The Least of These: Teaching a Multi-Level Class

Matthew 25:40
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

‘The Least of These’
It is always in the back of my mind when I teach, the importance of taking care of the youngest, the inexperienced, the most fragile in the class. This is especially true for brand new students. Prone to high emotion they need attention, praise, and to feel that they are a part of the group.
(This is why they should always wear a uniform on their first day.)

Karate Classes are Always Multi-Level.
IMG_0321It is what we do. It is how we create great mentors. But it can be tricky to balance the needs of the students in the class. Too easy and the advanced kids get bored. To difficult and the new students get overwhelmed.

Yesterday’s end of summer kids class was small and awesome:
two brand new yellow belts, two older yellow belts and a blue belt.

I looked out over the group, checked the status of their katas by looking at their belts and asked myself, “What do these kids need today?”

Elsa had approached me before class, the moment I entered the dojo, clearly frustrated at not knowing the weapons kata she needs to learn for green belt. We have spent time in each of the past 4 advanced kids classes working on the bo kata, but she is the only one who has been to class consistently enough to be on the verge of knowing the whole thing. We have done it so much that if she hadn’t asked then I probably wouldn’t have done it. But SHE ASKED.

Two of the yellow belts were just returning from taking time off for the summer, two were new yellow belts but have come consistently. All four are working on the second kata, but none of them need to know it immediately.

I created my Game Plan for class during the warm up.
I shared it with the kids, “We are going to review Pinan Shodan. Work on Seisan. Do the Bo Kata, and I have a fun new activity that I learned at camp.”
Thanks Shihan Wayne Mello for the 5-strike, fast moving bag drill!

Don’t Sacrifice the Best for the Least.
It is OK for the ‘Least’ to Struggle Sometimes.

When we arrived at the Bo Kata I gave the yellow belts a warning.
I said, “Some of you are not going to really understand what we are doing. That’s OK. Just do the best you can to follow along. See if you can get the Big Picture.”

Elsa was learning the end of the kata and refining movement. A couple of the kids were totally lost and a couple were following pretty well. Even if they were failing they were so excited to have the bo in their hands it didn’t matter.

Ultimately the class was well balanced. In 50 minutes we started together, did a review for the least, attacked information for the middle and the top, then finished with another activity for the whole group.

Another great day in the dojo…

A word on White Belts and weapons.
Instructors should bot be so set on stupid rules like ‘White belts can’t pick up weapons,’ that they sacrifice the advanced students in class over and over again.






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