Teaching: How to improve your Karate while helping others

Thursday class with Sensei Ceiplik and his younger students.

Often, I get questions from fellow Karate students on how they can improve their Karate. Many times, the simple answers are, pull your draw hand back, bring your knee up higher before you kick and breath along with the other standard things. Those answers can help but what I have found, if you really want to improve your karate, start teaching others.

Sometimes, the student becomes the teacher

Watching others while they train is a massive benefit to your own training. You see things that others are doing, that you might not be doing while training. When you are teaching you can see a students foot position or the way they execute a technique that you can apply to you own training. It’s those tiny details you see that you can use to improve your Karate. When you are training yourself, you are focusing on your own movements but when you are teaching, you can get a clear picture of how others do the same movements you are doing.

Even beginners can help you improve

After teaching Heian Shodan thousands of times, I started to notice something interesting. Most new students will follow exactly what they are being taught. This was an eye opener for me since I noticed that a group of students I was working with were all learning forward while doing their techniques. At that time, I had an issue with my hips and lower back which caused me to learn forward when executing my techniques and almost all of the students I was working with had the same leaning posture.

Even simple things like incorrect hand placement at the end of a technique can be seen as if you are looking into many mirrors of yourself. This not only helps you find your errors but it also helps make you a better teacher and forces you to focus on making your techniques and posture correct when teaching them.

Carry on the Art

This is one area about being volunteer instructor that is important to me. Many years ago, one of my instructors, Sensei Cieplik, told a story about when he asked his instructor how he could repay him for all that he taught him and the answer he received was, find two students that will carry on our art. The idea of what was learned being lost really bothered me and from that moment, my reasons for volunteering as an instructor changed.

Even though Shotokan Karate has evolved over the years and now with the inclusion of Karate in the Olympics, there are still fundamentals that are needed to keep the essence of the art alive. These fundamentals might be very specific to individual instructors, such as techniques or philosophy, but if they are forgotten, future students will never understand what the masters were trying to pass down to them. These fundamentals might come to you in a short time or take many years of training for you to understand but if you are are persistent and patient in your training, they will come to you and make you and maybe others better Karateka.


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