So a few weeks ago I made the suggestion to expose your students to new training environments, such as the beach or mountains.
It’s a great way to keep students’ enthusiasm high and keep them involved with your dojo during the quieter times of the year.
Furthermore it subjects your students to unfamiliar territory, full of distractions and obstacles that challenge their focus, footwork, balance and coordination.
I went ahead and scheduled a somewhat early morning training session for my junior students on the beach at Oceanside here in southern California. Parents and students eagerly arrived at 8:30am full of enthusiasm and wonder, ready to experience what I had in store for them.
We wandered down the steps to the right of the pier with the kids’ faces full of excitement, and endless verbal banter to match. I heard students commenting on “how cool this is” and “this is gonna be awesome”. We selected an area close to the water on the sand where parents parked their backsides on deck chairs or on blankets. I called my students over, while parents busted out their cameras.
I had my students line out facing the beach with their backs to the water, with shoes removed of course. We bowed in and began our session with a run along the wet sand, splashing through the shallows and avoiding joggers, dogs and the like. Something about the fresh ocean air seemed to invigorate my students; their faces lit up like Christmas trees, and smiles from ear to ear…
We returned from our little run and again lined out ready to begin. The day was overcast and the water had a bit of chill to it, so I knew it would take a little time for them to adjust. We started our session with basic punches, blocks and strikes from yoi dachi. Then we moved on to oi-zuki and gyaku-zuki from zenkutsu dachi, as the waves lapped their ankles.
Next technique was mae-geri (front kick). This is when the laughter began as sand was flicked directly at me and the parents who displayed some nice evasive footwork as they weaved out of the way protecting their cameras.
With each new technique I had my students take 2 steps backwards towards the water, and within a few minutes they were up to their knees. The session continued to challenge each and every student as we moved from basics to kata. Uneven ground squishy underfoot, waves splashing against their bodies, and movement hampered by the ocean. Of course there was disorientation for some with no familiar visual reference while performing kata… but all in all students LOVED it!
After we finished with kata we moved onto ippon kumite (pre arranged attack/defense) in knee-high water. Of course the first question was, “Can we sweep and do take-downs?”. There was a resounding cheer when I answered, “Absolutely!!”
For the next few minutes my junior students countered and slammed their friends into the water with more laughter than you can imagine. Break-falling into 18 inches of water is now their favorite pastime, and the kids can’t wait for our next beach session.
We created a lot of fun memories that day. Memories those students will cherish forever…