Speak clearly
I am not sure why, but Monday night's adult class always seems to be my biggest class of the week.
No matter what the reason, there is no doubt about it, Monday is the night that the dojo rocks the most.
Recently, however, Monday night has taken a whole new meaning for many of the students, much to the delight of the those students below the rank of 1st kyu. It all started one night when I asked a group of senior students I had been working with a few simple questions related to the history of Shotokan Karate.
The answers I got, or should I say the lack of them, made me realize that what a student hears in class, does not always translate into mental memory in the same way that repetitive kihon or kata translates into body memory.
Since I for one have always felt that a student's understanding of karate should run much deeper than just stances, kicks, punches, and kata, I hit upon a solution that I hoped would help impart to my students a greater understanding of the history that surrounds Shotokan. Especially when it comes to the organizations, masters, and sensei's, both past and present, who have contributed so much to our great art.
Now while it is true that very little documentation exist in the West on the early pre-war development of Shotokan, the era that began with the formation of the Japan karate Association (JKA) in 1949 has seen an unprecedented volume of material. Today everything from the standardization of kata and kihon, to the published works and opinions of those early instructors send abroad by the JKA, (who are today amongst the highest ranking Shotokan sensei's in the world) can be found in countless number of books, magazine articles, and web sites. This material is easily available today to students of any rank, and the shear magnitude of it alone clearly establishes Shotokan as the most popular and the most documented form of karate in the world today.
As a result of my disappointment with the answers I received that previous evening I decided that all of the Dan ranks in the dojo, and those students about to take their Sho Dan exam, should be required to give a short two minute talk to the all of the students present on a karate related subject once a week. This would not only expand their knowledge of karate and it's history, but it would also set another good example for all of those students who wish to follow in their footsteps.
The first night I sprung my idea on the students it was a Monday evening.
Much to my surprise with the exception of the Dan ranks, those students that got up to speak not only kept their speeches as short as possible, but they all seemed genuinely at a loss for words when it came to explaining how Shotokan came to be what it is today, or who was responsible for it's globalization.
Since that first Monday night things have changed quite a bit and the results I am pleased to say have been very gratifying. Each Dan rank and 1st kyu is now required to research their topic in advance and the 1st kyu's must turn in a hand written copy of their speech to me after class. The topics have been varied, the research in many cases has been very detailed, and the students themselves seem genuinely pleased by their new knowledge.
In the end we all have benefited, myself included, and I am certain that each student in the dojo now has a much greater appreciation for just how fortunate we all are that the art of Shotokan Karate ever left the shores of Japan in the first place.
The mind like the body, requires a
regular workout in order to stay fit.
Part the clouds - see the way.
"The objective of karate-do is to contribute to the evolution
of the human spirit through physical and mental training."
Sensei Peter Lindsay