Friday, August 15, 2008

Provide endless variety in your martial arts classes

The problem: beating the same old thing to death every single class bores your students and they quit.  So you decide to throw in some variety  by working on something cool and interesting at random in each class and all of a sudden your students stop progressing because they are not getting enough repetition on the core of the system, so you begin customizing lesson plans to their needs and all of a sudden you are eating up hours of your time planning classes.

What you need is an easy way to organize your classes, providing ample repetition but endless variety.  Here’s what I do:

Suppose your system has three main exercises or kata or drills.  For the purposes of this explanation, we’ll call the first one hanasu (which has 8 techniques), the second one junana (17 techniques), and the third one we’ll call owaza (10 techniques).  You can arrange your classes like this:

class 1 – hanasu#1, junana#1, owaza#1
class 2 – hanasu#2, junana#2, owaza#2
and so on for 8 classes, at which point you run out of techniques in hanasu to focus on so you start over with the hanasu while continuing with the others
class 9 – hanasu#1, junana#9, owaza#9
class 10 – hanasu#2, junana #10, owaza#10
now you have run out of techniques in owaza so you start over on owaza while continuing with the others
class 11 – hanasu#3, junana#11, owaza#1

and so on.  The cool thing is that because the three forms or drills have different numbers of techniques and the numbers are not simple multiples of each other, for each class for a very long time you get a different combo of three techniques selected from the core of your system.  The interactions between the three techniques will provide a different challenge to your students bodies and minds for practically forever but because you are repeating fairly small sets in order, you get good repetitions on each individual technique.

For example, in the case above, you get to focus on junana #1 every 18 classes, but each time you practice junana #1 it will be with a different combination of techniques from hanasu and owaza.

Voila! Instant lesson plans forever!


  1. But what about newer students who can't fall properly working on owaza? Also, when do you throw in the chains?

  2. the chains come in the hanasu category. We usually do the whole exercise 1-2 times then do the chains associated with the hanasu move of the night.

    As for owaza, although the way we sometimes practice it can lead to a severe a$$ busting for uke, you can practice the things without destroying uke. Uke's flight path is not what makes owaza interesting and special.

    When it comes down to it, I don't think there is really any prerequisites to any of the stuff in aikido. There is no advanced aikido - just basic aiki done by advanced practitioners. i can safely and effectively teach anything in the syllabus to the first day beginner.


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