Bad Technique Trumps Experience by John Johnston

Don't take your eyes off your apponantOne of my first memories teaching was as a 3rd KYU. As brown belts we were given the task of taking the Sunday morning class.  There were 8 of us 3rd and 2nd KYU’s and we would take it turns to teach. On this particular Sunday it was my turn. My chosen theme for the day was GYAKU TSUKI (reverse punch). After drilling it in basics in various ways with lots of reps up and down the Dojo. This was always the order of the day, rep after rep until failure, really hard work especially after a night on the beer. Next came some partner work. I called out Joe, to demonstrate on. Joe was the same grade as me and he was a big lad of 6ft 4in, heavily built and therefore a good opponent to demonstrate with. In those days heavy body contact was the norm. So having demonstrated a simple block and counter, I turned away from Joe to talk to the class. A look on the faces of the student’s told me something wasn’t right. I turned back to Joe only to find him on his hands and knees about to keel over completely. The moral of this story is the bigger they come the faster they fall and no amount of whispering out of the corner of your mouth “Joe get up” will make up for a bad control and lack of a hard stomach.

FULL CIRCLE By John Johnston


This is an email I received from one of my Dan grade student’s of whom I’d asked to help on a Kid’s Adaptive Karate course
“Thank you for taking the time to show your appreciation. John’s classes should be bursting at the seams because he teaches so much effective self-defence & karate each and every lesson. Why your numbers are not better for these classes is totally beyond me but I’m glad that those who did attend learnt so much, even if they don’t realise it just yet.”

Don’t you think Karate may have turned full circle? What I mean by that is when Martial Arts first came into being it was initially solo training, later, one Instructor and student or just practitioners getting together exchanging ideas or sparring. Later Instructors would hold classes with just a few students. These classes would be very intense and robust, concentrating on Kata, Kata Bunkai, Self Defence and conditioning.

These students were very dedicated and would be very grounded to their art gaining a deep and meaningful understanding of Karate.

Later with the expansion of Karate to Japan and then to the world, we find that the principles, ethos and ethics changed dramatically with sport and commercialization take precedence. Large classes became the norm with techniques being watered down, more spectacular and less effective. Training was taught to cater to people’s vanity and egos. People weren’t pushed or taken out of their comfort zones and grades were easier to obtain.

I now have the feeling that things are changing. I’m not talking about those clubs that are built on an American business model (Mc Dojo’s) or associations that are either sport orientated or have lower standards catering to the mass market. I look at the people who have looked at history and are going back to their Karate roots for knowledge and inspiration. They are bringing a modern approach to the old methods and making karate live again.

You often find that these are smaller classes with the higher intensity of training and better quality of tuition.

In answer to my friend and students question, I am far happier to have a small class of students who work hard together, are willing to learn more and understand Karate, than have a large class of those people who wish to go through the motions.

So don’t demote small class sizes, celebrate and embrace them.