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The Karate WarmUp- Use it to engage your students.

Updated: Jan 28, 2021

We all know that we should warm up our bodies before we exercise. No matter what age or physical level the warm-up is an integral component of any workout. A good warm-up can help us avoid injuries and lead to more endurance and an overall better workout. But because there is so much information we could be teaching, we want to get to the meat of the lesson quickly to make sure we get it all in.

So what do we do? We put exactly no thought into the warm-up and rush through it as quickly as possible.

I’ll tell you the three ways you can have a more meaningful warm-up. Do these things and your class will run more smoothly and be more enjoyable for both you and your students.

1. Do YOUR warm-up before the class warm-up.

I know, mind blown, right? As coaches of a physical sport, we can fall prey to giving all that we have to everyone else and neglecting ourselves. It may be true that you have less time to train because of all the teaching you are doing. This is why you need to pay closer attention to YOUR warm-up before the first student even bows in. Take the extra time to do your joint rotations, dynamic stretches and cardio not only to avoid pulled muscles but so you will be more relaxed and excited to teach. As you move your body, your brain will also begin to get pumped and you will begin to think more inspirationally (you may even be reminded of the reason you love your job!).

2. Rotate and Renew.

Decide how often you want to rotate your warm-up. This implies you will be intentional and put some thought into this time before the core of the class. Then rotate your warmups on your content calendar and curriculum. Make sure to start with the easy version of the exercise demonstrating lots of modifications. Five to ten minutes should be sufficient for kids, adults may need longer, and in that time you can add in simple karate technique. Renew-always be infusing your warm-ups with new versions of old exercises and brand new movements. Think outside of the box- you don’t always have to do jumping jacks and push-ups- try animal walks or technique mixed in with non-traditional exercises (I like scorpions), add music to the warm ups-anything to stimulate your students' thinking and movement.

This video may give you some ideas, check out this sample warm-up we do at our school.

3. Train your students to do the warm-up.

The quickest way to burn out is to do everything yourself. Once you have an idea of what you want your warm-up to look like it’s time to delegate. How do we do this? Get what you want to teach down on paper but make sure you have physically taught it yourself. Have a conversation with a student that goes like this, ”I see how hard you work out and you seem to enjoy the class. I could really use some help with the warm-ups and I’d be happy to guide you through how to do one. Would you be interested in helping out with the warm-ups?” The other students will enjoy learning from someone other than you, crazy as that sounds, and it gives you a little break. Just make sure you give a time frame so the warm-up doesn’t eat up valuable class time. You will be creating a culture of welcoming different perspectives that will allow for everyone's growth.

The warm-up need not be boring and can be a springboard for an amazing class. When done right, it can set an energetic tone and will get your students pumped up and ready to learn. There aren’t many cons that I can think of, of being intentional with your warm-up. There are however cons to doing the same old boring warm-up class after class after class: low energy, disengagement, and injury.

If you aren’t the instructor and you’d like to see something new at the beginning of class think about volunteering to run the warm-up. It could be that your Sensei just hadn’t thought about having someone else do it. Write out a warm-up, go over it with your coach and ask for their guidance. When you follow through you can be proud that you pushed yourself into an uncomfortable space and grew in the process.

I hope this helped you to think about the warm-up differently and that it engages your students more fully with your classes! Remember to have fun with it, because if you are excited about your warm-ups, your students will follow suit! What do your warm-ups look like? I'd love to hear from you! Thanks for reading!


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