//02// Kids! Games! Karate!

25 Mar

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


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!


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