Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Temporary Student

I think teaching a temporary student is challenging for the karate instructor.  In the dojo, there were several occasions when students wanted to learn karate but only had a limited amount of time.  It may be a parent who wants their teenager to learn basic self-defense before heading off to college.  It could be something a person has always wanted to learn but never had the time and are able to give it a few months.  The temporary student is usually forthcoming about their time constraints. "I want to learn karate but I only have X time.  How much can I learn in X?"

Tough question to answer. 

Answer Option 1:  You can learn a lot about karate in six months.  It ultimately depends on how much time you commit to practice and study. 

Answer Option 2:  Karate is a lifetime of learning.  The more you learn the more you recognize how much more there is to learn.  Six months would barely scratch the surface.

Thoughts? How would you answer the question?


Rick said...


"This is what and how we teach."

I wouldn't change anything.

John Vesia said...

I used to train at a place that offered a quickie course that lasted six weeks or so. It wasn't billed as "karate" so gi's, colored belts or any kind of dojo etiquette didn't apply. Trainees were told to wear something comfortable like gym attire and no shoes. Everything that was taught was strictly self-defense and preventive measures. I guess it was marketed for people who might've felt intimidated by a traditional martial arts program. It might've been a ploy to attract potential students into the regular karate class. I can't remember if that ever happened, though.

As far as traditional karate goes I would have to go with answer 2.

Narda said...

I had a wonderful experience with a student who had just graduated, was moving away to grad school and had just 'discovered' my kobudo flyer.

What to teach to someone that has absolutely NO knowledge of the martial arts world? Eyes agleam, everything new, soaking in everything like a sponge - he was 'kobudo crazy'. It was a joy, and a privilege to be the one to plant seeds for life journey. I warned him of the frauds, the ego-trips, choices he would eventually make, and how to find a good teacher that fit his needs.

SueC said...

I don't think you can teach a lot of useful karate (i.e useful in a self-defence way)in 6 months if it is being taught in a regular karate class.

On the other hand, I do think it is possible to put together a purpose made 'self-defence' course in that time which may prove useful to a short term student. However, with so much stripped away (kata, kihon, sparring)I'm not sure you could still call it karate?

The other problem with short courses is that if the student doesn't continue to practice the skills learnt they will soon be lost and forgotten, so you have to wonder whether it was worth learning in the first place!

caterina said...

It's actually always possible that a beginner won't ultimately stay in karate for very long. It's just that most of the time, you have no way of knowing how long someone's karate career will be on the day they start. And in truth, you could never know for sure in any case. Someone who only studies with you for a summer could come back some day far down the road, or resume with a different teacher at a different stage of life.

When the karate school I attend opened the children's classes to parents, it was presented as an experiment. The school charged us a flat fee for three months of instruction, and promised us that we would be prepared to test for our first belt promotion by the end of that time. After that, they would reassess. That was over five years ago, and three of us are still studying.

It was actually tremendously helpful to me to start with a three-month commitment. I figured, why not? If I didn't like it, I'd have a graceful exit when the three months were up. The structure also helped me get through the first month or six weeks after I started, when I was pretty convinced that I was utterly hopeless and the whole thing had been a mistake. But three months was long enough for me to start to get a glimmer of just how much fun this could be.

So with a temporary student, maybe the right idea is just to introduce them to your art, probably in much the same way that you would do for any newcomer. Your student will know more than they did before, and maybe even have time to catch that glimmer.

Michele said...

Great comments! Thank you for sharing your perspective.

Rick: Yes. Changing the program for a temporary student would be detrimental to the dojo as a whole.

John: I think people are accustomed to thinking in time slots...six week course, soccer season, college semester. We often are asked when our session/classes start. People are surprised when I explain the classes are continuous and students can start at any time.

Narda: What a great experience! I hope our dojo has been able to "plant seeds for life journey".

SueC: I agree. Recently I offered to teach semi-private self-defense lessons to a family with college bound children.

Caterina: Thanks for sharing your experience. You make an excellent point about the beginner never know how long they will stay. It is nice hearing about families who train together! :)

Charles James said...

"I want to learn karate but I only have X time. How much can I learn in X?"

Ans: Nothing, go away.