Dealing With Hijackers

You know… I’m sure, that one of the most frustrating things as a teacher is trying to keep your class under control.

It only takes one little hijacker and before you know it you’re teaching at a circus, not a karate dojo.

I’m sure you know the feeling all too well – when your class is going great and then it happens. Litte Mister Attitude answers every question you ask with the complete OPPOSITE of what he knows to be the right answer, just to push your buttons…

Then other kids start to giggle and all hell breaks loose.

Since I’ve been using the Early Learning System, this happens 10 times less often than it used to, as kids really don’t WANT to mess around – they tend to take charge of their progress and are more focused. It usually only happens now when I have NEW kids attending class for the first time.

Anyway, if you do have a kid act up in class, you gotta “nip it in the bud” so to speak. Right there and then. If you let the first kid get away with ANYTHING, they’ll push you for more and then the whole class joins in until 1 of 2 things happen.

1) You completely lose it and yell like there’s no tomorrow. THE SHOCK FACTOR usually gets kids’ attention for the rest of the class, but the negatives associated with it far outweigh the immediate results you get.

In other words, bringing in FEAR and ANGER only generate more FEAR and ANGER in your class. They might behave out of fear, but this does little for the growth of your kids – and absolutely kills the growth of your club!

If your kids’ parents see you behave like that, you’re slitting your own throat. After all, you’re supposed to be the SENSEI – in their eyes a master of the martial arts. A person with patience, self control and a calm demeanor, right?

Why would a prospective parent join a club based on FEAR and ANGER? Do you think you’ll get many referrals operating from that perspective? If you do, guess what? The types of people you’ll attract will be the same way, and you’ll have an entire class of little demons to work with.

Been there, done that, not going back.

2) You persevere and be patient… again and again and again. You might tell them “One more time and I’ll….” – but if you never follow through on your promise, kids will call your bluff.


The result – loss of credibility and lack of control.

Do you ever get those parents call you and say “I’d like to put my kid in your class because he has disciplinary problems and I think martial arts will help.”?

Well, guess what?

The problems lie at home with parents often using one of the above 2 options to get kids to behave. No wonder they’re messing around in class, right?

Well, don’t despair – here’s my disciplinary procedure….

It’s taken me years to refine and stick to, and the funny thing is that it’s actually really simple. =)

It works great and goes hand in hand with the Early Learning System. As the ELS is about maintaining a positive approach, empowering your students to take charge of their own progress and rewarding them often for achieving their goals, the following acts as the STICK in the “carrot and the stick” equation (as we’ve already got the drive for continual improvement and achievement in place).

Are you ready?


First some definitions…

Dealing With Negative Behavior

Minor infringements include things like:

– talking when sensei is talking
– continuing an exercise after “yame”
– messing around with other kids
– disobedience
– bad attitude

Major infringements include things like:

– striking another student with intent to hurt
– physically or verbally abusing the sensei
– disrespecting the dojo

Use the following guide to deal with bad behavior for minor infringements. For major infringements – jump directly to #4 or #5.

1st infringement – warning (depending on the severity).
2nd infringement – timeout (set the number of minutes equal to the age of the child).
3rd infringement – demotion to white belt.
4th infringement – expulsion from class.
Repeated infringements – expulsion from club.

Now when I put this system in place all of a sudden there was CONSISTENCY! Kids new exactly what was next if they didn’t behave. There wasn’t any confusion.

I’ve tried negative physical punishment and a whole bunch of other stuff, but the above system works far better.

It’s hard and takes a lot of practice on your part, but when you make this commitment to your teaching system, you’ll find that your kids will transform from demons to angels.

– Jason

P.S. Please post your comments here! I want to hear YOUR stories and methods too.

6 thoughts on “Dealing With Hijackers”

  1. We have one little 7 year old guy in the class who is ADD and says things out of turn also. I tried and tried to get him to do his kata Taikyoku Shodan with any sort of effort but to no avail. I then had a talk with him to try and get his attention focused on the kata, he managed to put a half decent version together, so to reward him I went to our belt drawer out back, got a black belt and made him an honorary shodan for the evening, the transformation was miraculous. His mum was amazed at his stances, punches etc. So now I use this every so often as a BIG reward and not just for stuff he should be doing anyway.

  2. “demotion to white belt” is that permanently or for a short period of time? Do you not think it a bit harsh? say a green belt getting demoted and then not learning anything?

  3. Re the “Demotion to white belt” question…

    Sorry I should have clarified it a litte better. =)

    It’s temporary – just for the rest of the class. Then at the end of that class, I pull the kid aside and we have a little chat.

    Basically I ask them if they know why they had to wear a white belt.

    We then go through the steps that led up to that demotion, after which we make a deal – they promise to behave better and I give them their belt back.

    But like I said, this process hardly ever happens because no one wants to *test it out*. Usually after the time out, they know that the next infringement is the white belt – so it really doesn’t happen very often. In fact I’ve only had to go to this stage twice.

    Hope this helps!

  4. Jason,

    I’m really enjoying your blog – and am picking up a huge number of tips. Keep at it!

    Just wanted to make a comment on this subject. I teach on an irregular basis at my local club, and one of our classes is called “Peewees” on a good day, and “Talibans” on a bad one.

    About six weeks ago I was on the schedule to teach this group (in Taliban mode due to the season, weather or too much chocolate pudding… I don’t know), but they were absolutely horrendous. I’ve taught them before, but on this occasion they went totally spare. The only thing that captured their attention was a game of musical chairs (hey, I was desperate…).

    I think your plan of scheduled rewards and levels of discipline is excellent, but it’s extremely hard when you’re filling in for the regular sensei.

    Still, thanks for more ideas, which will certainly be used whenever I set up my own dojo.

    Best wishes,

    Nigel Kersh

  5. I really like this idea of “ordered” discipline, especially for the kids. Your blog has so many wonderful ideas for those of us learning how to teach, and who hope to start their own dojo someday. Thanks so very much and God bless.


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