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Finding the Error

Tonight I asked my class to observe one of the students perform a kata. I had noticed that the student dropped his right hand before every right gedan barai in Fukyugata Ichi and I wondered if the class could catch it. He did not drop his left hand before left gedan barai, so the error was a little difficult to notice.

I was very surprised when each student I asked noticed a completely different error. They noticed that the student opened his hands, stepped rather than slid his feet, leaned forward, and other things -- but not the error I noticed.

I then discussed the error finding process with the class. Finding one student's error should not only help that student. We all make mistakes. If we can find the error in another student, we might also find the error in ourself. Fixing one student is good but fixing all the students, even in a small way, is much better.

Then I asked the student who demonstrated if he felt embarrassed, and as one might expect, he said that he did. I explained that we should be very happy when we discover our errors. If we have errors, we can perform a kata over and over and we will not improve. But if we can eliminate errors, then we will improve each time we perform the kata.

We should welcome the opportunity to be corrected. Each error we identify and eliminate brings us one step closer to our goal.

I then commented that if a student has an error, it is my fault as the Sensei. The student had to pick up the error some place. Either I taught it wrong, allowed an assistant to teach it wrong, or I did not fix the error when I should have. Any way you put it, the error is mine.

After the critique, I asked the student to perform the kata again. I was so pleased with his improvement! He not only corrected the right hand dropping problem, he corrected the other problems as well -- thanks to the other students' input.

As a group, we helped the student and also helped ourselves.

We have to remember that children are taught (or believe) that errors or mistakes are bad -- and that they are bad for having them. We have to teach them that in Karate, errors are natural. They are not bad for having errors -- all students have errors. It is not a matter of shame to be corrected -- it is a reason to celebrate.

I always say that if I am a good Sensei (for argument's sake), it is because I have made just about every mistake a student can make. I know how hard it is to improve and how frustrating it is to be stuck at a plateau for years. A perfect Sensei might not sympathize with students. I can relate.


Charles C. Goodin