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Remarks: This is a complete translation of the article written by Mr. Seijin Jahana, the original title "Choki Motobu, a Forerunner of Combative Karate" appeared in the monthly magazine "Aoi Umi" (=Blue Sea) No.70 February 1978 issue (pages 106-110). This number features articles on Okinawan karate masters. The magazine was pu...... full article
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Articles Home » 剛柔流 Editors Commentary » Epitomy Sensei, K.I.S.S & anti-bullying responsibilities
Epitomy Sensei, K.I.S.S & anti-bullying responsibilities

The epitomy Sensei, K.I.S.S & anti-bullying responsibilities

Before you begin , Rei

Part I: The epitomy of Sensei

A Sensei should not be determined by rank but rather of their understanding. Teachers should be aware that although there are belts and rank in Karatedo there are also levels of understanding that rank alone may not dictate. Identify the level of the practicioner by knowing the stages of development. Here are some examples. 

  • Learn to block then learn to strike,
  • Watch Kata as much as they learn Kata,
  • Try to learn sparring and usually start every sparring session with a kick, not to mention somehow always seem to jam a finger or toe.
  • Learn or struggle with basics.
  • Execute a block followed by a strike,
  • Know some Kata,
  • Can spar,
  • Know some basics.
  • Can block and strike at the same time,
  • Knows Kata,
  • Does Kumite or can fight and enjoy it, or enjoys it when they are stronger than their opponent / training partner. However, they have the hardest time with absolute beginners.
  • Can apply his or her basics and thrives to learn advanced techniques.
Instructor level:
  • Their block is the strike,
  • Teaches Kata and practices Bunkai,
  • Teaches others sparring or Kumite, usually in their own favourite format [ie; Sport Kumite, Jissen Kumite, Jiyu Kumite, Awase Kumite, etc].
  • Drills others on basics while he or she prefers to practice advanced techniques.
  • Explains to those who want to learn to "defend the important body parts by defending with collateral body parts,"
  • Meticulously deciphers Kata with students then tells those he teaches it "to practice the basics to fully understand," allowing them time to absorb and then he or she reexplains offering various theories.
  • Enjoys Kumite with children, plays very light Kumite in such an advanced manner that opponents are not injured. However, will verbally communicate his way out of real combat. Performs Kumite with minimal effort and will end a combative situation in the shortest amount of time wasting the least amount of energy and using the most efficient technique.
  • When training alone and training him or herself, he or she train basics to better understand advanced techniques / knowing that advanced techniques are built upon basics.

Basic Rules of teaching
Have patience! In the instructional process of Karatedo the teacher must remember, communicate and expose many positions and characteristics to a student.

The class instructor should remember to actually instruct. This is to effectively correct students and acknowledging that this is not his or her time to workout. For if they are, then they are no longer teaching, observing or even demonstrating.

Care should be taken as to the many approaches to teaching styles and theories. Care should also be taken to recognize the various learning patterns that different students have and adjust teaching methods as to fulfill the final goal of performing and executing proper technique. There is no such thing as a student who cannot learn. However, there is such a thing as a student who was or is not taught correctly.

Remember that a beginner cannot be expected to do even the simplest techniques as the instructor does. Even green, brown or black belts should be given the space and opportunity to learn new technique for a new technique is as foreign to him as when he or she was a white Belt. This is hard to remember, especially to a new instructor because he or she is anxious to have their student perform well or learn while unaware that the student is overwhelmed.

Part II: K.I.S.S.

K.I.S.S. the class (Keep It Simple Sensei): even advanced techniques start as basics and of course there are a lot of rules.

