Apps for Instructors

While the noble art of being an instructor goes back to the first time someone said “hey, let me show you how to do that better”, today we have incredible tools at our disposal. Sure, Sensei Youtube often causes more problems than it solves…

martial arts humor #jiujitsumemes

But we are lucky to live in an age where we can connect with instructors all over the world. Some of them are even on Twitter! Below are some of the apps that I use to free up time for teaching, streamline my admin, continue my education and improve my lesson plans.
(PS: Links below are for Android, since that is the platform I use and there isn’t always an Apple version.)

Metronome Beats 

Cover artYou’d be amazed how many training exercises you’ll come up with when using the humble metronome. It is ideal for teaching students pacing in randori, or for picking up the speed in drills. I like to do a Hell Week kind of exercise where they do basics at 40, 60, 80, 100 techniques a minute. Punches, blocks, kicks – sure, it gets untidy towards the end but it is great pressure-testing and for building spirit.

Beep Test 

For those nights when you really want to test endurance and cardio – the beep test introduces increasingly shorter times to do sprints. Handy for building energy fast in the dojo and doing a full-body warm-up.

Tabata Timer 

The gym rats don’t have to have the corner on High Intensity Interval Training. 20 seconds on, 10 off helps with doing crazy volumes of basics, hojo undo and kata snippets.

Invoices Online

This is the best accounting app I’ve come across yet. It is well priced, offers lots of features and has great support. It is made for South African businesses, so it has easy VAT functions. Once you’ve added your student body, it is super easy to automate invoices and free up hours and hours of your time. It also helps you keep track of stock, expenses, payouts, quotes and more.


Trying to get hold of people via email is a pain – spam filters are the enemy and people chop and change emails way more often than phone numbers. It is well worth taking the time to set up broadcasts and holding groups when parents send in their paperwork. I personally prefer Telegrambut not everyone is on it like Whatsapp. (Which is a pity, because Telegram is beautiful to use and has a much nicer variety of stickers and emojis.)

Namola (South Africa) 

How prepared are you for a dojo emergency? Do you have emergency response numbers up somewhere? Namola helps get first responders for medical, fire and crime emergencies exactly to your GPS location. They also let you run tests to check response times.

Any.Do or Evernote

Running a dojo means a checklist for DAYS of little and big tasks. Short-term memory is useless for keeping track of all the little tasks, so I use Any.Do for my lists and Evernote for my ideas. Having an external brain frees me up to think about big stuff and long-term goals. If you think I’m crazy, Tim Ferriss backs me on this.


I am a compulsive reader of articles about everything (anything from 10 – 30 a day) – I am always reading about everything from teaching practices to parenting to karate to running. Pocket is a great way to save all those articles in one place. Evernote offers the same functionality but it isn’t as streamlined. Articles are also nice to share as content with your dojo on social media, and this is a great place to store ideas.


Linked to my compulsive consumption of information, Stitcher is my favourite podcast app. I listen to podcasts on teaching practice, economics, history, medicine, news, the list goes on. Good podcasts for instructors include: The Cult of Pedagogy, K-12 Greatest Hits, The Tim Ferriss Show, Note To Self and The Art of Charm

Pages Manager (Facebook)/Hootsuite

Honestly, I hate Facebook, but a dojo’s got to have a good Facebook page. Use Pages Manager to manage only your dojo page and not get sucked in to larger Facebook and pointless scrolling. If you want to manage multiple social media accounts (FB, Insta and Twitter), then give Hootsuite a bash. I used it in my social media manager days.


As much as Pinterest is full of sickeningly twee photos and mushy quotes, it is an excellent place to find teaching ideas. Teachers, educational psychologists and occupational therapists post their ideas all over Pinterest, and I have found amazing ideas for lesson plans, reward systems and dojo games. Once you teach the algorithms what you want, it serves up handy links and infographics. (Although mine is interspersed with fudge recipes, because that’s my life now, apparently.)

Hopefully this list will help you free up time to enjoy your karate and teaching! If you have any apps that you find useful, please share in the comments below.

3 Fun Ideas for Teaching Kids Karate

In my journey as a deshi, I have been given some great opportunities to come up with clever ways to get complex concepts across to kids ranging from the age of 5 to 15. I’d love to share these ideas, and hear back from other deshi students and instructors if they have had success, and have found ways to tweak them!

