When it comes to children, martial arts instructors should be as careful about the example they set as they are about the techniques they teach, according to the longtime Black Belt magazine columnist.

Children’s karate classes are frequently concluded with the stern warning from their karate sensei that what’s practiced in the dojo isn’t for indiscriminate use. You’re not supposed to “do this stuff” at home or anywhere outside the dojo, the karate sensei says. I never liked that. To me, karate sensei teaching students to do something and then telling them not to do it is, well, a little dumb. If you’re teaching people to do something and then telling them not to do it, you’d better do some thinking about just what you’re teaching. “Oh, so you’re saying it’s OK for a kid to go home from karate class and side-kick his little brother in the head? It’s all right if he tries out his reverse punch on a friend and breaks his nose?” Please reread what I just wrote about the need to think. Are you as a karate sensei teaching the children in your classes to kick people in the head or punch others in the nose for no good reason? “Well, no. But those kicks and punches are part of training. That’s what we’re doing in a karate class.” Yes, that’s part of what you should be doing in a karate class, but it’s far from the only part, and it shouldn’t be the goal — not for kids and not for adults.


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Karate Sensei: Should They Be Respected or Feared by Students?

“So you want to have a discussion of philosophy instead of hard training? You want karate class to be like a church service or a therapy session.” Nope. There needs to be a whole lot less talking in the dojo, in my opinion. Karate sensei spend too much time trying to explain things intellectually that are adequately grasped only when you learn them with your body. We often hear the adage, “Shut up and train.” Good advice. However, the karate sensei ought to be saying to himself, “Shut up and teach.”

Some Things Karate Sensei Need to Realize

First, let’s look at the fundamentals of the situation: We have children who, because they’re children, don’t always behave in mature, reasonable ways. As children, they sense their relative powerlessness in society, and when they’re given power, they sometimes abuse it — like kicking their brother in the head. Karate affords them the ability to kick like that; it’s unrealistic to think that they won’t at least be tempted to do it. Yes, you can lecture them. It might work. However, what I think is more effective, and what I learned when I was a child practicing karate, is for teachers and seniors in the dojo to be role models. The leaders don’t go around indiscriminately kicking others in the head. They don’t even play at it. When we’re kicking, it’s under the special circumstances of training. We reinforce the idea that we’re doing something special in the uniforms we wear only in the dojo. The attitude in the dojo reinforces it. It’s never playtime. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed, but it’s serious. Karate doesn’t get treated like an afternoon program at the YMCA. Karate is different. We approach our own training and the teaching of others, especially children, with that in mind.

How Karate Sensei Treat Dojo Time Sends a Message

If I were a grade-school basketball coach, I wouldn’t mind if one of my players shot hoops with his brother at home. If I were teaching karate, I would mind very much if that child treated the art like a basketball game. That difference has to be made clearly and consistently. Think of it this way: Don’t use a karate class as entertainment for a kiddie birthday party, and you won’t have to worry as much about it being misused in other ways. Second, if all we teach is kicking and punching, we shouldn’t be surprised when that’s the lesson children get. If children in a karate class get positive attention for showing aggressiveness, winning tournaments or being the center of attention, they’ll learn from that. They’ll learn what’s valued in the dojo and seek to identify with those values.

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The Karate Sensei and Principles vs. Ego

If self-control, poise and humility are highlighted, those are the values children will esteem and emulate. If the teacher struts about, his uniform festooned with insignia, demanding to be called “master,” the children will assume that power is primarily for boosting one’s ego and status. If they see a teacher who’s unassuming and who trains alongside the class, who readily admits his weaknesses and shows others that he’s working on them, the kids will learn to behave accordingly. If the curriculum changes to meet whatever popular interest has been sparked by a movie or an Olympic competition, the children will learn that their art doesn’t have any fixed concepts or ideals and is instead a product. If the art is taught with consistency and within the framework of what has been taught in the past, however, they will learn to see themselves as part of something larger and more important. There are a lot of lessons taught in a karate class that have little to do with kicking and punching. Integrity, respect for others, dignity and honesty — they aren’t only in the kata or free sparring, but they’re in the dojo, too. Or they’re not. There are consequences, either way, for those training there. It’s absurd to think that no matter what we do to influence or direct them, children will always behave appropriately. We have to keep an eye on them and look for behavior that might demonstrate aggressiveness or a tendency to show off or strike out in frustration. And if we see that, we need to talk to them and their parents. However, if karate is the “way” many of us think it is, then the best approach in getting others — especially children — to walk it is to lead by example. About the author:
Dave Lowry is a freelance writer who’s trained extensively in the Japanese and Okinawan arts. He started writing the Karate Way column for Black Belt magazine in 1986. He is the author of Bokken: Art of the Japanese Sword among other books.
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Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
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Looking to buy some weights to gain some strength?

