First Week of Class as a Black Belt

This past Tuesday was filled with a lot of firsts. First class as a black belt. First time to wear an all black gi (Boo-ya!). First time to not line up alongside the students in the adult class, and the first time to teach in class as a black I said, a lot of firsts.

I was excited to the point of barely being able to sit still as I drove to class. Putting on that black gi and black belt felt wonderful. A colored belt student is only allowed to wear the white gi / white t-shirt and white pants. A black belt has the option of wearing all white, all black, or a mix of the two. After nine years of all white, you bet that I'm going to be wearing solid black for the next several months.

I helped Mr. Mc set up for the kids' class. We've started putting tape down on the floor so that the students know where to stand and will stay in a somewhat organized line. I put down the tape and discovered when I got to the end of a couple rows that my straight lines looked more like random zigzags.

Usually, we average around 20-25 kids from the ages of 4 to about 11. Once class starts, we run the kids through a warmup and have them run laps to attempt to relieve them of some of their unlimited energy. After some group work, we try to split the group up by rank so that each instructor has small number of students.

For my first class as a black belt, I was told to run the class through the warmup while Mr. G and Mr. Mc watched, stretched, and walked around the room. To end the warmup, I had the kids run back and forth across the room. The yellow belts then did progressive front snap kicks, and the white belts stepped and punched.

After a quick water break, I was told to line all the kids up and run them through the last four techniques from our Basic Blocks and Punches form. Usually when we do this, we only get through the first four techniques in a front stance. The majority of the white belts in class are fairly new and haven't had the experience of doing the last four techniques over and over. This time, I was to run the show instead of assisting and correcting technique like I normally do.

I began calling out the technique that they were to step and do, and we slid across the room doing the same technique over and over before turning and heading back. It didn't take long for the lines to get all jumbled (which is normal) and for the newer and youngest kids to start losing interest. Mr. G announced this to be and asked what I was going to do to fix it. I wasn't sure what he meant. In my head, I knew the best way to resolve this was to split everyone up by rank and start teaching from whatever base they had. I wasn't sure if he meant for me to do this or to keep going with the drill and just pick up the pace so there was less downtime. I went with the latter.

Mr. G decided to split everyone up and I had the five newest students. One was brand new and the others had been coming to class for a month or less. By far, I think I got the hardest, most inattentive group. I barely got through teaching the bow in and basic commands before class time was up. It was constantly, "Eyes on me," "Switch legs. No, the other leg!" and "Be still!" They were a frustrating group, especially with the noise and distraction from the other groups around us - not the ideal situation for newbies - but we got through it.

We ended up having only two students in the adult class. Blue belt J.M., and a new guy named J. I was told to lead the warmup again, and once I finished with that, I noticed that none of the other instructors were coming to take over - so we moved on to front snap kicks. Mr. G told me that he had wanted J to learn Basic Blocks and Punches tonight, so I had my blue belt fall off to the side and practice his form for brown belt. I then walked J through the form while Mr. G worked with J.M. on his form.

Overall it was a good class and I enjoyed teaching.

This past Thursday, I got a call from Mr. Mc saying that Mr. G was sick and he wasn't feeling well himself, so I had all.... four of the students. I said that was fine with me and that I would see him on Tuesday.

Though this wasn't the first class I've lead on my own, it was another first - leading a class by myself as a black belt. Instead of the four that Mr. Mc said I would have, I had a total of nine students, including one adult and the youngest in our kids' class - the four year old. One of the students was a yellow stripe, two were yellow belts, and the rest were white belts. An interesting range to work with in both age and rank! I lead my students in a thorough warmup and had them do a few partner stretches with each other, then it was kicks for the rest of the night.

I had one discipline issue to take care of that night. After letting my students go out to the hall for water, I immediately heard yelling and running down the hall.  Two of the yellow belts and one white belt came running back into the room. I stopped them, reminded them that we don't yell and run while in class, then had them do pushups. When everyone came back into the room, I had them go to ready position and I talked to them about the rules we have for them as a class and about their behavior.

We finished up with class and after making final comments, I dismissed them for the night. A few of the parents, a few of the older students, and I set the chairs back up in the room. The one adult came up to me asking for clarification on a few of the techniques and I began walking her through them. I tried to make sure to take some extra time to make sure she got a good handle on what she had questions about. In the meantime, I heard yelling and running out in the hall again. I excused myself and walked out to see what was up. It was my two yellow belts this time - a ten year old and an seven year old - and one had a hammer in hand and was chasing the other. They were playing, not fighting...but....SIGH. I was more than a little peeved, seeing as we had just had a talk not thirty minutes before about the running and screaming. I brought them back into the room and told them to wait as I finished answering the questions that the adult student had. After that, I had them sit down and asked them if they knew what this talk was about. The younger boy said no, so I reminded them of the talk we had had in the middle of class and they had agreed to the "no more running and screaming in class" rule....and then what is the first thing they do after class? Run and Scream. We had a good long talk and I told them that they were yellow belts and the white belts would be following their example.


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Kouhei Tsukuda, Chunin, Gyokku Ninja Clan said...

Hello Ariel,
Thank you for a wonderful post - I've been reading through your blog, and you have a very nice style of writing - very autobiographical. I feel I am almost standing there in the dojo watching you train.

That said, one's first steps to becoming a teacher are unforgettable. At the end of the long journey of one's training, one finds that the journey is only just begun, that vast new horizons have opened with becoming a teacher, and that a teacher has much to learn from even the humblest of his or her students.

Such a fascinating journey. I started my own training in Karate at the age of three, and since then have experienced the wisdom of many fine martial arts sensei. I think that when one teaches, one pays a little of the great debt that one owes to one's own teachers.

Perhaps I am too philosophical :) My sincere apologies.

Keep up the wonderful writing - I think one day you could put together your writings into a lovely book, to inspire martial artists on their own 'journeys'.
Most sincerely,
- Tsukuda

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