Thursday, 28 August 2014

Mistakes I made while teaching karate

I taught karate for a year with the Australian Go-Kan-Ryu club, and I quit just before Christmas that year, which meant that I also missed out on the year's remuneration. I just couldn't stand it any more. I enjoyed having students, and especially those few that were outstanding, but I also found it very frustrating with some students and with the very young kids. It's hard to balance the high standards my teachers gave to me with the space to learn and grow.

What made me quit was the need to be available for every class every week. The one or two times I called in sick, it was a bit of a gamble whether a replacement teacher would show up at all. I also felt like my classes were rushed when I went at a normal pace, and then we'd end up trying to fill the last 30 minutes with games that never quite went the distance.

One particular mistake I made still bothers me. I had one student whose sparring was really coming along nicely. He was streets ahead of kids his own age and belt level, and it was inspiring to watch him. I got excited and I wanted to get in and have a go myself, so after the rest of the class was done sparring, I had them all sit down except him, I put on my gear and we sparred for a single two-minute round. He never came back.

What I was trying to do was get back involved in the direct teaching of advanced sparring, because most of the time I just had to watch and make sure it didn't get out of hand. With just the two of us, however, I could finally take part again. What I forgot is that, as a kid with a blue belt sparring an adult with a black belt, that was a terrifying situation I put him in with no explanation. I scared him off with what was meant to be a special learning opportunity. I should have taken a lot more time to explain beforehand what I was doing and why, and asking his permission in a more careful way. Instead of coming across as "HEY, YOU! LITTLE KID! LET'S FIGHT!" (which I didn't say, but is how he would have heard it) at that moment I needed to praise, support and ask permission. More like "I'm really happy to see how well you're sparring lately. If you want, I'd like the opportunity to let you practice with me now, one on one. If you don't want to, that's okay."

What I'm trying to say is: I'm sorry, kid. Just when you were starting to shine, I scared you away.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm fairly sure I bored away a lot of my other students.
PPS - Which is just as bad, but less direct.

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