Loser Circles

The key to keeping excitement in class is not in creating new things, but making the old things have new life.

Why Hula Hoops?
One summer I was teaching Karate and radKIDS at the Paris Elementary day camp. They had lots of amazing activities for the kids to do all day long. A dance instructor friend of mine, Nettie Gentempo, was there and she was teaching hula hooping. The kids all loved it and my kids did too when they visited.

Make Your Own Hula Hoops
She explained how easy and inexpensive it can be to make very sturdy hoops out of garden drainage pipe, connectors, athletic tape (Duct tape is tempting but gets STICKY) and a cup or so of water.

Off to Lowe’s we went for supplies and in a very short time we had made 20 of our own hula hoops.

We had a blast with our new toys. Mom (Renhi), Dad (Sensei) and kids (Sempais)…
Hula hooping races, twirling with various body parts, fun with music and even balancing on the bosu. When the family was done, we left the hoops in the dojo, which is at the far end of our house.

But how do Hula Hoops work in Karate?

Hula Hoops are Perfect for Controlling a Person’s Space.
I like to control kids space, until they can figure it out for themselves. In the next karate class I tried having the kids stand in their own ‘circle’.


Warm Up
By having students put one foot in the circle. On each count we jump and switch feet, using either specified or random stance changes to travel from one side of the hoop to the other.

Punch and Kick pretending the hoop is a clock. 
Use any technique that you want and go around the clock striking to each time in order. Then mix it up, using single techniques then progress to combinations. For example, have the kids Block to 12 o’clock, punch to 1 o’clock, and kick to 6 o’clock. Parents love this because it is a physical teaching process for elementary school students learning to tell time. It also teaches that karate happens in 360 degrees…that is why it is such great cross training for any athlete.

Hula Hoops are great for making people work closely together.
The most common mistake in learning to get someone off balance is not getting close enough. My thigh should be under your thigh if I want to disrupt your stance. Putting us both in the hoop makes being close a necessity, and getting closer an easy leap.

Being in the Hoop by Yourself too long is Boring.
Take away half of the hoops and do the warm up drill with two people in a hoop.

Karate Goes Against Instinct
As partners switch their feet, people’s first instinct will be to try to avoid the other person, to give them space and stay out of each other’s way.

I wait for them to do this a few times, then interrupt and show them how to switch feet and try to get IN someone’s way; to improve their position by getting under the other person.

Spar Inside the Circle
Remember to try to keep one foot in the circle all the time, this will be important later. We start out by punching and kicking and staying really close. I am an in close fighter, so I LOVE this drill.

Loser Circles
Now…if while you are sparring both feet go out of the circle, you Lose. If you step out to switch your feet, you lose. If you kick with the leg that is in the circle, but it lands back in the circle, that is ok.
Click here to see a video of Loser Circles

Concrete thinkers will eventually lose to Creative thinkers.
Someone will figure out that if they move the hoop when the other person has their foot up, that they will win.

My response to, “Renshi, he cheated!” is “Did you have both feet in the circle?”

The rule breaking will beautifully run amuck from there.

Being PC is not my specialty.
Loser Circles was a joke in the adult class that went wrong in the kids class. The horrified looks on the parents faces made me realize I had some explaining to do. Luckily I am blessed with the ability to BS on the fly!

“Is Loser a bad word?” Some say “Yes”, and some say, “No.”

I say, “It is just a word. Do people sometimes try to hurt us with words?” Everyone says, “Yes.”

“Loser is just a word. We decide whether or not we let it be hurtful.”

Perhaps we should stop trying to be PC all the time, and empower our kids to endure the realities of this world.

 Click here to see a video of Loser Circles

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