Looking at Dumbbell, Kettlebells or Weighted bar? How about an all in one that won't just save you some good amount of money but also space? Look no further, we bring you the GRIPBELL!

Let's face it, when we do want to work on some strength building, we don't want to go around shopping for 20 different weight equipment things. That would just not want us to even do any sort of strength training. But what if we only needed a few, a few that can do the things we want without having 20 things lay around? That's where the GRIPBELL comes in. Let me clarify with you first, these are not some heavy duty, muscle exploding weights, they are for building the level of strength we as martial artists want without going crazy and insane in bulk sizing!

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Many different types of "blocks" are taught in most martial arts school. We are taught high blocks, low blocks, middle blocks, knife hand blocks, etc. Some schools will also teach how to use the legs to block an attack, as well.

The purpose of this writing is to possibly open some minds to the possibilities of going outside the box and considering alternatives to the basics.

Blocking is taught as a way of protecting oneself from harm. Truly, we don't "block" anything, as a non-martial artist would think of it. What we call "blocking" is more of a redirection of an opponent's attack, or even a counterstrike against the opponent's attacking limb.

To block something would mean to put something, like your arm, leg or other body part directly in front of the attack. That would certainly hurt and possibly cause some damage. The goal should be to move the attack out of the way in order to prevent injury and provide a way to fight back. For example, many schools teach blocks as a limb moving toward the strike such as a circular high block.

The movement required for a block might have other uses, if you keep an open mind. The blocking techniques can also be used as attack techniques. For example, your "low block" may be used as a striking technique against the outer thigh of the attacker. Your high block might be used as a strike to the jaw. The set up for a block can be used as a deflection, as well as the actual block.

Doing a block or a series of blocks will most likely not end an attack. A block needs to be followed by a counterattack. While the block is usually taught as a separate technique in order to learn it correctly, it should also be used in combination with a counter.

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Intensive books can and have be written about basic techniques. With this writing, I am hoping to create interest in exploring the additional possibilities for what we have been taught and what we teach others.

About Grand Master Stevens

GM Stevens has been training in taekwondo for 47 years under the tutelage of the late legendary Grand Master Richard Chun. He holds an 8th degree black belt and is certified in the USA and in Korea. Grand Master Stevens is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Richard Chun TaeKwonDo World Headquarters organization. He has been very active in his community and has been a volunteer with the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps for over 11 years. He is a certified member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team).

Gary Stevens Taekwondo is located at 175 Rock Road in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

For more information: call (201) 670-7263, email: StevensTKD@aol.com or go to www.StevensTaeKwonDo.com

Having partners at or above your skill level is important for improving in your martial arts training. At some point, however, you will probably find yourself with a shortage of skilled partners, especially if you are an instructor.

This can happen for any number of reasons: students can move away, change their work schedules, start a family, etc., and just like that, you find that you're the highest-ranked student, or sole instructor, in your gym or dojo. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you take advantage of it, even working exclusively with lower-ranking classmates or students can improve your skills.

I used to host a twice-a-week training session at my dojo where I invited mostly black belts from other schools (as well as a few of my advanced students) to come and run drills. It was a blast. These were tough two- to three-hour sessions where I got to work with fighters of all different sizes, speeds, and technique preferences. My sparring improved dramatically over the next few months, and I don't think I've ever been in better shape. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. And as the old saying goes, "You gotta work with what ya got." So, make it hard on yourself.

I like to set handicaps when fighting my students. Specifically, I focus on forcing myself to work on improving my weak areas. Is you right leg weaker than the left? Then only kick with the right leg when sparring your students. Not much of an inside fighter? Don't kick at all. Training with partners of lesser skill not only helps you improve your weak points but gives them an opportunity to improve as well by working on strategy. It's also great for building their confidence. It can also be a low-cost opportunity to test new techniques and combinations, which benefits you as well.

In grappling, just like sparring, there is little benefit to wrapping lower ranking classmates into pretzels over and over, for them or you. Instead, let your partner put you in a bad situation. Let them get the mount; help them sink in that choke or armbar. If you start standing, such as in judo, allow your partner to get the superior grip before attempting a throw. This way you will get comfortable working out of a weaker position and your less-experienced partner can perfect their technique (and get experience using multiple techniques, if you get out of their first one).

You might think that giving advantages like these to students who may be far beneath your skill level is much of a challenge. Trust me, you'll reconsider that sentiment when you wind up sparring a 6'5" novice with zero control over his strength after deciding to only use your weak leg, or have a 250-pound green belt lying across your diaphragm trying to get an armlock after you let them get the pin. Remember, this is exactly what you signed up for: a challenge.

If you find yourself at the top of the heap without partners who are sufficiently challenging, there is no need to despair. Use it as a low-stress opportunity to improve your weaknesses and develop avenues to help your less experienced classmates and students to grow. You may even be surprised. One day they might present more of a challenge than you ever imagined!
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