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Friday, May 18, 2012

YMCA Class Overview

I started teaching kid's karate classes at the Cape Ann YMCA in April of 2011. As of now, I am a 3rd degree black belt in a style called Ryuchi, which basically means mixed style karate (it incorporates techniques from several styles, making for a well-rounded martial arts experience). It's fun, challenging, and no matter how much experience I have I'm always learning something new.

The way I teach is non-traditional in the sense that I am not a "drill sergeant" type of instructor, I try to make every class fun and engaging. Some may not agree with this type of martial arts instruction, but it's important to keep in mind that these are kids, and this is the YMCA, not an actual dojo where students are more likely to take it seriously. I do plan out every lesson, but sometimes the lessons don't always go as planned.Well... it certainly keeps me on my toes!

Here is my general list of guidelines that I expect every student to follow:

  • Listen to Sensei (and/or Peer Leader) and follow directions
  • Wear cool, comfortable clothing under your uniform (not jeans)
  • No jewelry, long hair tied back/ secured
  • Only eat/drink in designated area (not on training floor)
  • Always be respectful of others, both in and out of class
  • Practice at home at least a few days a week to ensure continued progress
Below is the ranking system I use, starting from the bottom and moving up (please note that other styles/ schools may be different):

White, yellow and orange are considered the Novice ranks, where expectations are more lenient. Green, blue and purple are the Intermediate ranks, expectations rise and difficulty level increases. Brown and red are Advanced ranks, where the difficulty increases significantly and expectations are high. Black belt is expert level; at this point the student takes more responsibility for his or her training.

Each color (with the exception of black), has 4 levels (or "degrees"). The solid color is called "observation", where the student is learning new techniques appropriate to that rank. Then the first stripe (or "1st degree"), the student learns a drill incorporating some or all of those moves, plus some new techniques. On the second stripe (2nd degree), the student learns a second drill, slightly more complex. Finally, on the third stripe or "3rd degree", the student learns a form or "kata", which they must perform in order to move up to the next belt level.

Once the level of black belt is reached, a student can expect many changes to take place in his or her training. Black belt also has degrees (up to 10th degree), but it's meaning and requirements are very different from the color belts, where the training is more structured and "by-the-book". Observation to 3rd degree black belt is considered Expert, 4th to 7th degree is Master, 8th to 10th degree is Grand-master. I'll explain more about this in a later post.

After every class I always hang around for a little while if students have questions or need extra help. I'm a very approachable instructor and always reward my students who put forth an extra effort. I'm a believer in reward rather than punishment or harsh discipline. It may not be as immediately effective, but I think it encourages personal growth in the long-run and sends a positive message, and the result will be apparent later down the road.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Ok so... trying my hand at blogging. I thought this would be a good resource for my students (and their parents) to refer to for class updates, curriculum and training exercises to do at home. I will also share my own ongoing martial arts journey and my experiences teaching at the Cape Ann YMCA, as well as tutorials (when I have the time to do them). Hope you enjoy it, and please feel free to leave reviews and comments.

-Sensei Kristalyn