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Paul Herbert 5th Dan
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ISKF Instructor Training Program: A General Overview
By Patrick Dolly

For 30 years, under the leadership of Okazaki Sensei, the International Shotokan Karate Federation has offered an instructor training program for its members. Assisted by Sensei’s Mikami, Yaguchi, Koyama, and Takashina, Okazaki Sensei has trained many noteworthy instructors, including Mr. Ronald Johnson, Mr. Najib Amin , and Mr. Hiroyoshi Okazaki.

In order to be eligible for acceptance into the program, the karateka must be at least 22 years old and hold the rank of nidan from the ISKF or have equivalent or higher karate ability. After meeting these criteria, the trainee must be accepted by his or her regional instructor. Classes are offered in Philadelphia, New Orleans, Denver, Phoenix, and Coral Springs. Classes are also offered at regional camps and ISKF Master Camp.

Training can be completed on either a part- or full-time basis. Full-time trainees are required to train six days per week. The day is broken into three hours of actual karate training, two hours of practice instruction, and three hours of academic study. Full-time trainees are given a guideline of 2 years to complete their training. Often during this time period, full time trainees are expected to work for the ISKF in a clerical role. Part-time trainees are required to complete the same curriculum as full time trainees, however they are given a longer, more flexible time period in which to complete the requirements. Part-time trainees are required to complete at least 3 hours of practice instruction per week. All trainees are required to judge in at least 3 ISKF sponsored tournaments per year.

While a member of the Instructor Training Program, karateka are required to complete 30 classes in technical subjects ranging from stances to the psychology of jiyu kumite. All technical classes have kihon, kata, and kumite components. Prior to taking the final examination, trainees are required to submit 43 research papers on various subjects including “Necessary Conditions for Stances in Accordance with Principles of Dynamics” and “Psychological State and its Effect on Technique”. The papers are submitted to the ISKF Technical Committee for review. The research papers are submitted together, as one large report at the culmination of training.

In order to graduate the program the trainee must have attained the rank of sandan and also the rank of Class C Judge. The trainee must also have attended 2 full ISKF Master Camps. After graduation, certified instructors must attend two trainee classes per year to retain their status.

One of the biggest benefits of being a member of the Instructor Training program is that it allows you to train with other people who have the same specific goals in training. There are very few other places you can go where all your training partners are working towards becoming a better instructor. During Okazaki Sensei’s average Instructors’ classes, there a few different facets to the training. Okazaki Sensei will provide a lecture on the basic subjects for the day, stressing the important points. Following the lecture, trainees are brought to the front individually and asked to teach portions of the day’s subjects. The other trainees are then given the opportunity to ask questions of the student-instructor. I can vividly remember the first time I was called upon to instruct. Okazaki Sensei asked me to teach application for Gankaku. As soon as I stepped in front of the group, I totally lost my train of thought. Halfway through my lesson, from the facial expressions of many of my fellow trainees, I realized that I was teaching application for techniques that were not even in the kata. After the teaching debacle, the other trainees were allowed an opportunity for questions. You can imagine how that went. Instructor training can at times be a very daunting experience. Though facing questions from your colleagues is sometimes difficult, it definitely prepares you to be able to teach any group of average karateka.

Instructor Training also allows you to test your own personal ideas about karate. If you are working on a particular technical application, these classes offer a great forum for feedback. You are in a room full of other instructors, some beginners and some very advanced. If there is any chance that what you are developing will not work, your classmates will let you know. During these classes, I have seen some outstanding techniques that were well thought out and developed. I may have never considered these techniques in this way on my own. I have also, however, seen some of the most boring, textbook standard stuff you can imagine.

In the East Coast region of the ISKF there are not many tournaments available for judging. However, there are collegiate tournaments happening almost monthly throughout the school year. These events offer an exceptional opportunity to hone your judging skills. After each division is completed the senior judges take time to go over the previous rounds with the trainees, to answer any questions you may have. This is one the few places you can go and actually get live practice as a center judge.

Another benefit of membership in this program is that it maximizes your opportunity for training. I can remember when I was coming up through the kyu ranks, always wishing that I would have enough rank to attend the advanced classes. Once you become an Instructor Trainee, you opportunity is limitless. You can train in just about any class, anywhere. During ISKF Master Camp you also have the opportunity to receive instructor training from some of the most notable karate instructors in the world. Not only do ISKF Sensei’s Okazaki, Mikami, Yaguchi, Koyama, and Takashina teach classes, but you will also have the opportunity to train with non-ISKF instructors from across the globe. ISKF Master Camp has hosted many guests over the years including Sensei’s Nakayama, Enoeda, Ochi, Ueki, Osaka, and Schmidt.

Unfortunately, there are a few drawbacks to the program as well. Because of the requirements for graduation, very few part-time trainees actually complete the program. Most people complete the classes, however the technical reports are what hold most trainees back. One of the other problems is that classes are only held regionally. For many trainees it is a great sacrifice to pack up for a Saturday and drive several hours for a few hours of training. Lastly, classes are only held once a month, on Saturdays. If a trainee works in a profession that requires working weekends or abnormal hours, it may be difficult to get to training.

Instructor Training classes are not exclusive to ISKF. Similar programs are offered by JKA, SKdI, JKS, and WTKO to name a few karate organizations. With all these organizations offering some sort of instructor training, there is no reason that anyone should ever miss out on this experience if he or she has the desire. Even if you have an innate ability for instruction, it can never hurt to share your ideas with other like-minded individuals. I would recommend instructor training for anyone who intends to teach karate to others.