This article is about the difference between teaching children and adults. In most dojo children are the primary source of your income. I realize teaching a children’s class takes a different path than teaching an adult class. We need to be mindful of who is in front of you and how things can be said and explained.
While teaching adults, we usually start their journey by teaching balance, foundation, increased flexibility and speed. Strength will come automatically because the more we work out, the stronger we become. I sometime encourage some of my students to begin a regimen of weight training where repetition of light weights for body toning takes president over the heavier weight for enhancement of strength.
An adult usually wants to understand what they are doing, the purpose of their movements and the result to expect from their workout. Some of the answers I hear from other dojo makes me laugh (to myself of course). The silliest is “you have not been studying long enough to understand” or “you’ll learn later as you advance.” If they will not understand, then they should not do whatever it is they don’t understand. It’s a waste of time and energy. It’s like telling someone to jump off a 6-story building telling them they’ll know why after they hit the ground.
It is much more beneficial for a student to perform movements knowing why they are doing it and doing it the way you’ve taught them. Just going through motions does nothing for an intelligent student. They now have an idea of what they are doing and why. Every time that movement is performed, your student will see in their mind the expected result. You will produce a better more proficient practitioner. Knowing and understanding is the key to everything we teach.
When you have children in your classes, they are there for a few simple reasons. They want to learn how to beat up people. Their parent made them go to karate classes. They have friends in your classes or about to sign up for your classes. Whatever the case may be, they’re there to have fun. If a student is frowning without getting accidentally hit, you need to find out what happened.
If a child comes to you for karate classes, you would hope to be able to keep that student until he/she completes high school. If they stay beyond high school, consider yourself very fortunate. There are always other sports and activities to consume their time. Many of them are less expensive than karate classes.
If you are trying to teach them all the katas, bunkais and kumites before they get to high school, you are doing yourself a colossal injustice. Most children do not view the black belt as a new beginning. Space out their promotions and make sure they have not only the knowledge but also the skills before each belt or even a stripe is awarded. Have your students earn their rank and they will have more pride in their accomplishments.
I use to have all my students test for their next belt. This was to prepare them for their black belt test when they will have to perform in front of guest instructors. I no longer do that now because of the disappointment factor. In order for my students to advance to their next belt, they need to demonstrate the knowledge and proficiency for the belt that are wearing or the belt they wish to wear. On the day each student is going to be awarded a new belt, I will post a notice naming the students who will be getting their next belt, there will be special attention on them to verify their dedication and ability. Even though they have already proved to be deserving, they work out harder at the very least.
Keep your students engaged and make sure they are having fun.