Teaching Breakthrough


Last week I was teaching kesa gatame. It was almost an exact replay of teaching kesa back in October, and I still felt like I sucked at teaching, but I at least saw a lot of good progress from where the students (especially newer ones) started the evening and where the finished the evening, so I must have taught something right. Andrew also had a really good question with respect to something Henry Akins showed at a seminar. Unfortunately, I don’t do kesa the same way as Henry Akins so I couldn’t really answer it.

This Wednesday Mike let me show some kesa gatame details and escapes. It was surreal. He stopped me to show people details I didn’t even realize I was doing. For example – the escape I refer to as “the uphill escape” where you bridge into tori and pull your elbow to the mat to escape out the backdoor of kesa (to take tori’s back), I brace my arm against my ribs/hip when I’m creating the frame against tori’s back. I just instinctually do that because it’s what I need to do to generate power. I don’t recall ever being shown to do it. It was really nice being able to show the technique, but have someone with more knowledge about how to teach there to stop and point out which details are the ones people will miss during the demonstration.

So, lessons from the last two times I’ve taught now:

  • I’m way more comfortable teaching when I have the safety net of an actual instructor to add details or correct things I say. I’d like to try to teach more with this kind of a safety net system were I to start trying to become a full fledged instructor.
  • After showing a technique, the 1-2-clap might feel silly, but it serves as a good indication that the demonstration is over and students need to grab a partner. As much as I want to resist this one, I’m giving in and using it.
  • I feel weird having people bow to me, but ceremony at the end of class is a good indication for everyone that class is over. I need to get over feeling weird being on the instructor side of the lineup when I teach. I don’t know why I feel like I need a black belt to be on that side – it’s probably a judo thing.
  • Demonstrate once, show with some details, demonstrate again, ask if anyone needs to see it a fourth time works really well. Breaking a single technique into two iterations of this to show different details might be even better.
  • People need to see transitions just as much as they need to see submissions. It always feels better to show an armbar or some other way to finish the fight, but how and when to enter into a position are arguably more important.
  • 3 “techniques” is about all the time there is in class for. 30 minutes is warming up and introducing the concept we’ll be working on, 30 minutes is rolling, so each technique ends up being about 10 minutes of repetition. Any more than that and people get bored and start doing other stuff. Any less and they don’t really seem to retain it by the end of the night.
  • I really like stretching at the end of class, and other recreationalists seem to enjoy it as well (one student even commenting on how much she liked ending with stretching). Dropping warm-ups where we run and jump and get exhausted in favor of stretching at the end is definitely going to be part of classes I teach. We’ll still warm-up with a drill for the technique or position we’re doing each night, but I think we can skip the running and go right to line drills or partner drills.
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