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Sensei For A Day! And 4 other ideas to keep students engaged while mitigating risk.

As school owners, we know that dojos and gyms all look different now. If you are able to train in person, your class sizes may be smaller. Your school may just be online or like us, a hybrid of in-person and online. We are all dealing with massive changes at our locations and have had no choice but to pivot and alter our course. AT NRVTK, here in Virginia, we continue to feel the loss of students due to COVID-19. Although we have challenges, we have committed to looking toward the future and being optimistic about our growth. So we continue to plan and forge ahead as our purpose becomes more clear.

With every passing month that schools are only partially open, we are beginning to hear comments like, "I just like coming to class and talking with other people", one teen told me. A 14-year-old mentioned that socializing with her friends at karate gives her energy before class. At a time like this, karate can almost be thought of as the by-product of giving kids, tweens, teens, and adults a place to go and be around others so they can connect and build relationships. Of course, we are doing it as safely as we can and mitigating as much risk as possible. In the spirit of karate, we will keep fighting through the obstacles as if our lives depend on it. Your dojo or MMA gym may be the only place outside of your students' homes where they can grow in mind and body by being actively engaged in physical activity.

"Go ahead and be non-traditional for an hour or two."

Learning karate or BJJ just for the love of the art is a motivator for most adults. But children may need a fun change to keep things fresh and new for them. This is no way weakens the integrity of the art, so go ahead and be non-traditional for an hour or two. Your students, both adults, and children need to know that you are human. Use these four tried and true ideas at your school. If you aren't the organizer type ask a junior student or a karate parent for their help with putting it all together.

Pre-COVID we offered tournaments, seminars, and special events. Although we don’t have plans as of yet for in-person tournaments, we are planning on continuing our seminars and special events for our in-person and Zoom classes. Here are a few ideas for some fun and out of the box special events that you can host at your school. We offer these special events for free, as the cost to host them is minimal and they are done during regular class time. However, they can be easily monetized. We have found these simple special events get the children excited for class and breaks up the monotony of training.

  • Glow-Karate Night! Provide glow-sticks to the children and turn the light off to train in the dark. We plan this in the fall or winter. There are so many variations of glow-sticks that can be worn. We get ours from the Dollar Store and give each student five or so to wear. Be careful though as a glow-stick will inevitably burst and your mats will be covered in the mysterious glowing liquid. This can be done in person or over Zoom. We ask our Zoom parents to buy them ahead of time, we don’t feel like this is a huge burden on the parents. This worked really well on Zoom and it was fun for everyone to watch glowing lights doing their movements in the dark. One student went all out and was covered from head to toe and it was hilarious!

  • Karate in Costumes! During the week of Halloween, we allow our kids to come to class dressed up in a costume that they can work out in. The class format is relaxed a little but they still have to train! It is so fun to watch ghosts and goblins doing kata! Be sure to wear your Daniel-san headband (you know you have one) and drop the Sensei-tude for an evening. We turned on some Halloween music and played freeze dance and charades. We included board breaking and some light drilling as well. And they were able to take some candy home with them.

  • Punches for Popsicles! We usually do this in the summer or early fall. Always check with parents for allergies first- we have a space on our waivers that asks the parent about allergies. We buy the long popsicles that have to be cut open- they are very inexpensive and the kids have never turned them down! We do a lot of drilling with punches and then end with a cool treat that they have earned.

  • Bubble Gum blowing contest! This can be a Zoom alternative to Punches for Popsicles! We had a lot of fun with this! We gave the parents plenty of notice so they could buy gum. There were two rules: #1- You can use as many pieces of gum as you’d like and #2- You had three chances to blow your biggest bubble. What does this have to do with Karate you ask? Nothing! Other than keeping our students engaged and excited to show up for their Zoom classes. We treat this COVID time as the unique time it is and we are going to do things that we don’t normally do in the dojo because we can! We ended with a short workout and the kids loved it!

  • Sensei for a Day- We hosted this just with our Zoom class. The students with the best attendance for October were deemed the"Sensei for a Day." I gave them some loose guidelines to follow such as write down a warm-up or do a 100 kick or punch challenge. The kids were more engaged than ever and I had a fun night off from teaching. It's always fun to reverse roles once in awhile and I and teased the kids, interrupting them while they were teaching and asking silly questions all while calling them Sensei. But beware they will have you doing a milion and one jump kicks! I had to unmute and raise my hand and ask the mini Sensei if I could switch to punches!

I hope these non-traditional special events work for you and your students! I know the children will love them and although it will feel like a waste of precious training time, it may be the boost a student needs to get them to remind their parents to get them to karate class ASAP! Let me know what you think! Happy Training! Oss!


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