By Paul A. Walker
If you've been a karate instructor for any length of time you will no doubt know that your success in retaining your students comes down to one key factor - keeping your students highly motivated to continue training. How do you do this while still maintaining your focus on delivering a high quality program?
The majority of karate clubs have a wide range of students usually starting at around age 4 and going all the way up to 74 or older. Often within this student base there are the highly-motivated and gung-ho students who would practice running up a wall backwards if you told them it would help give them the edge over their fellow club members.
Then there are hobbyists who approach their training from a slightly more balanced perspective. Generally this group of students practice pretty hard and come to class regularly but karate is not the number one item on their daily to-do list.
The final group of students is made up of those who say they want to get their black belt but are strangers to the concept of doing the hard work to get there.
So how do you motivate this diverse set of individuals?
Here are three simple tips to get you started:
1. Set your students up for success
As human beings we all need to feel like we are being successful. We like our efforts to be recognised and we seek approval from those whom we respect. Your karate students are no different. Positive praise produces positive progress.
There is nothing more powerful than a genuine comment from you that praises something about your student's effort in class or their recent improvement. We've all heard the phrase "people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Show your students that you genuinely care about them and that you truly want the best for them in their training.
2. Disguise repetition
Repetition is the mother of skill but at the same time one definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again with the expectation of different results. As a karate instructor your job is to make sure that your students' skill level is constantly improving through repetition while making it seem to them as if they are constantly learning something new each lesson.
This is achieved by developing multiple drills and teaching techniques that focus on the same core competencies that are needed to grow as a martial artist. By doing this your students will always look forward to coming to class because they will be excited to see what they will be studying that day. Repeating the same lesson in the same way over and over is a sure recipe for low student retention.
3. Implement an effective ranking system
The path to black belt is a long and arduous journey and the majority of students won't make it. Therefore it is necessary to recognize the importance of an effective ranking system so that your students have regular "success stepping stones". These "success stepping stones" are your different colored belts.
Make sure that you have a clear belt system that students can strive for with regular testing - usually every three months. However be careful not to overwhelm your students with multiple stripes and sub-ranks that only serve to confuse them even more. Keep it simple and clear so that students know exactly what is expected of them.
With these three simple tips you can go a long way to effectively motivate your students.
Also see: Lesson Planning For Karate Instructors: Four Main Components Of An Effective Lesson Plan and For Karate Instructors: The Art Of Effective Feedback In Class
Paul A. Walker, is a 5th degree black belt karate instructor with over 25 years experience in the martial arts. He trained at Master Hirokazu Kanazawa’s Headquarters Dojo in Tokyo for three years from August 1996 to July 1999. In 2008 he was awarded his 5th degree black belt by Master Hirokazu Kanazawa.