View Full Version : Question for long-time karate instructors
04-09-2001, 06:20 PM
Hello all of you who are growing golden ripe (or silver) as MA instructors. The inspiration for this question came from a recent thread which noted that there is a significant difference in teaching methodologies between traditional Japanese karate instruction and original Okinawan teaching. That is, the Japanese instruction was characterized as more often being formal and "militaristic" (up and down the floor drills with frequent spirit-building shouts, etc.), while the Okinawans tended to teach small groups focusing on, for example: kata, bunkai, and two-man drills drawn from kata, etc..
This question is primarily aimed at instructors who have been teaching for more than 7-10 years (long enough time for a teacher to evolve his/her teaching methodologies based on years of experience). Those of you who have trained with one karate sensei for over 7 years may have observations of their teacher's approach as well.
OK, here's the questions:
Over the years, has the style of your teaching changed significantly, and if so, what is different and how do you think that alters the "end-product", i.e., what skills, attitudes, and benefits did your students develop as they trained?
For example, did you start out militaristic style, and evolve into a seminar style? Did you expand you curriculum or narrow it down? How did it work for you?
04-10-2001, 08:44 AM
sorry doubled it.
04-10-2001, 08:55 AM
Hello Dr. John:
One thing to note before this discussion begins: the Okinawan style of teaching presumes, from my reading, a much smaller group of students than are present in Japanese dojos.
It seems that in Okinawa, students rarely number over 8-10 at any one time, the dojo may be open all day and a student walks in and works with his sempai and occasionally takes formal classes with their teacher. This according to Teruo Chinen on his training in Okinawa.
In contrast, the Japanese teaching style seems to have evolved in a different circumstance, and presumes that classes average 15 students and more with influxes of masses of new beginners at the start of the school year.
So I think the idea that the difference between Okinawan vs. Japanese teaching methodologies is based on innate cultural differences may not work. This seems evident when one examines teaching methodology in Japanese koryu arts, where students are few and the teaching methods seems to be Okinwana/seminar-like.
I started out with a completely militaristic style. As my students advanced, each developed their unique problems and a seminar approach worked best for solving individual problems. Since I teach at a University, I use the military method for the new hoard of raw beginners at the beginning of each semester.
04-18-2001, 11:10 AM
When I first started to teach I used the more militaristic style, and I kept with that, as my own skills were not that developed, and you had to fill the time.
As I came to understand more about the techniques, I began to be able to craft drills that actually helped my students learn! So I moved from teaching by accident to teaching with purpose. I still follow this model today, and find it works much better than the way I was typically taught.
Glenn R. Manry
04-18-2001, 06:27 PM
Thanks for sharing your experiences in the evolution of your teaching. I seem to have done the same thing, shifting away from drills in a line and into more creative and specific training drills. I do however see a time and a place for the militaristic drilling, especially in the early stage of just teaching a white belt how to sustain focus in the face of demanding actions. But the more deeply I understand the art we practice, the better I am able to come up with methods to get the trainee to grasp the concept and put it into action. For me, each training has a basic flow and structure, but the various ways of drilling vary and are adaptations to the spirit of the dynamic training moment.
A thought just struck me, as I was about to write about how my first 7 years of my training was mostly Japanese drill work. However, now that I really think about it, I realize that the bulk of what I learned technically my first 7 years was from the individual attention I received from the many generous (and highly skilled) sempai in my large Hombu dojo. What I got from the drills in class was a lesson in perseverance and sustenance of a fighting spirit. The techniques and principles of the art came one-on-one from a few generous sempai, in training sessions done between regular classes. So, I guess that although we can characterize traditional Japanese training methods as militaristic, perhaps that is an incomplete description of all the training a fortunate karateka actually receives.
Perhaps this is the area where training in a traditional (non-commercial) dojo really shines: no studio trying to turn a profit would have a cadre of sempai willing to spend hours helping the brown belts turn into worthy shodans.
P. S. to Glenn-- I find myself heartily agreeing with most everything you have posted recently. Scary thought, huh.
With kind regards,
04-27-2001, 10:51 AM
I've found that when my class size swells into the 30's +, I have to return to the more military style of basic drills. I am further challenged by having a steady stream of newbies joining class along with my 1st-2nd year students. I have found that I can take the more advanced students and break them off to the newer ones, usually in groups smaller than 6, and aloow them to focus more on the needs of the group.
When I get the class in a manageable format, I love to roam around to the groups and share new techniques or approaches to what they're working on.
I tend to run a very relaxed, casual setting with advanced students, but a highly structured one with beginners and large groups. I consider it necessary for effective class management.
I am very thankful that my teacher had me instruct both group classes and individual lessons during my training. It prepared me very well for the dynamics of the diverse program I now run. (My program is a non-profit community outreach sponsored by our church and I have 100+ students)
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