“Reward the Behavior You Want to See”
There’s an excellent blog I’ve been reading called Mokuren Dojo, with articles on judo, aikido, weapons training, and many other aspects of martial arts, as well as occasional pieces on teaching judo to children. I highly recommend it.
The author, Patrick Parker, was kind enough to send me a link to a post where he lists many of his articles on teaching kids. If, as I do, you teach a style that includes some matwork, you should definitely read this material. Even if your style is a pure kicking-punching art, you’ll still find concepts and approaches of value to any instructor.
Scanning down his list of articles I noticed one called “Reward the behavior you want to see.” Great, I thought, this will be a piece about a behavioral approach to teaching unpredictable or unruly kids; I look forward to his take on the subject. I clicked the link and what I found was even better than that: Instead of a theoretical piece of the kind (I have to admit) I would be more likely to write, it was an absolutely practical post about a specific training exercise and how he had modified it to get better results—better training—from the kids.
Instructors, I know you have all experienced this: a drill that works perfectly well with adults has completely unexpected results with kids. Or a training game that seems like a great idea turns out to favor the bigger kids (as in Mokuren’s example), and not necessarily the more skillful or harder working students. Or the drill just isn’t getting you where you want to go with the class. That’s when you have to get creative and change things up.
If you spend time at Redwood Dojo, you’ll probably hear me shout “New Rule!” after watching the kids work a drill for a few moments. Maybe I told them to kick the target with as much power as they could manage—and they’re doing it, but form and balance have gone out the window. “New Rule! You have to hit it twice before putting your foot down.” Or, “New Rule! You have to hit hard, then put your foot down without making a sound.”
Share some of your examples. How do you reward the behavior you want to see?