Archive | March, 2011

//02// Kids! Games! Karate!

25 Mar

[Currently Listening To:] Worth the Wait by Anoop Desai

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I’m really lucky because I get to be the kids’ class instructor at my dojo. It’s wonderful to me because I really love it and I feel honored that my sensei would trust me with such a responsibility since I’m new to the specific style. I wasn’t new to karate so a lot of the basics are the same. I worked hard to learn the differences and overcome my own bad habits. It’s still a work in progress, obviously. It always will be. But it’s great to have my own group of kids to watch and teach as they work their way through the ranks.

And it is WORK. Sensei said don’t be surprised if the kids stay white belts for a year. If you think about it that’s a long time. Especially as a kid. That’s a big commitment where interests change from moment to moment. But we have high standards at our dojo which I appreciate. I didn’t start karate as a little kid. We have students 5 and 6 and 7 and 8. That’s pretty young. So it’s going to take a while for the many many many moves of karate to sink in.

However, I want to keep it fun and engaging. We have a lot of work to do. I want the kids to learn actual karate and not play games all the time. We go over proper technique and form and stances and kata. We go over where to strike, how to strike, what part of the foot/hand to strike with, why we’re doing such things, when we can do them. We learn terminology, we learn sequences and combinations and do sparring drills. It’s a lot to teach two days a week for 45 minutes. So there’s really not a lot of time for games.

But I love games.

Games! It’s what the kids always remember. It’s never, oh hey, remember that time when you showed me back stance?! That was awesome! No, it’s always, can we play that ball game again? Or whatever we did last class? Of course, I am pleased they remembered anything about class at all so I’ll take it. I remember in karate class when I was a kid I liked games too. My favorite one was Crabwalk Wars. It was when everyone would scurry around the mats in a crab walk and try to sweep someone else’s foot so they’d fall down on their butt. Once your butt hit that mat you were out! Oh, it was vicious. But it was also so much fun. I’d love it to play it with my kids but I don’t trust them not to kick each other in the face, which is not really the point of the game, though it could be entertaining.

When I first started teaching I scoured the internet looking for a big bank of martial arts classroom games I could play. There are so out there. I think there’s even a book or two about teaching karate to kids, which is great. But I never found that site I was looking for, the one with tons of resources about great, educational, helpful karate drills/games to do with kids. If you know of such a place, please share. Or maybe everyone is keeping their own secrets!

So I decided to make up my own games. I’m kinda slow in creating them but I’ll keep thinking about it. I usually plan my lesson on the drive to karate but I keep it open. I never know when I’m going to have 5 kids or 20. I like to save the good stuff for the big class.

On Tuesday I woke up and I thought, I’m going to get some balloons. Why? Because they are fun! Also I wanted to see if I could blow them up because I had a problem with that. So I sat on the floor in the middle of the mats before class and blew up my balloons (with no problems, thank you very much!) and the kids swarmed around me, full of questions. I let them play with the balloons before class and it was just fun to see how something so simple could make them all so happy. The sad moment was when a balloon burst while I was blowing it up. I guess I put too much stank on it. Ouch.

Anyway, my grand idea was to have the kids fight the balloons. We went over fighting stance and how to move in that stance when sparring. Then the kids “sparred” the balloons, meaning I pitched the balloons at them and they had to strike! You never know where those crazy balloons are going to go. I urged them to step up to the balloons using the moves that we had just learned. It was pretty fun and it almost worked the way I wanted to. There were some good strikes, some good kicks and good movement. Of course, some of the kids missed the point entirely and were just swatting the balloons. But I just might try it again.

The next part was a battle royale of sorts. I’m a big fan of teams and although I worried that one kid might wake up in a cold sweat ten years from now thinking about the moment they were picked last in karate class I allowed the kids (well one kid and one of my assistants) to pick teams one by one. I think it went well with no hurt feelings. Then we had a contest to see which team could keep the balloons in the air (using only karate moves! ha) the longest. It was a close fight but one team prevailed and we all clapped and it was nice. I think the kids like being on teams going head to head for victory. Competition is a healthy part of karate. Competition with your peers and competition with yourself as well. It’s definitely something I want to continue with in my karate classes.

I’m going to play around with the balloon idea and see what else I can come up in the future. However, balloons cannot last forever. It might have been fun to throw sais and pop them that way but not really a good idea seeing that we were inside and all. In the end I let the teenagers used scissors and I said farewell to my latest teaching idea.

