I've been a keen karate student for 16 years, Shukokai and Shotokan, but there still seems to be no shortage of things to learn and explore. I'm hoping this blog will allow me to share my experiences and hear other martial artists thoughts.

The need to practise what you preach

Wednesday night was my first training session since being on holiday. Wednesday nights at our club are geared more towards beginners and it was great to see the Dojo full and a good number of new students on the front row. We kicked off with running through some basic techniques and it didn’t take long to feel a bit of fatigue in my shoulders so a mental note to try and work on building a bit more stamina.

Then the senseis split the class into smaller groups amongst themselves and the senior grades including myself. I was taking two of our junior orange belts through some of our set combinations of techniques. I find these opportunities to teach junior students a really valuable learning experience for my own study of martial arts.

Both the students I was teaching had a really good attitude but they were at slightly different levels in terms of their knowledge of the combinations we were working on. For one student it was more about the first step of teaching them which techniques made up the combinations. The other student had that knowledge and for them it was about looking at their execution and identifying some points that could be worked on and improved.

We worked on making the execution more dynamic and with a stronger execution of the techniques. The first moves of one of the combinations is to move from a traditional fighting stance, zenkutsu dach, into a front kick, mae geri, with the leading leg by bringing up the rear leg alongside the leading leg and then bringing the leading leg up into the kick.

We worked on making that starting movement with the rear leg quicker to bring more momentum and bodyweight to the kick and make it more effective. Later on the class came back together and we ran through the combinations. When we ran through the combination I’d just been working on I realised I was being a bit casual and not bringing that quicker level of movement myself!

I suppose it was a case of familiarity breeds a bit of contempt and it was certainly a bit of a mental slap on the wrist! As your capability develops you need to make sure you bring that higher level of performance to kata and combinations already learnt.

So a change of roles from student to teacher and back again certainly gave me value in a number of areas:

  • it gave me the chance to identify what some of the important combative aspects are within a combination of moves.
  • I had to find a way to communicate how those aspects are important, demonstrate their application and find a way to break the practise down into smaller parts to focus on key movements.
  • and it was a important reminder to make sure I’m executing those movements effectively myself :-).

Sometimes it really does need to be a case of do what I say and do! Not just the former.

As usual, I’d really welcome any thoughts and experiences you might have :-).


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