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Paul Herbert 5th Dan
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The Instructors' Challenge
By: Takamori Kaida

The title of the last Instructors’ Training Class hosted by the JKA-SV Dojo was "Dealing with Common Student Problems". I was invited to present a segment on this topic but I must admit that I had my own problem with that particular theme. It did not motivate me and it sounded like just another story time. The title could have been interpreted in many ways and all instructors have their own tales about the hurdles they have faced in instructing those students who have a fault or two or more…

So I immediately rose to the challenge. I did not have a choice as the meeting was in two hours. A shower, a cup of coffee, and one kinako manju (a type of japanese snack) later I arrived at another hands on meeting armed only with structured controversy; my favorite kind of ammunition.

The first two lectures were verbal, followed up immediately by physical examples for all instructors to rehearse and examine what idea was being presented… one at a time, each proposal actually played a role to fall *exactly* into my clutches. Lesson one centered on the fact that each instructor should be wary of what they do as they instruct, train, and behave in front of others. Of course, an instructor is a model and needs to display what they are instructing with as much accuracy and efficiency possible. This also led to the idea that one needs to be extra careful with youth classes due to their voracity to pick up even the slightest of details.

Lesson two was focused on examining the manner in which we direct, correct, and monitor what a student is performing while training. By using feedback from a partner that was being “instructed” as a student, one could understand how they may come across from the eyes of a student. This also allowed us as a group to share what particular details are being taught and in what manner one might correct a student’s techniques. How methods of instruction differed; both verbal and physical.

Thus began the real topic of the seminar:
An Instructor’s Challenge…

As mentioned, the original title of the seminar did not move me. At this point, my only intent was to initiate a discussion that would naturally lead into the new title. What a piece of cake. I asked the class what they had learned that morning…

Segment one was centered on how we do karate in front of the class. Segment two entailed how students may react due to our instruction methods. What can be done to invoke a good technique and whether a student will react better to pure verbal, hands on direction, or some kind of combination of instruction methods…?

Apparently, instead of focusing on a trouble student we were all thinking of the challenges we face in our own training in and how we might carefully study ourselves in order to better instruct a student. Students can be a challenge but the root of the matter is if we have mastered our own keiko (training) mentally & physically and to the best of our abilities. Our challenge is two fold ~ our own devotion to karate and our devotion to instruct it to others. How boring! This is nothing earth-shattering, right? RIGHT! But I wanted to take this lesson to another level. To set that up, I had to continue in using the Force to direct the group…

My question to the class: “What makes a student a challenge to instruct?” (Are you ready for this?) Various answers came and they all had to do with a student’s talents… their abilities or “aptitude.”

Next came several ideas that all centered around a person’s willingness, desire… their “attitude.”

I urged the group for just one more desirable attribute in a student. I must admit that I was so excited that I could not hold my tongue much longer. (*And* I was not willing to fail my challenge this morning!) There was a bit of silence, so I asked one more question… “Can you teach a student that does *not* come to class?"...The morning sun started to peak over car ports and hit the floorboards of the gym.

So there were the “Three-A’s” that would be so easy to remember and take away from this lesson. Aptitude, Attitude, & Attendance. To drive this idea home we can apply this to those popular graphs that they love to print in Japanese magazines. Assume that a value to be applied to each trait. The “ideal” student might look like the following:


Ok ~ so a student will not look like a triangle… but more like a circle! As you add more attributes (an infinite number) the character portrayed here will become more and more elliptical. This will depend on the strengths in each attribute. See where this is going?


You come to realize more and more that in looking for the desirable traits in a student, you find the same applies for yourself. Again, this is far from mystical knowledge from some far-east mountain top but so many forget this. (Guilty!) Next, consider taking this idea two steps further. Lay the graph down and add a ‘Z’ axis to make a 3-dimensional representation. Consider this axis a reflection of your own awareness of each of these traits. This is a kind of awareness of yourself, your persona, and how you take on improving these traits (values). Each of the spokes now creates the 3-dimensional feel to this idea.



Now to complete the obvious sphere we are attempting to compare this idea to: As we learn more about ourselves, we learn how to express or share your self; your affect on the community. Consider how you can reflect or apply yourself on your community (in a positive way). So, instead of reflecting inward, we learn how to reflect outward. Your “community” can be as small as your immediate loved ones, family, or coworkers and as large as your class of students, town, city; the sky is the limit.


No revelations here that will bring world peace but, perhaps, another bit of proof that we have all come to conclusion that as karate instructors we have a lot of responsibility. And now we have a presentation that could be used to aide and motivate students, sempai, and up-and-coming sensei. Perhaps, even, WHY we have this responsibility and what our training could truly encompass if we wished to apply karate to the mind, body, and spirit. (But to compare this idea to Ki would be a separate presentation.) Good luck with your own "AAA challenge."