Warm ups, or jumbi undo, are an essential part of karate. Proper warm ups improve our flexibility, strength and agility, and help reduce injuries. This is just a small snippet to help instructors and students improve their warm ups. Includes exercises to improve your stances, hip flexibility and vibration to improve power.
Why do we say ‘hitotsu’? Why do dojos have a dojo kun?
A short introduction to the Goju Ryu dojo kun, and what each line entails.
Be humble and polite
Train considering your physical strength
Practice earnestly with creativity
Be calm and swift
Take care of your health
Live a plain life
Do not be too proud or modest
Continue your training with patience
Instructor: Zoe Jagger-Hinis 2nd Dan, Goju Ryu OGKK Gauteng, South Africa
Follow our dojo on social media!
Last night, I taught four classes on Zoom, back to back.
By the time I finished and hit that ‘leave meeting’ button, I felt like my brain was pouring out of my ears. I’ve taught for hours before, but why is it that Zoom feels so, so much harder?
Turns out that I’m not the only instructor that feels this way. Chatting to other instructors, there’s the same frustration and exhaustion. Producing a short video is one thing – trying to teach karate across time and space is another. Teaching to a bunch of little squares on a screen compared to teaching in a dojo is like comparing tinned tuna to fresh blue fin tuna. It’ll get you by, but it’ll never be as good as the real deal.
What we’ve taken for granted before is the complexity of human interaction that allows us to teach so many at once, and to make those vital connections with our students so that they are receptive to what we have to teach.
The reason I felt like I’d just written final exams after teaching Zoom is because of the sheer cognitive drain of online meetings. Gone is the dojo structure of demonstrating and then letting the students practice on their own and with each other. Everything has to be explained in the finest detail on top of physical demonstration, because we can’t assume that everyone has a high-quality connection and a clear view of the nuances that make up a kata or technique. Plus trying to watch all those little boxes at once, and correcting that kid for playing with their dog, or another one for making faces at the camera instead of training. And because, for now, I have to look at my face all the time (eew) while teaching, there’s a new level of self-consciousness that adds that little extra weight. Have I always bent my one finger just so? Is that really how my mawashi-uke looks?
Rituals and Space
Karate is made up of rituals – rituals are the building blocks of habits and self-improvement. The rituals of entering the dojo, wearing a gi, bowing to classmates, removing shoes; these are all the building blocks on which we balance self-respect, discipline, integrity and thoughtfulness. Doing karate in the lounge undoes all of that. It is easy to mute Sensei when bored, or wander off to the bathroom, or (as we found out later) play Fortnite while Sensei talks. As instructors, we have to work ten times harder to keep their attention, and we don’t have our usual scaffolding of the dojo and its routines and peer behaviour to keep students focused.
Micro-Expressions and Lag
When we communicate, our bodies and faces provide dozens of cues to support what we are saying (or not, when we lie), and our brains largely process this subconsciously. In a normal meeting, we can see these micro-expressions in real-time and spend less time concentrating on looking at people to understand them. Online, though? We have to really focus to catch all those expressions over spotty connections, and with bad lighting (especially those of you who have a window behind you! Move!)
It is much harder to tell if someone is listening when eye contact isn’t clear. Are they looking at you? Their block on the screen? Are they looking at the gallery of viewers? It’s like when you video call someone who isn’t au fait with technology and you end up talking to their forehead.
And when do you chime in? Pauses are artificially lengthened, and the number of times I waited for an answer, then assumed none were forthcoming, and just as I started to speak, then someone speaks over me. and then its the dance of “no, you go,” and “sorry, sorry, I was just going to say” and then we all want to go burn our modems.
How To Make It Better: Instructors
For now, it looks like this is the best option we have to maintain contact with our students until we can open our doors again. Lockdown is affecting dojos all over the world, and I hope that, whoever is reading this, that your dojo survives. Whether you own one or attend one, I truly hope that. A dojo only deserves to close down when the instructor is a fraud; I would hate to see great dojos sunk by something way beyond the instructor’s control.
Here are some ideas on how to make Zoom classes better, and to maintain that vital connection between you and your students.
- Don’t talk about the pandemic. Karate needs to be a break from the heaviness of what is going on. It is time for Sensei to be a source of energy. The kids are stressed enough.
