Tag Archives: instructor

//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!



//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!