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Teaching One Movement

At a recent class, I spent just about the entire time teaching a student the first movement of Pinan Yondan... just that first movement.

At another recent class, I spent just about the entire time teaching a student shuto... just shuto.

I could not have been happier! As a teacher, I am happiest when I am teaching something that the student needs to learn at that point in his or her training, when I have the time to concentrate on that student, and when the student gets it. Sometimes it takes a whole class, or even several classes, to work on a single movement.

If the student starts to get it, I will try to reinforce the movement and then give him or her time to work on it. I will not immediately move on to other movements or techniques. There is no sense confusing the student.

I always say that if a student can get one movement, he or she can get any other movement. By this I mean that if the student can learn the form of a movement and the body dynamics applicable to that movement, then learning other movements is basically a matter of just learning the form -- the body dynamics will be pretty much the same.

I started to learn the basics of Kishaba Juku body dynamics through gedan barai (downward block). My second son, Charles, started to learn through chudan shuto uke. Once we learned that movement, we applied the body dynamics to all other movements. And really, there is no difference between gedan barai and chudan shuto uke. Essentially, they are the same movement.

So if I can show a student how to do a single movement, that is a really big thing. From that one movement, the student can learn everything else. And I have found that such moments of critical teaching usually take place one on one. It does not happen when I am teaching a group and offer corrections, suggestions, or examples. Group teaching is necessary and important, but real progress happens one on one, with a focus on the fine details.

For this reason, I would prefer to teach a small group, and even then, look for opportunities when a student is ready to learn a certain movement. My job is to be aware at that time, and then to teach just enough for the student to "catch" the idea. Then it is up to the student to work on the movement, the body dynamics applicable to it, and then to apply that to other movements. If everything works right, it is as if the student catches on fire. So, so, so!


Charles C. Goodin