- Get creative! Tell your students to fetch soft toys to train with. Do broom karate. Add some stretches. Do a trivia quiz. Tell them a funny gashuku story. Yes, there is time for syllabus, but karate is long, life is short. Right now, you are trying to make Zoom classes worth attending, not creating the next black belt. There will be time for that later.
- Lean on other forms of contact outside of Zoom. Whether you keep in touch via Whatsapp, Telegram, email or Facebook, let your students know you are thinking of them. Remember, they’re also going through their own troubles off-screen. Your care still matters. It matters more than you think.
- Do some trial runs to find the right spot with the best light, least echo and strongest wifi signal. Here are some tips on online teaching and set-up.
- Say thank you when they do make the effort to attend Zoom classes. Those students are making a bigger effort than many others. It is still a privilege to teach, even when it is in a crappy format.
- Shorter is better. The sheer cognitive load of something as difficult as karate over a medium like Zoom makes it a double-whammy. And if your students are also doing Zoom for school, they are going to be exhausted by the time they do karate. Max 45 minute classes for your seniors. Also, some students don’t have wifi- they might be spending a lot of data to attend your Zoom class.
- If you can, investing in some equipment will make your life easier. Get a good tripod, and haul your laptop in so that you can see multiple students at once. We use a phone for the good-quality front camera, and a laptop to see all the students at once.
- Come up with a specific sign language so that students can catch your attention. I like to use jazz hands right up against the screen – they don’t turn on mics without permission, and it catches my attention much faster. Make this something fun and specific to your dojo.
- Replicate some dojo routine. Still do your warm-ups. Still insist on bowing. They must still excuse themselves to go to the bathroom. Encourage them to wear a gi. It goes without saying, but wear your full gi as well. Yes, your pants too. Don’t be that guy.
- Take 5 or so minutes at the beginning and end of class to leave the mics on and chat with the kids who arrive early. Ask about their pets, ask if they’ve had a heavy school load today. Let them see their dojo friends, and then focus them all together for the class.
- Make use of the Spotlight video option when teaching on Zoom. I haven’t used any other platforms, so I can’t speak about any other features.
- Be patient as people drop in and out because of their connections. Some kids tune in late because we are competing with online classes at the same time. Try to be grateful that they are trying, rather than frustrated when they’re not attending perfectly. Yes, I know, it is irritating to have to stop what you are doing to let kids into the meeting room, but it’s not being done on purpose.
- This is not the time to be a hard-ass. Be kind.
How To Make It Better: Parents and Students
- If you can, please pay your fees. This is really the only way to make sure there’s a physical dojo to return to. If you have lost your job, your Sensei understands. Let us know! It’s the ghosting that kills us. We can pause accounts, and wait for your return one day.
- Try to treat Zoom like the dojo – dress in gi, listen as you normally would, try your best.
- Drop your Sensei a message excusing yourself if you can’t make Zoom for whatever reason. It helps us to know why we don’t see you – is it data? No internet at home? Time clash? Not enough devices? We understand.
- Parents, we know that there has been a massive change in routine for the kids. Part of the fun of the dojo is seeing their friends. Try remind them that their friends are training too. Dangle an extra reward. Chat to Sensei about your troubles and see how you can reach out to your little one. Offer to train with them – Sensei will be delighted to see it.
Every day, I think about how great it will be to see my students again. I miss them so much. I even miss the farting and the giggling that results. I miss hanging out with the adults for those extra minutes after class. I can’t wait until we reopen. I am sure that you feel that way too – that karate was never meant for this. But karate has survived wars – it will survive this. Now we must use that line from the dojo kun: practice earnestly with creativity. Keep training, take care of your students, and be a source of strength. Yes, it will be hard: that which gives light must endure burning. Right now, instructors must work hard to maintain their students and keep up with the changes thrust upon us. We have to be more creative, more disciplined, more patient than ever before. But if you can survive this, you will come out of it with a newfound appreciation for teaching, for students, and for the dojo.
How have you been coping with Zoom? Share your stories below – we would love to hear your thoughts.
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…
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.)
You’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.
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.
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.
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 Telegram, but 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.)
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.
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.
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.