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Should Karate Class Be Fun?

Posted Oct 22 2010 5:00am
Every so often the topic of karate class and fun is discussed among the black belt in the dojo. It is a difficult balance especially when working with new and younger students. Last night I taught the second intro lesson to an 8 year old girl. It was the girl’s idea to take karate lessons. In my experience, there is a big difference in the student when it is their idea rather than their parent’s idea.

The intro lesson included straight punches, front snap kick, blocks and self-defense against a push. We used the punching bags and the foam blockers. It was a good session and the girl looked happy when she left the dojo. After the class was over, the other instructor in the dojo asked me if the girl seemed to like karate. His comment about the new student was that during next lesson we need to make sure we do something fun. My reaction was immediate, “Class was fun!” His response, “Fun for you…”

The black belt instructor made a good point. Karate class is fun for me. I like drills, kata, kobudo, self-defense bag work etc. A few weeks ago, we spent 45 minutes discussing the U-punch. That was a fun class too. My idea of a fun karate class is probably not the same as a young student’s idea of a fun karate class. In our dojo, when teaching young students, we disguise basics, movement drills, and balance/coordination exercises in a “game”. We devote the last few minutes of class to “fun” drills.

Flash back eight years ago. I worked as a karate instructor in a dance center for one year. The woman who owned the center wanted to get more boys involved. The owner had a prosperous dance center for young (3-6) children. She saw moms drop off their daughters and walk out of the center with their sons. The owner thought karate was the answer. The program only lasted a year because the facility was not equipped to handle dance and karate. The karate classes were only offered on off-nights due to space limitations.

The owner of the dance center was very good at what she knew. She offered princess tea birthday parties, princess dance camps and beginning ballet and tap. The facility was in the middle of a shopping mall and parents would drop off their children, shop for an hour and return for pickup. The owner did not know anything about traditional karate. At the end of my classes she would stand outside the door and ask each child (in a sugary sweet artificial voice) “Did you have fun?” I realized quickly that teaching a martial art in this environment was not going to work.

So back to my question…should a karate class be fun?
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