Get your kata right! Or else!

Recently one of my subscribers, Michael, asked:

“My sensei had me teach some kids the first taikyoku kata last night and he told me that whenever one of them did a movement incorrectly to make them do pushups. So we get going and I have them drop down to do pushups a few times before I realize that one of the youngest kids maybe 10 or 11 isn’t even trying and getting it wrong all the time.

I ask him if he is sick and he says he is tired so I ask him if he wants to sit down and he says no. So we keep going and he still isn’t even trying. Every time the group has to drop down to do pushups he lets out an upset sigh and is dragging the group back. It got to the point to where I just didn’t even focus on him and focused on the rest of the group. But I’m not sure how to deal with kids like that who don’t really want to be there.

What’s your take on it?”

I told Michael I’d answer his question in today’s post since this type of thing, seems to be all too common in martial arts. My answer is below:

First, thanks for your question Michael.

This type of an approach for correction is a low level response to the real problem. Sure there are times when I use pushups to motivate or incentivize students to do better, but I do this sparingly. I use pushups usually to “amp up” their energy, or on the rare occasions I have a group of students who insist on being apathetic when I know they’re capable of better.

In a beginner class however, patience is required as basic skills haven’t yet been honed. Giving students pushups because they keep making mistakes doesn’t usually make them any better. It makes them feel badly and makes them more tired. It also takes away from their practice time in which they could be practicing the correct way to do their technique.

It reminds me of a t-shirt I have that states, “The beatings will continue until morale improves”.

Get it right... or else!

Maybe it should read, “The pushups will continue until the kata is right”. Doesn’t make much sense, does it?

An alternative to pushups whenever there is a mistake is to start the kata over. That way, students feel the pressure of needing to perform but aren’t physically exhausting themselves. I’ll use that approach every now and again, however realize there is a mental fatigue point also.

The longer this process goes on, the more likely mistakes are going to happen. However, this approach does get students thinking about making the right movements, and it also reinforces the repetitions.

If you simply have a student who keeps making mistakes you need more information before choosing a course of action. Is he making mistakes because he hasn’t learned the skill yet? Or is he making mistakes because he’s feeling apathetic?

These are 2 completely different issues and should be addressed as such. One requires more or better instruction, while the other is motivation related.

If it’s the latter, then you need to find out what’s going on. Is he generally a good student, but he’s been up since 6am and his Dad yelled at him before class? Or is he nearly always lethargic and really doesn’t want to be there? (Sometimes this can be diet-related, or lack of water / sugar to the brain.)

However it usually comes down to interacting with students in a way they can relate to. Some respond better to the carrot, some respond better to the stick. Also it would be helpful to know what kind of learner he is. This will help you understand him better, which will allow you to teach better. You can read up on my series about the different kinds of “learners” below:

Great question, hope this helps!

– Jason

P.S. For anyone else who has a question you would like answered please email me. Maybe yours will be featured here on the blog…

Block and Multiple Counter Drill [Video]

Last night my entire production crew (Larry holding my phone), shot this quick video of Mike and I demonstrating a simple drill we were working on during class.

It’s a good karate drill for practicing close range techniques with fast reactions. It uses 4 different techniques that you can string together, and unlike a lot of karate drills that involve stepping with a single counter, this drill makes use of multiple counter techniques.

  1. Stand at punching range and have the first person punch to the face (mae ken zuki) while their partner makes and open palm push block (nagashi uke).
  2. Person 2 now counters with a back fist strike to the head (uraken), follows immediately with a reverse punch to the body (gyaku zuki) and finally with a front hand punch to the face (mae ken zuki).
  3. Person 1 now counters by making nagashi uke, uraken, gyaku zuki and mae ken zuki….
  4. The process repeats…

(click the play button below to watch the video)

Karate drills like these are great because they help develop fast reflexes at close range.

Hint: When you teach this for the first time, save it until the end of class. During class, practice each of the techniques in the drill as basic repetitions. Once you have it down, use it as a warm up in future classes.

Share and enjoy...

- Jason


Martial Arts Warm Up / Endurance Drills

So what’s the difference between a “warm up” drill and an “endurance drill”?

Pretty easy really – a warm up is designed to warm up the body. Usually done at the beginning of class.

An endurance drill is designed to fatigue the body and push the limits – best done at the END of class when the body is at operating temperature.

Important point – you shouldn’t ever do an ENDURANCE drill when the body is cold…

No. No. No. Bad Sensei!

So that’s the difference, but did you know that warm up and endurance drills have more in common than what you may think?

They are brothers from the same mother. In fact they could almost be twins, except for one key difference.


Often warm up and endurance drills can be exactly the same – the only difference is how LONG you do it for…

A simple rule I like to use is the endurance version should be 3-5 times as long as the warm up version.

Here’s an example from my all new version of 125 Dynamite Drills. My karate friend and customer Nigel Kersh sent me this one a few years ago and I thought it would be a good inclusion for the new release.



Drill Name: Crouch and Kick

Type: Warm Up / Endurance

Equipment Required: None

Skill Level: Int / Adv

Age Group: 8 yrs and up


A good warm-up drill for the legs. Students pair up and stand shoulder to shoulder. On your count, one person will crouch down while the other makes side kick over their head.

Immediately as they complete the kick, the kicker must now crouch and the other person stands up and makes side kick over the other person’s head. Students take turns crouching and kicking.

Do 20 kicks then change legs as warm up exercise, or 60 kicks and change for an endurance drill.


It’s a simple but extremely tiring drill when you do the endurance version. Your quads will be more tired than a pot-head at a slumber party. 

“Dude, I’m hungry…. zzzzzzzzzzzz…”

One final point – make sure you stretch after any endurance training to help your muscles recover. This is also the best time for stretching for static flexibility…