For Karate Instructors: The Art of Effective Feedback

If you want to become a successful and influential instructor, you will have to become a master of not only the martial arts but also of interpersonal skills with your students. The Art of Effective Feedback will become a cornerstone of your relationships with your students and of the ultimate success of your students within your program. Practice this advice and reap the benefits, ignore it at your peril!

feedbackBe sure to give feedback to students in the class on a regular basis. Try to make all feedback either positive or constructive, and avoid any negative feedback if possible. Negative feedback should only be used as a last resort when there are behavioral issues, rather than issues of poor technique; and even then, there are steps you should take before resorting to negative feedback.

Positive feedback is obvious. Comments such as "that was a great kick," "nice stance," "that's the best I've seen you do that kata (form)," "you really looked like you were trying hard in sparring today" go a long way towards creating a positive atmosphere and a comfortable environment in which to learn.

When you add the student's name to any of the above types of encouragement then your relationship to that particular student will improve almost immediately. The importance of using your students' names when giving feedback cannot be understated. If you get nothing else from this article, please remember that personalization of your feedback is often more valuable than the feedback itself!

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Lesson Planning for Karate Instructors: Four Main Components of an Effective Lesson Plan

By Paul A. Walker

As a karate instructor, you no doubt understand the importance of lesson planning. Developing an effective lesson plan is of vital importance, especially for new instructors. However, even for a highly experienced instructor it does not hurt to revisit some basic lesson planning principles. There are several main components that are critical to the overall lesson content of karate at all levels. These components are:

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The Three Ks of Karate

By Paul A. Walker

The educational system often talks about the 'Three Rs' of Reading Writing and Arithmetic. To a casual observer, one might say that the education system was flawed from the very beginning by the fact that it can't spell! In Karate, however, we can spell, and the three Ks really are three Ks - Kihon, Kata and Kumite. Let's look at each one and explain what it is.

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The Role of Grappling in Self-Defence

By Iain Abernethy

roleofgrapplingIn recent years grappling has become very popular. Grappling is also increasingly being portrayed as a panacea for all ills. Although grappling has an important role to play when defending yourself, it is important to understand that grappling is not something you should actively seek out in live situations. It can take time to grapple an opponent into submission, whereas a well placed strike can end a fight in a split second. Most fights will begin at punching range and it is here that you should try to bring the fight quickly to an end. Before we go on to discuss how this may be achieved, I feel it is important to remind ourselves that avoiding the fight in the first place is by far the most desirable outcome.

Gichin Funakoshi (Karate-Do Kyohan) wrote, "The secret principle of martial arts is not vanquishing the attacker but resolving to avoid an encounter before its occurrence. To become the object of an attack is an indication that there was an opening in one's guard and the important thing is to be on guard at all times." This is sound advice, when adults fight the outcome can go well beyond black eyes and fat lips, there can be very serious medical and legal consequences. There is nothing to gain and everything to lose by getting needlessly involved in fights. Sun-Tzu in the classic text 'The Art of War' states, "Achieving victory in every battle is not absolute perfection, neutralising an adversary's forces without battle is absolute perfection." We must be constantly aware of our surroundings and should an undesirable situation develop we can attempt to avoid it all together. We should park our cars in well lit areas, avoid isolated places, keep valuables out of sight, travel with the car doors locked, avoid suspicious looking people and situations, walk towards oncoming traffic, keep away from aggressive individuals or groups, do not stop to talk to strangers etc. We should be constantly 'switched on'. In this way it may be possible to avoid an attack altogether, and if we can't then at least the element of surprise is lost to our assailant.

If there is no way to avoid the confrontation then the primary strategy should be to 'stun and run'. You should strike the assailant without warning and whilst they are disorientated you should take the opportunity to escape. In a real fight you must never allow your attacker to gain the initiative, there is simply far too much at stake. If you are facing multiple opponents then your initial strike is even more important. It is impossible to fight more than one person at a time; however, if your first strike should disable one of your assailants then your chances of survival will be improved. You should practice your favourite punching range strike be it a right hook, knife hand, palm heel etc. from a 'no guard' position so that when you are sure an attack is imminent you can unleash that strike, without warning to your opponent, and then make good your escape. It is very important to practice strikes from natural stance with no guard because it is from here that you will need to be able to generate power in real situations. Moving yourself into a 'stance' or raising your hands into a guard will warn the opponent that a strike is imminent and as a result greatly reduce the effect of the blow. It is also vitally important to strike on your assailant's preparation to attack and not wait until you have actually been struck to begin protecting yourself!

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The Function of Stances

By Iain Abernethy

Throughout the various katas we can see many differing stances being assumed. It is common practise for karateka to spend many hours trying to perfect these stances, which is no easy feat! Gichin Funakoshi (founder of Shotokan) in his book Karate-Do: My Way of Life wrote, "The Horse-riding stance, for instance, looks extremely easy but the fact is that no one could possibly master it even if he practised every day for an entire year until his feet became as heavy as lead." So why do we set ourselves such an arduous task? And what purpose do the stances serve anyway?

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