Finding Inspiration and Focus for Your Karate Students

At this time of year you know class can be REALLY challenging to teach…

  • People are busy…
  • Class numbers are down…
  • Kids can’t focus with their schedule changes and the excitement of the holiday season is upon us…
  • And if you’re in the USA you know as well as I that flu season just hit and compounded everything even more…

The end result can be low morale at the dojo…

Low morale leads to frustration…

Frustration leads to anger…

Anger leads to the dark side…

Whoaaah, hold on a minute Master Yoda. Let’s back up a little. Things aren’t that bad! Sheesh!

Seriously though, how do you find inspiration and then focus an unsettled karate class that has become distracted?

Last week for the first time in ages, I was battling this problem in my beginner class for my 8-14 year old group. Instead of learning their kata, the 12 or so kids in the class were more intent on talking, messing around, looking out the window, yada, yada, yada.

You know what I mean…

(Wait – is every one of your classes like that? You might need this to help)

kataAnyhow… after a few of them came up and performed their kata with all the enthusiasm of pot-smokin’ lobsters, I was ready to ask Master Yoda for advice.

Just then I had light bulb moment. One of my junior 1st kyu students was waiting in reception and I asked him to come onto the tatami.

“Joel, would you please do a kata for the class?”, I requested.

“Sure Sensei!”, a somewhat startled but honored Joel bowed in and quickly took the center of the mat.

Joel, performed his kata Jiin, with speed, focus and power while the class watched with mouths agape.

After he’d finished, I asked “How old are you Joey?”

“Eleven”, he replied.

I thanked Joel and asked the rest of the class to line up. I explained to the class that Joel started nearly 4 years ago in this very same class, and that next year he would be attempting his junior black belt. I also communicated that if they started to train harder and put forward more effort, there was no reason why they couldn’t attain the same level.

Two days later the atmosphere in that same class had completely flipped. The energy was high, and all students were giving their best.

Sometimes it just takes a little inspiration to kick start a class.

What other ways can you think of to lift the energy of your students?



How to Kick Your Students’ Butts… Nicely

Last week I called up one of my junior leaders in front of the class, and asked him to take his forward stance.

As the others knelt down in seiza I told my young sempai that I was about to kick his butt.

An anxious look washed across his face like a wiper on a muddy windshield.

For a moment he must have been wondering what he’d done wrong, and what I was up to…

“Ok pal, you ready? I’m about to kick your buttliterally!

“Ugh… ok”, he replied.

“Don’t worry buddy, you’ll get to kick my butt too!”

What he didn’t know was that we were about to demonstrate a fun little exercise to help students develop their front leg ura mawashi geri (hook kick).

I skipped up and performed the kick at hip height bringing my front leg to the outside line of his body and then whipped it around and slapped him on the butt with the sole of my foot, recoiled the kick and returned to forward stance.

“Ok, your turn!”

Mario did the same to me.

ura mawashi geriThe class erupted in laughter seeing sensei getting his butt kicked by a 14 year old.

We went back an forth a few times immediately as each of us completed their kick, ensuring the footwork and technical execution of the technique was correct.

Now of course aiming this kick, ura mawashi geri, at someone’s backside is about as effective as a gun with filled with blanks. It makes a nice loud noise, but is completely ineffective. But it does allow students to to learn how to handle the gun, point and squeeze the trigger.

In other words it helps students:

  1. Get the footwork, distance and line of attack correct.
  2. Develop muscle memory for the kicking part of the technique without losing balance, as opposed to reaching for head level when a lack of flexibility is the problem.
  3. Develop control of the technique without the worry of knocking someone out.
  4. Literally kick someone’s ass, which is fun.

Your students will enjoy this exercise and more importantly start to develop the kick with good form. Once good form is created, then strive for height.

For your advanced students who can already do the kick, have them give each other “high five hook kicks” where they skip up and slap the soles of each other’s feet.


P.S. If you’re looking for step by step instructions on how to perform ura mawashi geri, hop on over to my KarateTips web site and read this article.