Is This Really Your Best Effort?

“Is this your best effort, Thomas?”, I ask.

A somewhat nervous purple belt glances at me. Disappointed. He knows he could be doing better.

“No”, he answers slowly.

“Why not?”

“I don’t know”

“I don’t know either…”, I reply.

This dialog is familiar. It’s not the first time we’ve exchanged these words. Yet for whatever reason Thomas tends to make half-hearted efforts most of the time. Occasionally he will give his best but more often than not, he doesn’t. It’s disappointing to me to see this with a talented student.

Sound familiar?

If you’re anything like me you explain to your students how important it is to give your all when you train. You and I both know you’ll do what you know best under duress. Practice to be slow and you’ll be great at being slow. Practice with great effort accompanied by an attitude for continual improvement and you’ll develop skills that will serve you well.

As instructors, we realize this relationship between effort and results but many students don’t yet possess the experience to connect these dots; particularly beginners and kids. Some students believe that they can cruise through class like they’re driving a convertible Mustang, one hand on the wheel with the wind blowing through their hair. They come to class regularly so they think they “know it all”. They also believe when it comes time to race that Mustang they’ll know what to do.

Not true.

You are what you practice to be.

That’s why champion sports teams adhere to the old adage,

“We train like we play, and play like we train”.

So after class recently it got me thinking…

“As an instructor do I practice what I preach? Do I give my best effort in every class?”

If we’re going to ask our students to give their best while training, I believe we ought to do the same while teaching. It’s only fair to walk the walk if we’re going to talk the talk.

I’ve spent the last 15 years building my dojo and have taught over 15,000 classes during that time. I’m always analyzing each class for things I could do better from the words spoken, to the way content is presented and taught, to the individual coaching a student receives. Always looking to set a new gold standard.

However like Thomas, from time to time I get preoccupied with the business details of the dojo, the craziness of the outside world or little things going on in life and I know I can do better.

Can you?

As a professional certified trainer I’ve acquired the tools, techniques and methods for public speaking, body language and communication… but occasionally (most often when I’m tired and feeling unresourceful) I’ll slip back to doing what’s easiest and not what’s ultimately best practice.

This led me to look for a solution. An introspective search for a mental trigger I can press before and during class to bring out my best as an instructor.

What I discovered was a simple question that focuses my attention. The question is this:

“How can I make this class the best class ever?”

Sure, this seems a little too simple at first glance but asking this before class stimulates my creative mind and helps me search for an answer based on my past experience. It helps me make a mental plan of what to cover content-wise, what structure my classes might take and what drills and exercises I might employ.

It’s also useful to ask this question during class when things aren’t going as well as I’d hoped. My mind immediately starts to look for ways to reignite the class. I may have to present/explain something in a different way to get my point across. I may create a new exercise on the fly to help students join the dots. More often than not, it may help me avoid a tailspin. And if my students sense my 100% engagement, they’re more likely to put forth an effort as well. All thanks to a simple question.

That’s the wonderful thing about the human mind… when you ask it a question it looks for an answer whether you like it or not.

So…in an effort to bring out your best as an instructor my question to you is, “How can you make your next class your best class ever?”

And my next question to Thomas will be, “How can you make this your best effort ever?”

Until next time…

Stay safe. Train hard.

– Jason

Kumite Footwork Exercise

Are you ready for a quick kumite footwork drill that helps develop strong quads, explosive movement and agility?

AWESOME!

You’ll need a sparring partner and a pair of focus mitts.

It works like this:

  1. Partners face each other in their fighting stance at kicking range, left leg forward.
  2. The Target  holds the mitts in front of their body with palms touching (picture and imagine praying).
  3. The Fighter  waits in anticipation for the Target to present the mitt to hit.
  4. With their left hand the Target shows the mitt at a position for a front leg jodan mawashi geri  (upper level roundhouse kick).
  5. The Fighter skips up with the back foot, chambers the knee and fires off the kick, recoiling the leg and placing their foot to the ground next to their other foot, legs slightly bent at the knees.
  6. At the same time the Target EITHER shuffles backwards or pushes forwards one  slide .
  7. The Fighter must react appropriately after the kick.

In the case of a retreating Target, the Fighter pushes forwards using the loaded spring of the BACK LEG into forward stance, and delivers reverse punch.

In the case of an advancing Target, the Fighter pushes backwards by loading up the FRONT LEG and driving backwards. At the same time the Fighter must move the back foot as to regain their original fighting position, and follow with slide in reverse punch.

[HINT: Pay attention to what you/your students do after the kick! A common mistake is to fall forwards instead of recoiling the leg and driving forwards. This action leaves the fighter open for the counter. It also puts the fighter in a position unable to chase their opponent should they double-shuffle backwards. Conversely a fighter who recoils and springs forwards has momentum and can push forwards again if their opponent moves further back, breaks line, etc.]

Typically we to this exercise for 10 repetitions before changing roles, and of course then working the other side of the body. The objective is for the fighter to develop strong explosive movement, to be able to anticipate the target’s movement and react appropriately ensuring proper distance and timing for their technique.

Here’s a quick visual, just because I know you love my stick figure animations. 😉

kumite

Try it with you students and if you like this kumite drill I have a ton more of them here.

Enjoy!

— Jason