Kyoshi's Technique of the Week

February 5th , 2017

This week's thought is from Kyoshi David Baker,
Chief Administrator,
Ueshiro Shorin-Ryu Karate USA

Domo arigato gozaimasu to Hanshi, the Kyoshi, the Denshi/Shihan, the Shihan, the Sensei, the Black Belts, and the Kyu ranks who made this 55th Anniversary Weekend so special in Florida. Jennifer Sangalang, (promoted to Ni-Dan this weekend) helped memorialize it in her Florida Today article in today's newspaper. Thank you to Kyoshi Seeger for videotaping the groups on the beach Saturday in a new 360º format. Thank you to Hanshi and Kyoshi Seeger and Kyoshi Mackay for running the weekend and for giving everyone more sugar than is legal in several states.

Great weekend everyone.

I would now like to focus on the lifeblood of our system--the White Belts--and our need to keep get more every year, to continue to grow our system.

White Belts

Limit the talk, keep them moving

When working with first-time beginners, keep talk to a minimum. Let them mimic your moves and correct what’s necessary. However, words can be a hindrance to them learning the technique. After all, they’re trying to learn a lot in a little time. Words can add another layer of complexity; except of course to encourage and reward when they do something correctly: “good job”, “that’s it”, “great”.

Work basics first, with the goal to get them doing Fukyugata ichi as soon as they are able. First by themselves with you next to them, and then within the group.

We have a tendency to follow the slogan: “If you see something, say something.” However, that’s not always the best for beginners. Don’t make fine corrections. Focus on the most basic ones like “step first”, “relax and breathe”, “tight fist”, etc. The finer points can wait for a later time, after they’ve learned the fundamentals.

Physical touch is understood quicker than words

Touch the body where appropriate. (Always exercise caution when touching someone of the opposite sex, so that there can be no hint of impropriety.)

In F1, where the kata requires that the rear foot step back and to the side, you can lightly tap their rear foot with yours, to identify it. This physical touch makes it easier for them to understand.
The fist lightly pushed back into the pocket is easier to comprehend initially and to remember later, than the words; and shows how far back you want.
Men, especially, are prone to hold tension in their trap muscles, but a touch to those can identify which muscles to relax.

I think back to when Master Ueshiro first came to the United States. He didn’t speak English well and went around the room, fixing techniques by physically touching and correcting the Deshi. There were no words to get in the way. In some ways, those early students may have had it easier to learn.

Break it down into its component parts

Any technique can be broken down into bite-sized pieces. For instance, if a beginner has difficulty learning a basic technique, break it down. For instance, while squatting, have them do the Chudan-uke with just the arms, without stepping. This makes it simple. Then, once they can do the arm movements of the technique, have them step while doing it.

Keep it simple, and use easy-to-understand building blocks when necessary.

Beginners are “gold”

They’re probably nervous. Unsettled. Try to welcome them and make them feel valued. And point out that they’re making progress—because they are. We all learn at a different pace, but we are always learning, always moving forward. They just might not be aware of it at first, overwhelmed by what they don’t know. Your validation that they’re “doing it” is incentive for them to keep striving.

If there’s time at the end of class, you can reward their effort by demonstrating an intermediate kata (like a Pinan) performed by the group, to show them what’s possible with perseverance. An inspiring goal.

We need them. They are our future, to keep our precious art flourishing.

In conclusion:

Keep it simple. Keep them moving. Keep them motivated.

This TOTW is dedicated to Sensei Eddie Garcia, who made White Belts feel like gold.

Domo arigato gozaimasu,
Kyoshi David Baker,
Chief Administrator,
Ueshiro Shorin-Ryu Karate USA
founded by Grand Master Ansei Ueshiro
under the direction of Hanshi Robert Scaglione
New York, NY • USA