Do you teach an amazing class?

7 May

“The coach’s first task is to learn how to present his knowledge to his students in the best possible way”

– G. R. Gleeson, 5th Dan Judo

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While there are some variations upon a theme, most classes can be broken down into three segments; the warm up, the technical instruction (lesson for the day) and the conditioning and cool down. The warm up should be no less than eight minutes and no more than fifteen minutes in length. This leaves thirty five to forty five minutes of technical instruction and ten to fifteen minutes for conditioning.

The warm up increases flood flow to your muscles, prevents injury and increases performance. We use three different warm ups, depending upon the class and the level of the students in the class. Intermediate to advanced students often warm up with three rounds of shadow boxing. Each round is 3 minutes. The first round should be used for all hand techniques (boxing and elbows). The second round is used to warm up the legs (shin blocks, knees, kicks). The third round is for combinations (strikes and kicks).

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Another method we use, especially effective with beginning students, is an instructor led warm up. The instructor stands in front of the class and leads the class through different, progressively difficult, combinations. Each combination is done for one minute (you will need an interval timer).

Once you’ve determined the lesson for the day, you still need to address the sequence for teaching and practicing the various skills. The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray and sometimes (especially if you find a lot of raw beginners in a particular class) you can not cover all the techniques you had planned for that class. For this reason always begin by teaching not only the most basic skills first, but also those skills most essential to the program.

The standard format for a class is to use rounds. This is why a round timer is one of the essential pieces of equipment you will need. Beginners generally should be doing a three minute round with a one minute rest. Ideally, the instructor demonstrates the skill during the “rest minute”, and then the students practice the drill for three minutes. Obviously, at times you will need more than a minute so you simply turn off the timer, demonstrate the skill until the students are comfortable enough to begin the drill, then turn the timer back on. These irregular periods between demonstration and practice often eat away at class time, resulting in the inability to demonstrate all the techniques you had planned for that day. Don’t panic, this is pretty normal.

When an instructor demonstrates a skill, a few basic points should also be considered. Make sure you have the entire class’ attention (firmly but politely discourage “side conversations”). Speak clearly and use language appropriate to the students present; recognize the differences between adults and children, between beginner and advanced students. Name the skill or technique and explain why they are learning it. Sometimes, a skill is pretty obvious (learning how to block a hook to the head). Less obvious techniques (for example a fake to set up a technique) often confuse beginning students and frustrate them. Explaining why that particular skill is important increases motivation to practice and learn. While certain techniques will require more than the “rest minute”, don’t go overboard. Say what you have to say in less than three minutes!

After the demonstration, the students should immediately begin practicing the skill. During this time, the instructor should move around the room, observing each and every student. Provide feedback and correction. An instructor’s goal should be to interact with every student present, even if to make a small correction or comment.

If a student is making several mistakes during a drill, it is best to correct only one error at a time. As an instructor, you will have to determine whether or not one error is causing another. If it is, the obvious answer is to address that error, the “root error” first. If the errors are unrelated, corrected the most fundamental or important error first. Don’t drown the student in “information overload”.

A few other points an instructor should keep in mind during class. Everyone should be encouraged to work at their own level. There is no competition in class with other students. Students are only in competition with themselves, each class they must strive to improve. Instructors must encourage students to be a little better each class.

In most classes, group students of similar skill level together. Advanced should work with advanced. A student’s height, weight, etc may also be important depending upon the drill.

Remind students that it is better to practice slowly and correctly than to go too fast and develop bad habits. For every poor repetition, it requires five correct repetitions to set things right! This applies to both kickboxing techniques and conditioning drills. Incorrect execution of abdominal exercises or squats can lead to injury.

It is essential in classes with drills and sparring to keep an eye out for ego, anger and hurt feelings. Stress that a class is not a competition and that everyone in class is there to help each other learn and grow. Drills and sparring are in part about cooperation. Students need to learn in an environment that, while challenging them, is also safe and lets them feel comfortable enough to try new skills.

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