  • An efficient teacher knows his material well.
  • A popular or successful instructor is innovative.
  • Avoid finding yourself too busy practicing to teach. We cannot repeat this enough times.
  • ...At the same time, not too busy teaching to correct, encourage or praise.
  • Do not teach students to fear you and at the same time not teaching students to be fearful.
  • Proactively teach, heading off various tangents that would otherwise interfere with class.
  • Teach with enthusiasm.
  • Many mistakes with beginning students may not necessarily be devastating. They will probably not remember the next week anyway.
  • Use proper judgment in separating boundaries and relationships. Crossing your own boundaries can lead to students questioning your integrity.
  • Keep lectures short and focused and on the primary subject.
  • Avoid correcting another instructor while on the Dojo floor or while they are teaching. Doing so can severely undermine the credibility of said instructor and questions your integrity. Instead wait and offer an alternative point of view or speak to them after class.
  • Even an assistant instructor or student demonstrating is teaching. Motivate this person by allowing them to receive respect.
  • Demonstrate in dimension of 2 Angles [3 dimensional space, front and side].
  • Demonstrate by performance and by application.
  • Traditional Dojo answer "Hai" [Yes], however not everyone knows how to speak Japanese. It’s the duty of the instructor to teach [properly] and translate as you go along.
  • Students are forgivable and unforgivable depending on the situation as in all human nature.
  • Remember that in a student's mind everything his instructor does is correct and you must be attentive to your actions outside and outside of Karatedo.
  • As a teacher you have made a commitment to being available to your students to train their body and their mental health because Karatedo develops us both mentally and physically.
  • Avoid politics in your class at all times and costs.
  • Standardize movements in your memory, so when you teach from week to week, month to month, year to year it remains the same.
  • What or how you tell and explain items to a student is one thing. How they perceive and perform it is another.
  • Remember the small mistakes that may have been taught to you and be conscious not to teach them or over teach in correction.
  • Basic body mechanics and balance should be achieved after one year or about 7th Kyu.
  • When teaching Children spend shorter amounts of time on individual techniques or items because of their attention span. This makes it easier to keep them interested.
  • Segment classes by; Rank; Age; and items if the program.
  • Segment class time, spend 15-20 minutes on warm-ups, 15-20 minutes on Kihon, etc.
  • Break down Kata, teaching them in parts (i.e. first five moves, first five then 2nd four, then 5-4 & next, and etc.).
  • When teaching a class by yourself you may have to break up the class. As an alternative, have the upper Belts perform advanced versions of the same technique lower Belts perform.
  • Pay attention to detail even with the beginning student.
  • Students come to learn from you, you do not have anything to prove to them so lets avoid the demigod complex.
  • Remember that ‘Authority’ is not the power to control and change the mind of others but the power to make decisions and lead by example.
  • Do not slow down for the slowest person in class. Do not speed up for the fastest person in class. Work at a level that keeps everyone motivated and humble.
  • Counting is like chanting, it must be rhythmic, however breaking their rhythm will make them respond to your count not their movement.
  • Change your cadence for Kiai (…hutchi, kyu, JU), tension, strength and speed.
  • Pads and excessive safety gear create a false sense of security. However, only using half of sugguested safety gear is the same as being only half protected.
  • Because the Kata list is short in Gojuryu Karatedo you should have an extensive, well arranged, memorized and preset full syllabus before starting a Dojo or a class.  Beginning instructors are commonly in error of boring their classes with four preset exercises and the only eight Kata they know.
  • Spoon feed your students, class and Dojo small amounts of information enough to pique their interest and keep them coming back.
  • Be fully knowledgeable of your Ryuha and Kaiha.

A teachers communication in class.
Commendation is an excellent teaching tool. By commending a student before making corrections, you are bringing a positive attitude into the class and the notion that the student is doing well in class making them give a constructive attitude toward learning new and correct applications. It should be used before making corrections and again after making corrections. (PCP, Praise, Correct & Praise again). Yelling, getting angry or to aggressive with any student will simply turn off their will to learn, and may cause a loss of respect for the teacher, his Dojo or Karatedo altogether, no matter how long either that student or instructor have been training. Punishment for unruly behavior should be saved for the parents of students and/or the head instructor of such Dojo. Commendation also comes in other forms. Using a student to demonstrate distinct items in class causes that student to become enthusiastic towards Karate. His loyalty and attitude in class improving because he feels as if he is a part and belongs to the Dojo, his family.

At the opening of class, think of how you would like to be awakened in the morning [not jerked out of bed] but in a way that you would feel welcomed into the world. Ask your students and yourself;

  • Are there any injuries or circumstances that should be addressed before the start of class?

Remember to begin and end every exercise with respect - Rei. When you end an exercise, give students the opportunity to ask without reprimand:

  • Are there any questions?
  • Are there any recommendations or comments?
  • Are there any praises?
  • Are there any theories or philosophies?

