In school, children are preoccupied with a routine that includes recess, snack time, lunch periods, hop scotch and all the other fun stuff associated with learning (which understandably in a child's mind ranks a distant second).
In a dojo far away from the safety of a classroom and playgrounds, the stage is set for different type of learning. Teaching straight forward with less interaction, I ignored “why?” questions and instead asked inquisitive minds to just “listen and learn.” Once accused of being harsh and a disciplinarian, I kindly suggested the parents to find another dojo and offered their money back. No one took my offer (Some parents felt a need to criticize).
With that said and in as much as opinions flew about my strict style, I did not consider myself a task master. Compared to my adult classes, I structured tamed downed versions that were fun and interesting, emphasizing goal settings, winning is not everything but doing your best is, regardless of the outcome, never say “can’t” and instead “I’ll try my best sensei” attitude; respecting themselves, parents, elders, authority figures, friends and so forth. I also had them memorize “dojo kun”. Saying it, making it their mantra encouraged them to strive for excellence and be good young citizens. I also emphasized that kihon or basics is what need to be mastered, not fancy kata or kumite. Like in school, if we mastered the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic, then when we strive for perfection as we grow older; all the hard work developing that base will pay off as we become productive adults.
Kids also like screaming at the top of their lungs. I told them I was hard of hearing and needed them to scream during kia and when they were required to say “os” or “hai wakirimaska” “domo arigato gozia m’sta sensei.” Of course, every once in awhile a six year old kid would scream at the top of his/her lungs, “Sensei, I have to go pee, really bad. May I sensei, please, please, please?” Very hard to remain stern faced when that happens.
Though I’ve trained under many masters, if I had a teaching style, I would say I patterned myself after the late Master Richard Kim. I no longer teach karate but still see influences of my work. A young man who I did not recognized, stopped in front of me while I was shopping, bowed and said “os.” Then he resumed telling me his name “Jason” which in my tenure taught about 15 of them, his successes in college, the armed forces, family and so forth. I was touched by this and understood then that karate training is not for just a fleeting moment in a child’s life, but for a lifetime.