Kinesthetic Learners, Repetitions and Socrates…

So today I want to finish up with our 4 part series on the different learning types, and how you as a teacher of a karate class can help each student.

So far we’ve covered visual and auditory learners, which you’ll recall make up the majority of our students. However there is one group that requires a different approach to learn. This group makes up about 5% of the population and learns best through “doing”. Often these students appear as the “odd ones out” in class because they learn differently. These are our…

Kinesthetic or Tactile Learners

If we go back to our simple tests to help determine learning types, you’ll notice people who learn mostly through the kinestheic process have a few common traits. Kinesthetic learners tend to fidget during visual and auditory instruction, look down as they internalize and work through their thought process, and use words and phrases that are action-based like “I understand”, “I feel”, “Let me try that”.

Some instructors mistake this as “a lack of confidence” when they see a kinesthetic learner looking down when practicing kata for example. When really, they might be thinking through and internalizing the actions of the movements. (Contrast this with a visual learner and might see them looking up left when trying to think of the next move.)

Ok, so how do we teach Kinesthetic Learners if they learn only by doing?

First off don’t expect your KL to participate in a group discussion, or listen and repeat what you just said. In my experience KLs will often be off in their own little world.

Fortunately for us as instructors, KLs are actually fairly well suited for martial arts since it’s action-based. Repetition is key and this is exactly how a KL learns best. So don’t be afraid to have your KL practice something over and over again. And dont’ be afraid to have them practice by themselves – they like it. Where as those VLs will be too busy messing around or easily distracted by the group if you ask them to do individual kata practice for example.

Also you can challenge KLs by asking them to practice something a certain way and then change one of the variables and ask them to “figure it out” for themselves. Example: Have your KLs practice a kata application but change the attack to use the other side of the body. Does the bunkai still work? In a lot of cases it will with slight modification. Have them discover it for themselves.

When KLs ask you a question, fire it back at them and ask them using the Socratic method, “Well how do you think that could be achieved?” and “Why do you think that?”, and “Based on what you just said, how does that make sense?”

This helps them learn because they will think through the challenge, feel it and understand it. (Contrast to VLs who just want you to show them!!)

Wrapping it up…

So we’ve learned more about each of the learning types in this 4 part series, and you’re now better equipped to teach. The challenge for you now is to take this knowledge and use it. As instructors we should always be looking for ways to help our students learn faster, retain more and improve their skill sets, as well as our own!

One final point:

It’s important to realize that just about everybody uses a mix of learning processes, and very rarely does a person rely solely on ONE learning process. Nearly everyone has ears and eyes and will use them. However, most people have a dominant learning process and it’s up to you to discover which process works best for each and every student.

Since you’re probably teaching mostly to a class of karate students (versus private instruction) you’ll need to incorporate ALL of the teaching methods for visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners to cover your bases. Adopt a “no student left behind” policy. If you do have the opportunity to work in a private-class scenario, be sure to predominately use the teaching method that works best for your student.

Apply these ideas and you’ll see results quickly.

Until next time…

– Jason

Kids Karate Game: The Safe Game

Here’s a great kids karate game you can use as a warm-up or a reward at the end of class, that kids go crazy for…

It’s called “The Safe Game” and here’s how it works:

  • It’s basically a game of tag / cat and mouse with a bunch of “safe groups”, and requires 10 or more  students for best results.
  • Students pair-up and stand side by side at random locations on the floor, with a minimum of about 5 feet between groups. These are the “safe groups”.
  • Then choose one student to be the Cat (the tagger) and one other to be the Mouse (the runner).
  • On your command the game begins and the Cat must catch the Mouse. The only way the Mouse can be safe is to run to a safe group and yell, “SAFE!”.
  • This action releases the person on the far side of the safe group, who now becomes the Mouse. The Cat must now catch this new person, and the new Mouse must run to another group and call “SAFE”.
  • In the event the Mouse is tagged by the Cat, roles are reversed and now the person who was being chased is now the chaser.
  • The game continues until students pass out from exhaustion, or you decide that it’s gone on long enough!

Some rules:

  1. There can only ever be 2 “safe” people in a safe group. The person on the outside is ALWAYS the person who is released.
  2. If the person on the closest end of the group accidentally runs (instead of the outer person), the game stops, the person who broke now becomes the Cat, the original Cat becomes the Mouse, and the original mouse is safe.
  3. To make this more challenging you can allow/deny “tag-backs”. You can also have 3 Mice and one Cat, so there are fewer safe groups.
  4. To make it more karate-related, have each of the safe groups stand in a different karate stance.

Try it out and let us know how it works for you!


~ Jason

Are you listening?

Today we continue our discussion about the different learning types. So far we talked about 3 basic types of learners and went into some detail about visual learners. We’ll continue and this time explore…


So are you listening? Yes, you right there who is not looking at me when I’m speaking to you…

You can tell an auditory learner almost immediately particularly in a group situation. Your visual learners will be looking at you and seemingly paying attention, while their minds are wandering. But your auditory learner might be visually zoning out, looking at nothing in particular and might have their head turned with one ear toward you.

That’s your auditory learner right there… he’s listening to every single word you say, while at the same time looking at his feet or scratching the back of his neck. I encounter this a lot in class, particularly with kids who haven’t been taught to “look at someone when they’re talking to you” (which by the way is counter-intuitive for an auditory learner who might generally prefer to turn to hear you).

Auditory learners also like to hear themselves speak… they can’t keep quiet for long, but they like to listen to learn and follow verbal directions well.

Which way are his
eyes pointing?

A quick test for an auditory learner is to watch their eye movements when asked a question about a place or time they remember. You’ll recall visual people will generally look up to their left for remembering images, and up to their right when constructing them. Auditory learners tend to look either horizontally to their left (remembering sound) or to their right (constructing sound).

Ever had a someone play guitar just for you? They kind of give you this creepy zoned out look where you’re not sure where they’re focusing their gaze, but it’s really them listening and thinking as they play.

Auditory people also use words like “I hear what you’re saying”, “Let me explain it again for you” and “Listen to that!”.

So this is all great and fascinating stuff, but how the heck do you teach those guys when you’ve shown them 5 times already Mr. Visual karate instructor??


Just use your voice! 


Give clear verbal instruction.

And have your students repeat back to you or someone else, what you just explained

Try this with your students…

A little exercise I do sometimes in class is to teach a technique visually and verbally, and then have students pair up and take turns teaching it to each other. You’ll notice your visual learners will just show the technique and your auditory learners will break it down, step by step with explanation.

So that brings us to the conclusion of our brief discussion on auditory learners. Who’s up next??

Hmmm…well let’s just say you’ll have to experience it to understand all about those crazy kinesthetic learners…

Until next time.