The Jelly Tot Game

This idea was inspired by my dear friend Clea, who got it from her dancing teacher. All you need is a big bag of sweets that have relatively flat bottoms. I use jelly tots, which look like this: jelly_tots

You’ll need sweets that will stay put when placed, but will also fall off as well if moved too vigorously.

How the game works:
Every student gets a sweet placed on each shoulder. They must then cross the dojo by moving through stances. I like to use the classic sanchin, zenkutsodachi, shikodachi trio. If they make it to the end without dropping their sweets, then they can eat them! If they drop them, they have to pick them up, go to the start and begin again. Good reason to keep shoes off the mat!

What it works on:
I noticed that the kids were wobbling a bit as they moved through their stances, so this is to teach them to tighten their core, keep their shoulders forward and to move through the centre. It is also a memorable way to reinforce a concept, and a good way to introduce some fun into the dojo during the cold season, or when the general energy level is low.

You can easily swap out the sweets for fruit, or place beacons on their heads and encourage them to move without their beacon sliding off. You can also use it to train core movements and proprioception by making them stand up and sit down without losing the cone.


Tick-Tock – The Metronome Game

In teaching the older kids basic randori principles, they were unable to grasp the concept of smooth, slow fighting. The dojo has a sound system, so I hooked up my phone to it and used a metronome app. There are many great, free ones. I use Sound Corset as it offers a lot of flexibility.

How it works
This is pretty simple to introduce. Once the students are paired off, set the metronome to about 50 beats, which is a slow enough pace for control, but not so slow that they get bored. Encourage them to use the beats to keep an even pace, so that they can tell their partner when they’re going too fast. It also helps you to see instantly who isn’t keeping pace, and to diagnose why.

What it works on
Timing is vital in all martial arts, so this helps students to learn pacing and control. It can also be used to teach beginner adults how slow randori should be. Because slow is relative to each person, this introduces an external way to track speed.

The same metronome can be used for kumite training, by speeding it up for footwork drills and plyometric training. If you don’t have a loud enough sound system, introducing a simple triangle or a drum into the dojo will do the trick.

1,2,3,4: I Declare a Clothes Peg War

A crucial element of fighting (at least in my style) is to control the centre line. This game is designed to teach martial artists of all ages how to defend their centre line while attacking their opponent. This has been a huge hit and is a great way to energise your dojo while introducing an important concept. Honestly, this is one of my best ideas, though I’m sure someone else has come up with it too!

How it works
You’ll need a lot of clothes pegs for this one. Either get some cheap wooden ones, or invest in good, solid pegs. You’ll need about three per student. If you are a kumite-centred dojo, you’ll probably need to look at getting the strongest ones you can.

Everyone will attach the clothes pegs to the centre of their training jacket, either on the lapel or on a bit of pinched fabric. Because of the nature of the game, it may be more appropriate to pair female students together. The goal of the game is to defend your clothes pegs while grabbing the other person’s pegs. The ground rules are simple: no running away, no holding your pegs. You can attack while the other person attaches the ones they stole. You can get your pegs back. The game is over after a certain time limit. I recommend about 5 minutes, max.

What it works on
Ah, so many things! Weapon, target, control, defending your centre, learning to keep a defending hand up, footwork, endurance and a fighting mind. It is a great way to train fighting principles in a memorable way. It is a good way to solidify a class on kumite and randori principles by introducing it at the end. Fair warning – it can get out of hand easily due to the excitement of defending and taking, so keep a very close eye on the students.

You can stick the clothes pegs on the back, teaching students to get around the person, and to step to the outside and get in their blind spot. You can also colour code the pegs, so that they can only grab the red ones, and if they grab the wrong one then its a penalty. This teaches hand-eye coordination as well as even clearer use of weapon/target. For sheer craziness (and only with very senior students), one person has all the pegs while two others get to pick them off – this is for dealing with multiple attackers.

And that’s it! I hope you find these games useful in your teaching practice. I am always working on them and refining them, and I would love to hear about your own inventions and success in the dojo.

Besides, while I know that I could keep these games a secret, I feel that it is more important to share them with the larger martial arts community so that we can learn together and improve our teaching practice.