Friday, May 11, 2007

Syllabus and class structure

It is interesting (to me) how the syllabus of material for an art affects how it is taught. For instance, the form of the aikido syllabus that we follow suggests or implies an effective class structure that most of our instructors usually follow. Most of the folks that teach aikido using our syllabus have similar class structures - warmup followed by ukemi followed by tegatana (footwork exercise) followed by hanasu (paired movement exercise) followed either by chains (flow drills) or kata. I typically teach one "cool technique of the day" at the end of class. Randori may be done before or after class but is rarely done as part of class. This is pretty much the class structure for our whole organazation, not because some higher power has said "Thou shalt do it this way" but more because that's just how it makes sense to teach the syllabus. The syllabus implies the class structure.
Contrast that to Judo. The judo syllabus that was handed down from the Kodokan is the Gokyonowaza - five groups of eight techniques for a total of 40 core throws. To this was appended a couple of collections of miscellaneous techniques (shinmeisho no waza and habukareta waza). The groundwork syllabus basically consists of a pile of holds, escapes, jointlocks, and chokes. There was virtually no order or organazation of this material handed down as part of the Kodokan syllabus (at least none that I know of) and as a consequence, there are many different formats for judo classes. Some follow a similar structure to aikido, with warmup, ukemi, learn a few techniques, do some randori. Some classes warmup with groundwork randori, move on to standing randori, and if an instructor sees something he wants to mention then he teaches a technique at the end. Some judo classes teach sequences of events, like here's a throw into this specific hold from which uke can escape this way, setting up such and such on down the line. Some have specific kata days and other specific randori days. Some use kata as a cool-down at the end... Point is, the Kodokan syllabus does not appear to imply any sort of effective class structure.
I have thought about this for a long time. I could probably have asked my higher-ups and gotten a pretty concise answer, but I figured it would be educational to go through the process myself. Only problem is it has taken me several years to come as far as I have in judo. Over the next couple of posts I'll spring what I've come up with regarding structure within the Kodokan syllabus - so stay tuned...


  1. My sons started karate this year and are doing pretty well. It is interesting to see how they teach it as defense for the kids. I am not familiar with judo and how it differs from karate, but your blog is very interesting and well written.

  2. Thanks, Dana. I'm glad to lnow that you like my blog. Keep on coming, and if there is anything I can do to help you or your kids with their martial arts experience, let me know. Keep on checking in - I love comments.

  3. Dana take advantage of any of pat's advice for your kids martial arts careers. I do have a biased opinion because I am his student, but I feel I will have a great future in the martial arts due to following his advice and teachings. Rob


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