Saturday, October 20, 2012

Teaching Karate to Children is NOT for sissies!

This has been how I have spent my Friday nights for the last few years: *WARNING* The author is not responsible for the exhaustion, exasperation, alcoholism, or confusion you may feel after reading this painfully true account of my ever growing junior beginning karate class (of doom+5). Read on at your own risk.

After making jump ropes available for burning off a wee bit of the Friday wiggles that are a simple fact of any class full of children and even spending some time jumping rope myself (LIKE A BOSS!) I call out-"Yame! Let's line up to begin class"

90% of my karate students continue running, spinning, making noises I wasn't aware humans could make, dicking off, running, running, spinning, shoving, taking off their belts, did I mention running?

I clap my hands loudly and once again firmly repeat, "YAAAAME! Please put the jump ropes away and line up"  A small number of students line up, an even smaller number of that small number is ACTUALLY standing still, quiet, in ready position and prepared to get our karate on.

Once again, this time a bit louder and with no room for interpretation, I call, "YAME! (that means stop in Japanese) to at least a dozen sets of deaf ears and I'm now pondering the legal ramifications of bringing a taser to class and decide perhaps I'll start with a coach's whistle, or a flask? Camelback hydration pack full of Malibu rum? Bull whip? Suddenly, I am violently dragged out of visions of coconut rum dancing in my head by an assclown a student tugging on my gi sleeve.

The tiny student, sounding remarkably innocent for a child I'm fairly certain has 666 on the back of his scalp, tattles, "HE (pointing at his EVEN MORE ass clownish older brother) shoved me!" (tiny assclown had been doing his fair share of shoving as well...I have eyes!)

My brain has now wandered to the bad place and class hasn't even begun. Not so much as a wee bit concerned that I am drooling on myself as I fight tooth and nail against slipping into a karateka induced coma, I lament ever complaining that my Summer classes were usually only 5 or 6 students as I am now ass deep in 17 (give or take 2 or 3 each way from week to week) beginning karate students between the ages of 5 and 12.

Whilst in my mini daydream, I ponder this quote about teaching:
 "The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires." ~William Arthur Ward
With this in mind, I stand in my Sensei place at the front of the dojo and begin counting...1, 2, 3, 4...a few more students begin to catch on and scramble to line up...5,6, 7, 8...a couple more, curious as to why their Sensei is standing so calmly and counting, push and shove just a little and take their places in the line...9, 10, 11...nope, some of them still don't get it and the older students in the class are now motioning to them and mouthing what might have been threats of ass kickings in the parking lot after class (or was I just dreaming that?) so the stragglers can hustle into something vaguely resembling a straight as Elton John kind of I'm into the 20's...22, 23, 24...Finally...A not even in the ball park of straight line full of children not even close to standing still with their hands not to themselves or in our ready position.
"Everyone on your belly" *groans, moans, whining, whimpering, huffing, and possibly a bit of swearing (not mine!) fill the dojo as the students now realize that they will be doing 24 push-ups before we even bow in to begin class. The spectators are all grinning from their seats off to the side of the dojo. After push ups are finished, I send all the students down to the opposite end of the dojo and begin the what should be VERY simple process of lining up ALL OVER AGAIN!  
Still using my so calm it's terrifying Mom voice, I call to them all to line up. Cut to 3 tries and 10 minutes and a metric fuckton of push ups later and we are finally ready to bow in and begin class.
After performing all of our traditional bows to the form, me, my son, who is the senior junior student and my trusty teaching assistant (and a Jr. Black belt!), and each other (we are a traditional form of old school Japanese karate and we bow A LOT!)...I stand up, stand in ready position and calmly explain to my students that we will be able to accomplish a lot more, learn A LOT MORE, play some fun games and possibly earn some very cool little prizes if WE DON'T SPEND SO MUCH TIME LINING UP!
Over the course of the rest of the hour, I get right down on the floor and do push-ups & straight leg lifts alongside some of my students who are struggling with theirs, demonstrating that with training and the right mindset you can accomplish anything, we do Kata, learn a new block, kick the bags, and by bags, I don't mean misbehaving students (or do I?), send some students up to write their name on the dreaded white board after they continued to misbehave despite their verbal warning, send many of those students up to put the EVEN MORE DREADED "X" after their name, indicating that they will not earn their sticker on their chart for this class, practice our basics but fun games were played. The lining up for the end of class was nearly as frustrating as the beginning of class, but afterwards, a few students earned stickers, a few reached the 5 sticker phase and got to pick a prize out of my pink Ninja Monkey prize bag, a few cried over not getting their sticker and a few hugged me and told me that I'm the best karate teacher ever. Parents generally stop me outside the dojo to tell me that I am WAAAY more patient than they could ever be. Dads tend to shake my hand, Moms give me the "I don't know how you do it" smile, and Grandparents smirk wickedly, loving every second of it. 
So why do I keep teaching? I ask myself that a lot, OK, every week pretty much, and the answer is: This is my 3rd year of teaching karate to children and on Tuesday this week, one of my most squirrely  students who spent a pretty decent chunk of his time in the "orb of silence" at the back of the dojo tested for his purple belt. Two of my original students now have purple belts with 2 stripes on them. At the end of each testing, there are 2 students specifically who hug me and tell me that without me, they wouldn't be where they are.
Some days, I'm not sure if I'm the teacher or the student, so just to be sure, I like to be both.
Thanks for reading all the way to the end!
Arigato~Sensei Amy


  1. Well you're awesome. I'd take your class.

    1. Thanks, B! It's a challenge, that's for damn sure. But when have I ever turned my back on a challenge, right?

  2. Wow, that was awesome. I couldn't have done it. I have extremely thin patience, most days. O_O I had a lot of fun reading your account!

  3. Blessings.....
    No its not, it takes much patients and tolerance not to mention energy!

    Hope you are well. stay blessed.