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Technique is important; in most respects this is the foundation of hte training that martial arts entails.  Without technique, everything can quickly fall apart.

"This is boring... when can we spar?"

Anyone else ever hear this from a student?  Specifically, a student that is a child or a teenager?

Yeah, me too...

The question becomes how we engage students that do not want to be engaged in a specific activity.  Most of the time, these activities revolve around two specific activities...

Kata and technique training.

Anyone else ever have a someone receive an "injury" in the middle of one of these classes, and then be miraculously cured once it is time to spar?

Stop lying, you know you have... and when you were a child or brand new you may have done the same thing.

How do we ensure that students understand the importance of good technique, and how kata does help them with their technique?

There are a number of methods that I have seen, some effective and some less effective.

1. Explain

"Hey, little guy - I know you don't like technique (or kata) because it is not the most exciting thing.  However, not practicing this will cause all of the parts of karate you like to fall apart.  Don't you want to be better at sparring and self defense?  The best way to do that is technique practice!"

Explaining might work well with an adult, but children often will not understand the concepts, and teenagers always think that they know better than adults.  In some cases, this may prove to be beneficial - however, for the targer population that is in question, this often proves to be useless.  This works well with adults, but that is usually about the extent of its effectiveness,

2. Reward

"Well, if you practice your technique/kata really well during class you will get to spar later tonight!"

Again, sometimes this works, but most of the time what happens is the student is engaged with every fiber of their being when they know that they are being watched, and then slack of when they are not being watched.  This ends up with people giving a half hearted effort to get what they want, which really just reinforces the fact that "not trying" is still rewarded.

3. Yelling

"...because I said so.  NOW!"

OK, I should not have to say much here.  Do not ever use this approach.  If an adult is being an arrogant jerk and is hurting people or back talking, that is one thing.  With children, do not ever make an effort to chastise or embarass them.  This is not the military, and they can choose to quit.  Do not give them a reason to quit.

4. You Have to Know for your Test

"Isn't it important to you to learn these things so you can get your next rank?"

No.  Just, no.  This tells the student, especially at an impressionable age, that the belt is all that matters.  The student will spend no time trying to better himself or herself, and will just do what they think they need to do to get promoted.  I have seen how this goes, and those who do just enough always end up quitting around the green belt level when things get hard.  Never pitch "for the next rank" as the selling point for kata or technique.

There you go... most of the methods that are used simply do not work.  However, there are other methods that do work.  The methods that I use most commonly is as follows:

**The Recognition Method**

"Did everyone see little Suzie's excellent technique tonight?  While everyone did well, everyone should put that much effort in.  Suzie will go far if she keeps practicing that hard.  GREAT job, Suzie!"

People like receiving recognition.  Often times, if they are not praised like this and someone else is, they will work as hard as they need to to get that recognition.  It does not matter if this is because they are unhappy that they did not get praise, or if it just feels good, or if they are jealous...  as long as they use that desire to try to get the praise, they will work harder at what they need to do so that they can reach the next level.

**Make them tell you**

"Jimmy, do you see how good Sempai is (points to a brown belt who everyone respects)?  If you want to be as good as he/she is, then why don't we go ask him how he/she trains? (student accepts emphatically).  So, Sempai, how did you get to be as good as you are..."

In this instance, you ensure that the senior students know what you expect them to say - kata and technique are paramount.  They said they want to be as good as this person, so they should train as this person does, which may encourage them to work harder in kata and technique.  NEVER ask them if they want to be as good as you, always pick someone else to avoid looking egotistical, self aggrandizing, or as if you are trying to push you agenda.  Get another involved, and ensure that the other cooperates with your vision.

That is about it - ensure people are involved the way that you want them to be invovled, and ensure that everyone knows that technique and kata are important in the martial arts.

As always, train hard, demonstrate humility, and become what you were meant to become!


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