Thursday, 4 March 2010
Teaching martial arts - harder than it looks!
I helped with some teaching this week. I have been helping out in the Monday junior class for 2 or 3 months now but generally I just join in, partner someone who doesn’t have a partner and help some of the very junior students with their katas. However this week Sensei decided to give me a bit more teaching to do.
So instead of having a couple of yellow belts to take through their kata he asked me to take the whole class through some pad work! Well, the whole class bar two students whom he wanted to take aside to go through their grading syllabus with. This left me with about 14 students ranging from red belt to purple belt.
I decided not to feel too intimidated by this request; after all I’ve done loads of pad work – what could be so hard? When Sensei does pad work with us we just line up in pairs down the centre of the hall with a pad, he demonstrates the techniques he wants us to do, we do it to his count, left leg/arm, then right leg/arm, then we do ten left, ten right to our own count and swap pad holders who then go through the same routine. Sensei walks up and down praising/correcting our technique and encouraging us to go harder; simple eh?
Well, I got everybody sorted into partners and lined up with the pads – so far, so good. I then demonstrated the first technique – a spinning back kick. What was Sensei thinking giving me this kick to demonstrate? It’s my worst kick (apart from spinning hook kick – that just looks like an inelegant pirouette!). I can tell someone how to do a back kick and I can tell students all the little nuances that make the kick work better – drawing the knee up high, looking at your target, the correct foot shape on the pad, keeping your hands up, pulling the leg back after the kick etc. However, knowing what to do and actually being able to do it is not necessarily the same thing!
So I did my rather lack lustre demonstration and set them off doing it to my count: “Ichi..” They kick. I go off and help a young yellow belt who doesn’t know which way to spin. After a few seconds with her I look up and realise the whole class are standing there like statues waiting for me to count. “Oh sorry, Ni!” They all kick again. I help another child who’s confused for a few seconds. I look up – statues. I count again – they kick. I can’t seem to count and give attention to people at the same time! So I decided just to walk up and down counting and saying things like ‘don’t let your hands drop’ and ‘draw you knee up higher before you kick’.
I then realise I haven’t asked them to change legs yet (poor things!). So we do it all again on the other leg and my poor little yellow belt is still spinning the wrong way so I go over to help her and guess what? Yep! Statues again. Anyway, we get through this and get to the bit where they do 10 kicks on each leg to their own count. Respite! I can now concentrate more on helping those that are struggling. Then it’s time to swap pad holders and do it all again. This means I have to demonstrate the kick again – I tried really hard not to lose my balance, draw my knee up, and shape my foot - all the things I’d just told them to do. My demonstration went slightly better this time.
After everybody had finished I had to do the whole thing again with the side kick (another difficult kick for me). By which time Sensei is assuming we’ve nearly finished and shouts ‘finish off with some jump kicks’. Not if you want to go home on time, I’m thinking. Anyway we did fit in a few jump kicks (I’m okay with those) before Sensei takes the class back. Phew!
This teaching lark is a lot harder than it looks. I found it very difficult to watch people carefully and count at the same time. I decided the best time to give people individual attention was when they were kicking to their own count and doing the kicks repetitively. I was quite comfortable correcting and advising the children but less so the adults, particularly those that could do the technique better than me – it seemed rather patronising to correct someone who can do something better than me. Did I remember to praise? I think I praised some of the children who were doing it well but I’m not sure I did the adults, which is something I must remember – we all need praise occasionally, however old we are.
What were your early teaching experiences like? What did you find particularly hard about it?
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.