Friday, October 22, 2010

Should Karate Class Be Fun?

Every so often the topic of karate class and fun is discussed among the black belt in the dojo. It is a difficult balance especially when working with new and younger students. Last night I taught the second intro lesson to an 8 year old girl. It was the girl’s idea to take karate lessons. In my experience, there is a big difference in the student when it is their idea rather than their parent’s idea.

The intro lesson included straight punches, front snap kick, blocks and self-defense against a push. We used the punching bags and the foam blockers. It was a good session and the girl looked happy when she left the dojo. After the class was over, the other instructor in the dojo asked me if the girl seemed to like karate. His comment about the new student was that during next lesson we need to make sure we do something fun. My reaction was immediate, “Class was fun!” His response, “Fun for you…”

The black belt instructor made a good point. Karate class is fun for me. I like drills, kata, kobudo, self-defense bag work etc. A few weeks ago, we spent 45 minutes discussing the U-punch. That was a fun class too. My idea of a fun karate class is probably not the same as a young student’s idea of a fun karate class. In our dojo, when teaching young students, we disguise basics, movement drills, and balance/coordination exercises in a “game”. We devote the last few minutes of class to “fun” drills.

Flash back eight years ago. I worked as a karate instructor in a dance center for one year. The woman who owned the center wanted to get more boys involved. The owner had a prosperous dance center for young (3-6) children. She saw moms drop off their daughters and walk out of the center with their sons. The owner thought karate was the answer. The program only lasted a year because the facility was not equipped to handle dance and karate. The karate classes were only offered on off-nights due to space limitations.

The owner of the dance center was very good at what she knew. She offered princess tea birthday parties, princess dance camps and beginning ballet and tap. The facility was in the middle of a shopping mall and parents would drop off their children, shop for an hour and return for pickup. The owner did not know anything about traditional karate. At the end of my classes she would stand outside the door and ask each child (in a sugary sweet artificial voice) “Did you have fun?” I realized quickly that teaching a martial art in this environment was not going to work.

So back to my question…should a karate class be fun?


Noah said...

It's always been fun for me--painful, perhaps, but still fun. The only classes I think I've done that have been no fun at all were a JoDo seminar and some of my Judo classes.

Sue C said...

I absolutely think karate lessons should be fun for children (there interpretation of fun not ours!). I have started teaching young children and would love some ideas on how you disguise basics in 'games' and the kind of drills you do at the end of your lessons. How about writing a post about making karate fun for young children?

Felicia said...

My training partner and I (we've been teaching to children together since late May) have this discussion all the time. He thinks games are ridiculous and give a false sense of what karate is all about. I disagree and use games quite often to make it a more "fun" environment without watering down the learning. It's a tough balance, but I think you hit the nail on the head about what's fun for us might not be fun for the youngsters.

I always wonder about the transition though. What happens to those who started at age 8, had their basics and drills disguised as games as they moved through the ranks then go to their first "adult" class where the fun is just. different. Is there a "shock" factor involved?

Journeyman said...

I think fun for kids is essential to instill a love of the martial arts while fostering respect for others and self confidence.

I would love to hear more ideas about how to make the training fun for children. For me, it's a bit of a struggle because I am usually so focused on the combat effectiveness of training and technique.

Having said that, I have a blast during training (most of the time)

Branden Wyke said...

I think a lot of people first approach training out of practical decision -but having fun, and really enjoying it is what keeps them into it.

sandman said...

I think it can be kind of tough to figure out where you draw the line between fun and games and serious training. I do think its a good idea to use games to make it more fun for the kids.

For adults I think its a little more straight-forward - you just do what you do, and expect that some adults will find it fun and will stick around while some won't like it and will move on. Karate's not for everyone.

Anonymous said...

No, obviously not: it should all be about pain, effort and discipline! (Lol)

Michele said...

Thank you for your comments!

I will work on a post regarding drills for kids this weekend. I think balance is the key. We only spend a few minutes on the "fun" drill at the end of class. Often the drill reinforces basics, balance and movement such as karate obstacle courses and moving drill relay-races.

Thanks again for your comments!

BBat50 said...

Yes, the class should be fun. Hard, challenging, upbeat, encouraging, fun! At our school, our sensei says that we come to the dojo to learn discipline. Not to be disciplined!

Collin said...

Every so often the topic of karate class and fun is discussed among the black belt in the dojo. It is a difficult balance especially when working with new and younger students. Thanks for sharing and keep posting.

Unknown said...

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and Yeah it also beneficial for health!

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Ernestine Roberts said...

In my opinion, karate is not the kind of fun you would like in the most literal sense. Of course, you shouldn’t be into something you don’t even enjoy doing. However, being in martial arts class should give you a sense fulfillment, and I guess you can only achieve that by working hard to reach your desired goals. All the best to you!

Ernestine Roberts @ WSKF Australia

Unknown said...

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