life and usability?

Are you still passionate about teaching karate?

I’m assuming for the most part you love teaching karate, but I know you have some days that you wish you could do over.

It’s important on those days when you’re feeling flat, unmotivated and lethargic that you find your passion for teaching karate, otherwise your class will fall into the same slump as you.

KEY POINT: The energy of your class is often related to your own personal energy.

When the energy drops, students get bored. When students get bored students stop coming. When students stop coming, your passion for teaching takes another beating. It’s an evil downward spiral…

Here are some tips for setting and maintaining high personal energy to ensure you teach well…

  • Get plenty of sleep!Avoid teaching class when you’re physically, emotionally or mentally exhausted! Nobody likes a grouchy unmotivated high school teacher – why would it be any different for you?
  • RelaxLeave any unnecessary outside stress OUTSIDE! Bringing your personal stress into the dojo will rub off on your students. In other words, negativity breeds more negativity. If you must, pound on your punch bags or do 50 pushups before your students arrive to amp up your own energy and release your pent up tension.
  • Structure & PlanningGive yourself a few minutes before class to mull over what you’re going to teach. Come up with a basic karate class plan with some different martial arts drills and exercises that you could possibly use. When your students arrive  you’ll be better prepared and feel more organized.
  • Allow yourself sufficient time to get to classMany instructors rush from their day job, battle the traffic and arrive frazzled at the dojo only to be irritated that their students are lined up out front waiting for the doors to open. Sound familiar? Give yourself an extra 15 minutes to arrive early, get ready, relax and plan your session.
  • Enjoy it!If you find you’re irritated or frustrated you gotta break that feeling my friend! Take a step back (physically and emotionally) and just smile. Put things in perspective and realize that your current circumstance is temporary and really is *NOT* a big deal. Getting bent out of shape over a student who can’t do his technique, or frustrated while disciplining an 8 year old raises your stress level and disrupts your momentum.

    Let it go! And get back to enjoying why you’re there… just like when you first starting teaching karate!