//06// How I Put the PAR-TAY in KA-RA-TAY: A Photo Essay

29 Apr

[randomness] A fond farewell to my Idol favorite Casey Abrams. Sad to see you go but I’ll see you on tour!


Last week, I had a vision. I said, I’m going to make a karate scavenger hunt for my kids’ class. I think I actually said it out loud. Whoever heard me probably chalked it up to the crazy things that I say but I was serious.

The only question was… how?

I did the smart thing. I googled “how to create a karate scavenger hunt.” Of course, the search results were less than helpful. I googled “how to create a scavenger hunt.” There’s so much enthusiasm about scavenger hunts on the internet. Yes, people love them! But the instructions for how to DO it were murky at best. I clicked through a few pages and then gave it.

I knew it’d be up to me.

Now, this was a project. But one thing karate teaches you is that if you commit to a goal you can achieve it. I was committed to this.

We have a lot to cover in kids’ class. I only see the kids twice a week for 45 minutes and there’s always more to do. I’ve been the main instructor since November and by now I’ve got a really great core group of kids who have been coming regularly for at least three months. There are a few students who have been coming for years and then a couple of newbies. The challenge was making a scavenger hunt that could cater to all of them. This was a scavenger hunt. I had to think about what they would find.

I don’t want my karate games to just exist in a vacuum of fun with no basis in what we’re doing on the mats. The trick is to tie everything we learned previously into the game. It’s another way to apply karate skills. So I wanted to tie almost all of the blocks, strikes, kicks, combination, self defense, etiquette and basic kata moves that the white belts had learned so far into this scavenger hunt. It would be sort of like a final exam, but fun, without any finality or a grade. Well, it wasn’t a final exam at all but what I mean is that I wanted this scavenger hunt to be comprehensive. I wanted the kids to really think about–and discover–what it is that they learned in karate. I bet that they would know more than they thought.

So I sat down and I thought of 20 items for the scavenger hunt. It wasn’t a scavenger hunt so much in the fact that they had to find a bunch of things hidden in the dojo. Rather, it was more of a series of tasks that they had to figure out and complete. This was my list:

— Draw a picture of the Japanese flag
— Everyone does the 10 move hand combination with each other
— break a yellow and orange board
— Any Self Defense, kids choose their own
— Everyone does as many round kicks one one leg as they can on a target
— side/spin side kicks on a large target
— front kick in the air
— Bow to all the black belts who are around
— everyone does a kick/punch combination on the bob
— find one of the balls outside
— do the first 8 moves of white belt new age
— perform a break fall
— write down all the belt ranks in order
— find your instructor and take a picture with her
— Everyone performs blocks against a bat that the team leader strikes them with
— everyone has to jump 4 times over a blocker
— everyone reports one helpful thing they did that week (write it down)
— meditation for a minute
— draw all the belt stripes on a belt with the last one on the top
— sparring drill, partner up and they have to move towards and away from each other and do a strike or kick three times back and forth

Yes, there are a couple of vanity items on there. But I wanted to take a picture with the kids. And hey, people bowing to me never hurts anything.

On Tuesday, we prepared for the scavenger hunt by practicing kicks, self defense, 10 move hand combination (a series of 10 hand strikes you do in a specific order), and learning break falls. Of course, the kids didn’t know they were preparing for it. The game was a surprise.

So I looked over my list and then I had to figure out what to do with it. Was I just going to list everything individually or was I going to write some clues? I decided to make it interesting and write all the tasks as clues. Then at 2:30am on the night before my Thursday class I decided to make all of these clues rhyme.

So I wrote out a list of 20 clues for my scavenger hunt. The clues included gems such as:

It’s the kick where you strike not with your toes or your knee, but your heel. Use this kick three times on a large target so you can get a feel. Here’s a choice before you begin. If you want you can give this kick a spin!

A combination means kick, punch, one, two, three. Now make up a fighting combination to share with me. Once you’ve figured out how your team is going to block, strike and dodge, give this combination a try on the nearest bob.

Sometimes gravity takes us out of the air and even though this may not be fair maybe you won’t get hurt at all if you can demonstrate the proper way to fall.

And so on. 20 of them. It was late! Everything sounds more fun when it rhymes. If you want to read more, let me know. But that’s enough.

On Tuesday, I also promised the kids a party. So along with the scavenger hunt I decided to make a few treats to bring in the next day. Who said girls who take karate can’t cook?! (Actually, this one can’t… but she tried!)

Baking also gave me an excuse to try out my new camera.

I decided to make my fave treats: triple chocolate chunk and anything funfetti!

I decided to make my fave treats: triple chocolate chunk brownies and anything funfetti!

My workspace sure was organized!

I carefully mixed the three ingredients!

It looked pretty good before it baked.

But it looked even better after! (I don’t know why my mouth is so wide)

funfetti mix
The funfetti cookies were next. That mix is so white. There are sprinkles inside!

fun mix
More mixing…

The cookies came out the oven like magic!

Yay! Now it was a real party with all sorts of junk food so that we could ruin whatever calories we burned in karate immediately after the class.

