Posted tagged ‘martial arts instructor’

Can’t get black belt no matter how hard they try?

February 9, 2010

Several instructors have posed versions of this question lately: What if you have a child in class who is dedicated and tries hard — but is simply too uncoordinated to perform the required material up to par? Is there a point at which you stop promoting this student through the ranks, in spite of his or her best effort? If so, is there a “magic rank” where this happens? –They might get green belt, but not brown belt; or, brown belt but not junior black belt.

I think we’ve all had students at one time or another who’ve caused us to ask these questions. Other factors usually come into play, like the age of the students in question, the reasons for their physical difficulty, and the expectations for future change as they grow and mature.

Instructors: Tell us about your experience. What have you learned about working with less athletically gifted students? What decisions have you made at test time? What advice would you give an instructor who is dealing with the issue for the first time? And, bottom line, can this student get his or her black belt?

Praise is Overrated

November 17, 2009

Pam Consear submitted a comment on the earlier post “Tips for instructors who teach martial arts to kids,” but instead of approving it, I held it in the queue till I could set it up as a new topic. Here it is– and I hope others will have things to say on this important subject.

I agree with all the comments about keeping things positive, using all the kids’ names, working out and enjoying practicing alongside them, etc. I’d like to make a comment about PRAISE, though.

We should make sure that the praise we’re giving is thoughtful and specific, not just habitual. I think that some of our kids these days get showered with too much praise (and trophies, medals, awards…) for just showing up, and the words eventually lose their value.

According to research I’ve read about child development and teaching, praise doesn’t build self-esteem (assuming that’s one of our goals here), but skill mastery DOES. So we can help by pointing out specifically WHAT they are doing well (“good job raising your knee up for that snap kick!”), and being gently honest when they’re not doing something right, and telling them how to fix it. Not everything kids do in class is a “great job!” (Not in my classes, anyway!)

Research has also found that telling kids they’re “smart” or “talented” or “gifted”, etc., can actually be counter-productive. It causes some kids to either not try new things for fear of not being as amazing as everyone thinks they are, or to give up quickly if they don’t catch on immediately for fear that people might find out that they’re not actually smart/talented/gifted after all. More useful is to focus on the EFFORT they’re putting in, and point out how that is leading to progress and new skills. Everyone has the ability to try hard, so the kids start seeing success as something attainable through hard work, and not the birthright of a few “talented” kids.

Ok, that’s my two cents about keeping the praise real!

Any thoughts, readers?

A Holiday Gift for Karate and Taekwondo Kids

November 3, 2009

I’m already starting to see the words “holiday shopping” in the media, so there’s nothing to do but join in:

The Kids’ Karate Workbook is a great holiday gift idea for young martial arts students. As you know, when kids get involved in something, they love everything about it, from clothing to equipment to… anything they can find. This book offers some special benefits for both children and parents:

It encourages reading.

It encourages healthy physical activity.

It promotes discussion between kids and parents on the important topics of safety and self-defense.

It promotes active engagement with an art and discipline that in itself brings many benefits to the child.

If you’re an instructor, I want you to know you were very much on my mind when I wrote this book. It’s not meant to be used by students for self-instruction; it’s meant to get students to collaborate with you, their teacher, in order to practice better at home. Time and again the book asks students to speak to you, to find out what you want them to practice and improve, and even to “correct” the book if it differs from what you teach. There’s no other book like it in the bookstores. Click here to read more about it on Amazon: The Kids’ Karate Workbook: A Take-Home Training Guide for Young Martial Artists.

If you’re a school owner, consider offering the book for sale in your “pro shop,” or asking your neighborhood book store to stock it for your students. And if you have any questions, please contact me: didi[at] — or leave a comment here on the blog.