Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Big Class / Small Class

Our dojo opened in 1995.  The building was a bar/restaurant which we converted into a house/dojo. The very first class had two students. Through the years, class sizes have varied from 1 person to 20+.   When class size reached space capacity, we split up the kyu ranks and added more classes.  If class size was too small, we consolidated the classes.   The student population has varied over the last 16 years due to economics, trends, fads and interest. 

There are advantages and disadvantages to a large class and a small class. 

Large Class - Advantages
1. A lot of energy.
2. Good for certain training drills.
3. Variety of training partners available.

Large Class - Disadvantages
1. Reduced space on training floor.
2. May limit teaching opportunities.  For example, it is difficult to teach long range weapons due to space constraints.
3.  Limited individual instruction.

Small Class - Advantages
1. Opportunity to work on material specific to each student.
2. One-on-one instruction.

Small Class - Disadvantages
1. Limited partner work.
2. Some students prefer a larger class setting.

As a class instructor/student, do you prefer big classes or small classes?  What do you see as the advantages/disadvantages? 


Charles James said...

If one were teaching how to fight on the street or self-defense or self-protection or reality based stuff or as with the Marine Martial Art Program, combat then the ratio to instructor means a great deal.

Even in sport, the ratio of more than three or four to one begins a diminishing of content exponentially as to the number of practitioners to instructor, etc.

It is so in all teaching situations be it dojo, training hall, sport arena or high school math class.

Of course if money is necessary then all bets are off cause sustenance and such trump adequate budo instruction.

Felicia said...

I'd say it depends on what the lesson is, Michele. Smaller seems better for self-defense and beginner basics while large is good for partner drills, round-robin sparring, rolls/breakfalls and kata.

But when I'm training, I like classes that have say six to 10 people. But the dojo I train in is pretty small and that is all that can really comfortably fit to do kata and drills.

Great post!

Knitting Martial Artist said...

I think it really depends on multiple things: size of the dojo, lesson being taught, and ability of the teacher to teach at multiple levels. For me, I'm used to training with a smaller group, anywhere from 2-12, and it really depends on what we're doing (My dojo is quite small, as well, so 12 can feel a bit crowded sometimes.) I've also trained under other teachers who were still learning how to teach multiple skill levels, and with them, it was always best to have a small group.
Though somedays it's nice just to have a larger group so you don't feel your teacher's eyes constantly on you...

Rick said...

As the others have said, it depends.

When you have a full room and everyone is practicing a form together (like the Taijiquan form), you can't just do as you like. You must yield to the group pace, and you must adjust to the space you have available to you. There are some good lessons to be had there.

Journeyman said...

From a student's perspective, the perfect number for me is being one of four students on the mats. You have the advantage of one-on-one instruction similar to a private class, but you still can work with 3 others of varying size and abilities. It depends on your other classmates though. I always like to have at least one person I can go a bit harder with, and they with I.

Occasionally though, a big class can be a blast. Lots of energy, as mentioned, lots of different experiences, friendships being struck etc.

Larger classes also allow less confident students to blend a bit more until they are comfortable. They're also a good way to compare you skills to similarly ranked individuals.

In a perfect world, most classes with 4, every other week a larger one, and just occasionally, a private lesson. I'm not asking for too much, eh?

John Vesia said...

I like a good size class: between 10 and 12 people. Whether I'm teaching or participating a dozen seems like a good number where camaraderie and good interaction between students takes place.

SenseiMattKlein said...

It really depends on what you are teaching Michele. We teach fairly large kids karate classes, and with the help of our assistants, everyone gets assistance. Like you say, big classes mean a lot of energy, especially with the shouts!

But try running a large grappling class, and you will find it difficult to find room, get around to everyone, and prevent injury as people roll into each other.

I believe it is demoralizing for the instructor if only one or two turn up to train, and prefer the large-class format.