"Punch with your right hand. . . no, the OTHER right hand!"

I've been assisting Mr. Mc with the kids' class for the past several weeks. Now I'm helping out on a regular basis because attendance has gone from something like 5-9 regulars to 15 this past week. We have a lot of new white belts who have only been to a handful of classes, so it has been a trying time keeping them in line and focused. The more instructors and advanced belts on the floor, the better.

We've been focusing on stances and it's been a trying time to get them all to move the correct arm or leg consistently. Whether it's "Punch with your right hand" or "Slide your left leg forward," there's almost always several who do the opposite.

I know that part of this problem is due the use of the mirror image. If I'm facing a student and I take a step to the left, they take a step to the right. It's frustrating when you're trying to teach them the correct way of doing things, but I know from personal experience that adults need time to get used to this concept and we still mess up sometimes. On Monday, I went to a Zumba class at my church. The instructor was facing us, and at least 80% of the class mixed up the directions. I thought this was funny as the majority of the women in class were adults. If adults have problems with this, then you can bet that the kids are having way more trouble. Some of this can't be helped. When we line up and bow in to start class, the instructors always face the students. Once class has started, I usually try to line up with the students and face the same way they are so they can watch me as I demonstrate the stances.

Mr. Mc did find a method that helped the kids remember which leg moves to go into a front stance. When he told them to move their right leg but they moved their left instead, he had them all grab a chair and hold their left leg up for several minutes until it became uncomfortable. Once they were allowed to put both feet on the ground, he called out the stance again. Surprise, surprise! Every student remembered which leg to move this time around. The next week he threatened to use the same torture-- I mean drill -- if they confused their left from right. Everyone reassured him that they would remember, and they did. Discomfort can be a good teacher, or at least, good motivation.


T. said...

Try to stand next to the person if you can. When I assisted in a classroom, the teacher told me that standing in front of the student's desk was interpreted as an aggressive stance. If I really wanted to work with the student, I should stand or kneel down next to their desk.

It is slightly different with many students. What you might think about doing is demonstrating the technique twice--first, with your back to them and then facing them. Modeling others is a basic human instinct through which we learn a variety of behaviors, and it cannot be used enough when teaching.


Michele said...


For young beginners, I like to use other terms...door side, mirror side, patch side etc.

In my experience, children follow directionality better if the instructor is facing the students. Adults seem to follow better when the instructor is facing the same direction as the student.

T makes a good point about being on the same level as students. It is a good tool in the classroom and in the dojo.

Good luck!

Charles James said...

Have you considered assuming the mirror stance and movement of those you face?

I found quickly that if I assumed stances and such as if I were their mirror they got it.

At least till they get the fundamentals, etc.

Matt said...

Ohh yes, that left and right stuff is such a classic problem.

When you introduce a mirror element, it can be compounded.

For as long as I have been teaching littl'ns, this has come up.

Ariel said...

Matt - The only other thing that frustrates me more than the right and left confusion is struggling with keeping everyone focused for more than a couple minutes at a time. I used to think that I had a lot of patience, but this kids' class is teaching me to have more.

Tracy - Good tips! If I'm the only one working with a group of students, I usually find myself demonstrating only one way - facing them or facing away from them. I'll work on doing both to see how that works.

Michele - I haven't considered using different terms like that. Thanks for the idea! Now that I think of it, my instructors have sometimes done this, using the mural on the wall for an example of direction.

Charles James - I have not assumed the mirror stance of the ones I face. That would take some serious concentration so I wouldn't confuse myself! Thanks for the suggestion!