Last Sunday in the jiyu renshu (free practice) kata part of the class, I was asked by Sensei to help the juniors learn their kata, San Dan Gi (which was one that has only recently been introduced to all of us and is now a replacement for Sanchin dai Ichi, the kata I did for my initial grading). I practised the kata I have been working on once or twice before being asked to help the juniors with theirs.
On the one hand I was honoured to be asked and on the other I wasn’t sure whether I should feel honoured. I wasn’t sure exactly what it meant about me (or my kata) if anything. I tried not to think about that too much (I have been making a concerted effort not to assign intention to others’ decisions or actions). I was certainly happy enough to teach though, if a little surprised to be asked.
This isn’t the first time I have taught something in karate or offered encouragement or praise to others in class – it’s that kind of atmosphere anyway, although I have never been asked to teach in a formal sense (ie in class) or been referred to as a “Sempai” before. I have taught things as I was learning them before, kata and kihon included, but only to my son to help him catch up on what he missed in class when he stopped participating!
In my other life I am pretty familiar with teaching motor skills but it is generally relearning things like walking or particular movements or activities (eg how to stand up, how to get up from the floor), rather than complex movement patterns which are not yet second nature to me. However, movement analysis and observation inherent in my “day job” did actually help me when working out what the juniors needed help with.
I knew the basic kata and all the stances, strikes and blocks involved and knew what it should look like. I tried to take the same approach that Sensei takes by modelling (and leading) first and then watching and giving feedback afterwards. This didn’t really work so well ……one of the older juniors was ok about getting feedback but really struggled to implement it (even with demonstration – stances particularly were not correct and I was very aware of these as it was something I struggled with a lot and still do in various kata). The 6 year old wasn’t really focussed and it was hard to keep him on task at all. Then I remembered that teaching kids is different to teaching Adults (this is why I never did paediatrics!!). Unfortunately by the time I was thinking how to turn it all into a game it was time to move on to kumite…..oh well perhaps I will get another chance some time! I will have to think up a game with it to make it more fun between now and then.
After class I was talking to Sensei about the kids (my son particularly) who has been pushing the buttons constantly at home and trying hard to do the same in Karate. Positively, Sensei doesn’t take any nonsense from him, and while he is in class and I am in class the arrangement (which I am exceedingly happy with) is that I am a student and not a mum and consequences are Sensei’s to decide on and to implement. This helps everyone get the most out of class.
He said feels my son is making progress (even if sometimes I find myself rolling my eyes when he doesn’t do what he is asked in class). I misheard him at first and thought he had said I was improving. When we had established what he had actually said (and I got over my slight embarrassment) he said he doesn’t give praise to people over 15. This made me think about my learning needs (internal and external). After all, everyone learns differently (not just kids vs adults but each individual).
I am someone who has pretty good internal motivation to learn, especially if I am interested in the subject or task at hand. However when I am learning a new skill (like I am with karate) I need feedback as to whether I am getting it right in order to have the confidence to practice it and know I am not repeating it wrongly over and over again.
I find I need to seek out this feedback, which can be humbling, but necessary. Sometimes I find I get an answer that makes sense straight away and I can implement, but sometimes I just have to smile and pretend to understand even though I am still not getting it….and then in a few days after it sinks in I have an “ahah” moment and can’t work out why I even had to ask. This happened the other day when I asked what I was doing in part of Saifa as I knew it wasn’t quite right and I couldn’t work out how to fix it. Sensei gave me some analogies (music related) which I understood at the time but couldn’t for the life of me apply to the actual pattern I was trying to achieve. Having mulled it over for 24 hours though, I found I was able to transfer it across without having actually physically done it in between times. Now I won’t forget it hopefully!
In a more general sense it would be nice to know that I am improving overall but I guess at the same time, it could be quite demoralising if I find out that I am not since I am training hard and feel within myself that I am starting to get somewhere. Luckily there are plenty of other Sensei and Sempai in our network who don’t mind throwing an occasional word of encouragement in my general direction.