Saturday, October 22, 2016

One of these is not like the other...

As my solo karate teaching has been going on for about a year (Training Partner Ed and his family moved south last October), I'm noticing things that I never really noticed before.

For instance, whether teaching or studying the martial arts, I don't really remember comparing two karate-ka before - as in a "they are the same rank but they are very different" kind of way.

The reason I'm having to do that now is because another grading is coming up. And for the first time in a long time, I have two students going for the same new rank.

One of them is 12-year-old. He was away from the dojo for almost a year, then came back like a person possessed. His kihon, kata and kumite have all improved 10-fold. He actually came back to the dojo a better karate-ka than when he left.

The other is 10, and was away from the dojo for the summer. His basics and kata have stagnated although his kumite has improved a bit. He missed a few weeks since school started due to an injury, but his focus is good and he genuinely seems like he wants to be there.

Interestingly enough, they are fine-tuning the same kata together - going over stances, hand positions and the like - in preparation for the upcoming grading. Again, they are the same rank and have been training for roughly the same amount of time, but in everything from how they tie their belts to how they shift stances and where they place their feet, it's kinda evident that the younger student has fallen a bit behind his dojo brother.

They both will grade and probably earn their next rank, but I can already see the separation. And I do anticipate it being an issue as they continue to train through mudansha. My big fear is that I will lose my younger student if he gets frustrated by feelings of not being "as good as" his dojo mate and winds up discouraged. As often as it is said, it's usually very difficult for the younger lot to understand the idea of the individual nature of the each person's martial path.

See, when there were two of us instructing and issues like this came up, we often switched up primary teaching duties. For instance, when Training partner Ed had difficulties teaching his son on occasion (as lots of parent instructors often do) I'd take over the lesson and work with his son for a bit. If two students didn't gel or frustration was developing, we usually staved it away by having Ed work with one student while I worked with the other. Saved everyone lots of frustration and kept the desire to learn high.

Now that it's just me and I don't have anyone to trade instruction duties with, I miss those days a lot.

What do other instructors do when they have two students who could and probably should be working at the same level but aren't? Any tips and techniques you'd like to share?