I arrived early at class to set up for the scavenger hunt. I had the list with me.

scavenger hunt list
(the sunglasses are just cool.)

I set up the different stations so that the kids could do the kicks on the target or whatever they needed to do.

We’ve got a big target for side kicks and a blocker for jumping over in these corners…

… and plastic boards for breaking and a bat so the teachers can attack the kids! (Hopefully, they’ll block)

writing station
This is the writing station, where they drew a picture of the Japanese flags, colored in belt stripes, things like that. I got a real kick out of it when I heard one kid exclaim “We need to go to the writing station!” Or maybe I called it the drawing station. Something like that. We had markers!

Isn’t our dojo pretty?

Before class the kids were very curious about what was going on since I announced that we would be doing something special. They tried to weasel the information out of me but I stay tight-lipped. I was running around so I could finish up the set up. I forgot to hide the balls! But finally everything settled down and we lined up.

kids before class
The kids are listening to the weekly announcements. (We also have parents in the class, which is awesome.)

This whole scavenger hunt would not have been possible without my assistant teachers. I’m lucky enough to have three who come consistently every week and I’m always amazed they’d help me out like that. I don’t think I could function without them. Since I had three teachers I decided to divide the class up into three teams with each teacher leading a team. We had the Pink team, the Blue team and the Purple team. I let the kids pick their own teams. I was a little worried but the teams actually turned out almost perfectly. I don’t think I could have done a better job if I assigned everyone to teams myself. One important thing about karate is building personal relationships. Karate is a place where you meet people who you probably never would have talked to if you saw them on the street or had a class with them or something like that. I am pleased about the different friendships that are developing in class.

Then I described the rules of the scavenger hunt and shouted “GO!” (Not sure if this actually happened but it should have.)

I didn’t give the kids a lot of direction. I didn’t give the teachers a lot of direction. I just handed them the clues and said go for it. But I did give the teachers a page of answers to all the clues just in case they needed some clarification. I kept an eye on everyone in case they needed some help or if some of the kids needed to be reminded that they had to focus.The teams could complete the tasks in whatever order they wanted. The purple team headed outside to do the outdoor activities first while the other two teams stayed on the mats.

The Purple Team was our only kids only team. Comprised of some of the older kids in the class, I favored them to win, especially since they went outside to complete those tasks first. The kids took charge of the list and their teacher wandered after them, lackadaisically.

The Pink Team was a father/son, mother/daughter team with a strong leader. They seemed to take a strategic approach to the list, working their way through all the stations rather quickly. I was worried because we had about five minutes left and they hadn’t gone outside yet… dun dun dun.

The Blue Team had the youngest members of the class (along with our youngest teacher) but a couple of strong moms who really saved the team. I helped them out the most, just reminded the kids to focus and help their team out (and get off the exercise equipment!). My favorite part was when they were trying to figure out what order to put the belt stripes in. (There really was no correct answer.)

I watched the scavenger hunt unfold.


There were a lot of discussions about what the clues meant.

All of the group did their break falls…

more falling
… more falling …

… we’ll have to work on those.

The kids broke boards…




… but sometimes the mom just has to do it!


The kids jumped over a blocker


Let me tell you, that’s tough!

self defense

Gotta look intense with those self-defense moves. Grrrrrr!

10 move
There’s always time for instruction about how to do the 10 move hand combination.

time to block
Time to block the bat!

Everyone lines up for a turn!

side kicks

Side kicks on a target was a crucial one to complete.



There were lots of gatherings around the writing station!

So much going on. The clock tick-tocked away. Class was actually over time. I was about to tell everyone to stop when one little boy came running up to me. His team had completed everything.

THE PINK TEAM WON!!!!!!!!!!! Underdogs, but they prevailed. It was wonderful.

Then it was time for celebration!





We had a really nice party, just talking and eating and taking pictures afterward. The people from the next class joined us. Usually the energy level in the dojo is high after Kids’ Class but that day it was REALLY high. It seemed like everyone was a little hyper. Our next instructor had to bang the gong and calm us down before we started the next class (that I take). But it was fun!

Things that I learned:

1. I probably need to go over the scavenger hunt rules with the teachers more thoroughly next time.
2. Next time I will ramp it up so that it’s even MORE active with the things the kids have to do.
3. Writing rhyming clues is pretty fun!
4. Even with a new camera I’m a bad photographer. The sports mode on my new camera is LAME.
5. Wearing sunglasses hooked to the front of your gi makes no sense.
6. Next time I will keep a closer eye on all of the groups so I can better assess where they are at by watching them do something like a kata with little assistance.
7. Pizzazz is a funny word.
8. The parents in my class are super helpful.
9. Making something from a box still counts as cooking.
10. The next big activity/party will have to be even BETTER.

So all in all it was a great time. Karate is a serious sport but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun sometimes. As long as the games keep the kids engaged in their martial arts training I think that it’s a good idea. I’m going to keep racking my brain so I can push my class further. I love the unexpected creativity you can find in karate. It’s a wonderful outlet to figure out how you can create something new.

The most important thing that I learned is my assistant teachers are awesome. They always go with the flow and never question my crazy/unexplained ideas. We make a very good team. Check us out!



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