We’ll see what happens next week!

//01// Finding New Places to Practice

22 Mar

 

[currently listening to] The latest episode of Skins. Duh-rama!

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This is my second winter in North Carolina and I must admit I got used to this weather quick. The first winter was kind of rough. Not by Pennsylvania or Michigan or Ohio standards (where I’ve endured all the previous winters of my life) but by North Carolina standards. There was some snow. Schools were closed. I remember about three bad snow days where everything was shut down (but I still went to work! I took the bus).

This year, however, winter went quickly. There were only a couple of snow days and it didn’t seem as bad as last year. When the northeast had all those awful snow storms earlier in the year I felt as far removed from that as if I lived in China. It was like I barely knew what snow was anymore, let alone what it was like to have 5 feet of it. How quickly your perspective can change!

Over the past month the weather changed from cold to warm to cool to warm-ish to less cool to warmer and the trees are blooming and the grass is growing and I’ve been sneezing. It looks like it’s just about spring! I have sweaters I haven’t even gotten a chance to wear twice yet! But spring is coming whether my wardrobe is ready or not (my wardrobe is ready, in case you were wondering!) I had my windows open today and the air felt good even though it was cloudy. Spring cannot come a moment too soon. I’m gearing up for my black belt test and I need a place to practice.

My dojo is great. It’s large. There’s a nice-sized mat area and plenty of mirrors. Then there’s the other exercise area with all the bags to kick and things like that before the viewing area. You can run from the front door to the back a couple of times and probably get tired. I don’t know how to describe it really. But it’s the perfect place to practice. Of course! That’s where we have class. I practice before class and during class and sometimes after class. But this is my black belt test. So that’s just not enough practice. I have to practice on my own. But where do I go?

My house doesn’t have a large area like a living room or something so I can do my katas freely. Maybe the backyard but it’s all uneven and the grass needs mowing. I don’t mow grass. That happens magically in my life. Don’t ask me how. So where can I go?

I’ve taken up running in a desperate attempt to build up my stamina for this test. I have no idea if it will help as I do not run very fast. But it’s kind of comforting to know that I can run for 18 minutes (going for 20 tomorrow!) without stopping because I didn’t think I could do that before. So I’ve decided to combine my runs and my practices by running to some random location and then practing karate there.

The first time I used a high school track. I practiced in the large area in front of the high jump. It was actually a really nice area with the track all springy underneath my sneakers. It’s quite awkward kicking in sneakers. Your foot is heavier and foot angle is an issue (especially for one who needs to work on her foot angle. That girl is me). But there was enough room to move and I don’t always need a mirror. I know my body and the way it’s supposed to be. I can adjust my position based on feelings.

I liked the high school but the next time I went a different way. I think parking lots are also an excellent place to practice. There’s a lot of room and they can be empty. I practiced in a parking lot in front of a store that was closed. There weren’t any cars around. It was dark so then I left because my aunt doesn’t like me being out after dark! But my favorite place I’ve practiced so far is the back of a Lowe’s in the parking lot. It was a good place to focus because there were the cars speeding past on the road and people honking at me. I could hear the whir of the buzzsaw behind me as Lowe’s employees cut wood and yelled things at each other. It was a Sunday so Lowe’s was a busy place. But I blocked it all out and did my katas from bottom to top, worked on my problem areas (orange belt grrrrrrrr) and invented a good chunk of my original kata.

It’s good to practice outside of the dojo. Just being in shoes, being outdoors, it forces you to move differently and think about the moves in a different way. Doing a kata can become very rote and that’s the last thing you want. Katas should be dynamic, energetic, they need to mean something. You have to breath life into the fight! I’m always working on that. It’s not just a series of memorized moves. Taking yourself out of the dojo where you do the kata in your regular place, facing the same way, going the usual speed, it makes the kata feel more immediate and real. Also, you have to get used to doing your kata in front of other people (I don’t know if anyone was watching but they could have been) and focusing even with distraction and noise. So Lowe’s gave me great practice in all those areas. Plus, they have the best water fountains. Oh my goodness, the water was so good. And I don’t even like water!

Better than Smart Water.

Anyway, my test is in a couple of weeks so I will be looking for even more secret places to practice. I need all the practice I can get. But don’t worry Lowe’s. I will return! And you need to bottle that water. 😉