End the physical portion of class with a cool down exercise, Tensho or Yoga.

Before you close class, ask your students and yourself from both a student and a teachers point of perspective:

  • Are there any injuries or demands?
  • Did we teach or learn something new either about Karatedo or yourself?
  • Did we improve on something we thought we already knew?
  • Did we have a good workout and did the blood flow?
  • Did we have fun and was the training enjoyable, can we leave with a smile?

This can help close a class without animosity however with an enjoyable manner as when opened because you've displayed that you actually care.

Part III: "Bullies"

As a Sensei, coach, leader and teacher it is our responsibility and obligation to both display admirable moral character and to teach by example. Keep in mind that this privileged position of leadership as Sensei, is under scrutiny at all times and from all directions by both those above us and below. For this reason alone we must hold true to this position in the interest of the student to shield both ourselves and our students from being victimized or exposed to actions of bullying as well as not to become a bully as every now and then Martial Arts instructors do.

The 'Merriam-Webster Dictionary' defines a bully as "a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those whom the bully feels is of a weaker demeanor" and; further as a verb: "one who uses their superior strength, position or influence to intimidate [another], typically to force him or her to do what one wants." In addition synonyms for a bully include oppressor, tormenter, antagonizer, coercer and intimidator.

Standing up, or denying a bully the attention they cry out for, is difficult for many and easy for others. I personally do not have a problem having lived through the experience of five foster homes, five children shelters and aunts and cousins that were physically, emotionally, sexually and verbally abusive. It is somewhat easy to deliberately walk away from devious circumstances or situations having lost nothing. This tends to aggravate antagonists, thus putting them in a position that, as bullies do, further their actions in public forums and revealing their true intent. A common recommendation and solution is to smother the bully with compassion for if the bully continues to sabotage themselves and distance confidants, we cannot allow ourselves to plummet with them for we've done all we can do. Use caution when dealing with bullies for we know not the demons are in their head, if they are depressed, experiencing personal problems or, what other bullies they themselves may have been exposed to. The best solution of all is to distance yourself until they've overstepped all boundaries and find themselves in the legal system.

I once personally experienced a horrific display of verbal bullying in the workplace when I joined a new technology company. The director of my department was known for his rants and had long been coined as the 'administrative insolent'. In a general meeting and product review, when one of the senior product managers came in on her day off, the director of the department stopped the meeting to indirectly humiliate her for coming in after reporting she was taking the day off for a meeting at school with her son's special ed teacher and stating that "only an idiot would come into work on a paid day off," and that "the new product release shouldn't be reviewed if there are people that stupid on our team." Clearly she was embarrassed and as she stood up and approached the door, I too joined her in solidarity. When I was just at the edge of the door, six others joined us, another four left during the break and multiple others did not attend the open luncheon that afternoon and four of us quit the following day. A few weeks later this department director resigned as a resulting wave of complaints, for previous actions, to the senior board and CEO of the company. Six months later I received word that several others in the department had settled out of court in a class action lawsuit. This is only one example of how to handle a bully, with sheer numbers and a clear message.

Recognizing a bully: Note that we do not capitalize the word bully because bullies do not deserve the credit of such recognition. Generally, what exemplifies a bully is their failure to apologize for purposeful actions because they feel they have done nothing wrong. Adult bullies often lie by commission and omission and, bullies will commonly re-interpret a situation, communicating the actions of others to conform with their reasons of animosity. Therefore, bullies generally have no idea they are in the wrong and often redirect blame. In addition, bullies often feel they are clever, cunning, privileged, smarter, more correct and stronger physically or mentally than whoever they have targeted as their adversary and bullies noticeably have a lack of diplomacy and general lack of sympathy.

Remember that bullies and those intent on harassing, stalking or humiliating others should not and will never have the attention they are despicably addicted to. As instructors and there-by definition leaders we should never adhere to this type of behavior ourselves and counter such actions. In a gesture to establish international uniformity to display good character, our association leader published a letter to address online behavior which is also applicable in public settings and bullying directly falls under. See - http://gojuryu.net/downloads/seiichi_fujiwara_shihan_letter_3.jpg

In closing, remember that a bully can never take away the message that a student or his perceived adversary confers with a simple bow.

Copyright © Johnpaul Williams

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