Tag Archives: lesson ideas

a space hopper

end of year training with Jeffries

its christmas time, and so today I delivered the last training session of the year for Atlantic Taekwondo.   at the end of year, I like to run sessions that concentrate on having fun more than I usually do.   I have yet to obtain the hallowed Santa’s Dobok, so it was plain old black and whites for me again this year…however, the colours were enlivened today by use of my fantastic bright orange space hopper, that the students nicknamed Jeffries, for some reason.   I was delighted today as for the first time ever, I was presented with a box of chocolates by one of my students, and a different student exclaimed a loud “thank you for the training” during the line up.   I was touched.


warm up

usual stuff here, but whilst jogging around the dojang, students take it in turns ride Jeffries up and down the hall, before handing over to the next student.  you can’t help but smile whilst bouncing away on the big orange fella.

twelve kicks of christmas

pretty much self-explanatory. students each pick one technique, and demonstrate it in front of the class. when twelve techniques have been demonstrated, proceed as follows, substituting your techniques:

  • 1 spinning jumping turning kick
  • 1 spinning jumping turning kick, 2 jabs
  • 1 spinning jumping turning kick, 2 jabs, 3 front kicks
  • 1 spinning jumping turning kick, 2 jabs, 3 front kicks, 4 turning kicks
  • 1 spinning jumping turning kick, 2 jabs, 3 front kicks, 4 turning kicks, 5 jumping spinning upper cuts (Street Fighter style)
  • 1 spinning jumping turning kick, 2 jabs, 3 front kicks, 4 turning kicks, 5 jumping spinning upper cuts, 6 side kicks
  • 1 spinning jumping turning kick, 2 jabs, 3 front kicks, 4 turning kicks, 5 jumping spinning upper cuts, 6 side kicks, 7 spinning backfists
  • et cetera et cetera

its a pretty grueling exercise, especially when enthusiastic students pick difficult or spinning techniques.   ideally, all students will count each technique, thus hammering home the foreign vocabulary.

strictly come poomsae

based on a television show, this activity involves four judges selected from the class.  each student performs alone, and the judges get fifteen seconds to confer and get their score cards in order. students perform the pattern they needed for their current belt.   after introducing the idea and arranging the dojang, the instructor elicits ideas on how to judge the student performance.   start by stating that the maximum score is ten per judge, and that the judges must deduct a half point for each mistake spotted.   instructor then asks what sort of things to be judged on – I was pleasantly surprised by the response from my judges today, as they added extras to the list I already had in my mind:

  • footwork
  • technique execution
  • finishing spot
  • pace or rhythm (as opposed to just speed)
  • hesitation
  • extra – correct pattern. if you can’t remember your pattern, you can do the previous pattern for a maximum score of nine instead of ten
  • extra – pattern name
  • extra – finishing techniques instead of rushing them
  • extra – breathing
  • extra – finishing each step with rear foot flat on floor – was particularly pleased with this, as I have been drumming it into the students all year

I was a little nervous about the reception this would get, after all, how many children watch a ballroom dancing show?   turns out, lots of them do.   there was much enthusiasm from each judge, and each judge had the opportunity to explain their scores.  often this was done humour, comments describing technique including crispness, tenderness and even a new word, memoration.   this is a great technique for disguising the training for a serious competition and also for performance at grading.   instead of just rushing their patterns, each student really was thinking about each aspect, which is a great result.   for white belts, judges were instructed not to mark down students for not knowing the pattern, and instead to judge solely on techniques being delivered.   judges are then swapped out and become the performers.   this gives each judge a chance to offer honest critique and to speak in front of the class, good personal skills development

santa’s kyuk-pa

this year’s destruction competition involved each student performing a side kick, a back kick and an elbow strike, allowed two attempts at each. the purpose of destruction is to demonstrate technique, and refine until the board is broken.  again, eliciting a verbal description of each technique demonstrates both learning and teaching and gives each student a chance to thwack something.   almost every student was 100% successful

last year’s destruction competition was slightly different, as we had more senior grades available to hold the breaking boards.  holders stand at each corner of an imaginary triangle, and each student chooses their own path around the three boards, the intention being to deliver side kicks to break the boards, and resorting to elbow strikes upon failure.   this is a timed competition where students have to strike a balance between speed and technique.  this was great fun last year.

where next?

  • jeffries slalom – each student slaloms around a line of students, each holding a pad, which must be struck with a good clean technique before proceeding to the next
  • twelve kicks of christmas – each student must remember their own technique and lead the class when it comes to their count.   this will help to ensure everybody knows what they are doing, as they only to remember their own technique, and how many of them are required.   this also gives each student a chance to the lead the group, without much pressure
  • strictly come poomsae – today i used hand written score sheets, it would improve with nicely printed A4 cards with the scores on. synchronised poomsae performance where students performing in pairs

i would love to receive more ideas for next year’s christmas session.   as always, comments welcome.   have a great christmas and new year, come back fighting next year!

a child eating a school dinner

workshop – preparing for bullies – part 1

I AM KEEN to develop workshops for my students.   whilst I can attempt to pass on my own received knowledge, I can’t really teach stuff that I don’t know, however, I can facilitate learning, both for me and the students.   how do I define a workshop? its a training session where I know roughly what I want to achieve, but I want the instructor and the student to discover the path for themselves, by playing with what does and doesn’t work, and examining why.

it occurred to me that as taekwondin, we primarily train at arms length, or at legs length. such distance may be fine for sparring, and indeed, being out of reach of arms or legs is good for not being hit, and thus one could consider it appropriate self defense.  similarly, when we learn hosinsul, or one step sparring, we start from an ideal position for our art.  if we are lucky students, our teachers tell us to avoid the blow and step in to finish the conflict, but the fact remains that we still start from an idealised position.  the problem is…


since I have at least one student that is a repeated victim of bullying, I thought it would be useful for my students to realise the flaws in our training by changing the kind of aggressive stances from which we start.  using two rows of roughly the same height, one row are the aggressors or bullies, the other row are the victims.  the aggressor stands close enough to invade the victim’s personal space.  both aggressor and victim are face on, arms at their sides.  as victim, demonstrating this starting position, its clear that I can neither kick nor punch my aggressor, effectively.   for sure, I could try some other technique, but that’s not the point of this lesson.   my bully shouts at me, and uses threatening words and language – “come on then, I’m dissing your mum!” – I step back, my bully follows, invading my space again.   I step back again, and this time I make a point of finding a correct distance for striking.   I don’t specify which strikes, as part of the learning is to play, and find out for yourself.   for this workshop, the bully’s role is simply to invade space and threaten.   we swap roles, repeat, then swap partners.   age and size are irrelevant, the more variety, the better the learning, indeed, a size difference is more realistic.

learning points

  • personal space – finding where yours and others starts and ends
  • getting use to personal space being invaded, keeping your cool.  part of the confidence that sparring practice gives, hidden, is the fact that if you square up to someone two or three times a week, it is far less terrifying when a stranger does it
  • stepping back – casually, follow stepping or jirugi chunbi
  • stepping back – this may avoid conflict, the bully may think twice about following – why?
  • stepping back – finding range, using the time to pick a target, drawing the aggressor in
  • stance transition
  • choosing appropriate techniques for the distance / range
  • having a moment to think about appropriateness of technique, from a violence level perspective
  • having a moment to think about appropriateness of technique for the surroundings
  • underling the principles of hosinsul – distance, target, technique

where next?

  • bully wears body armour, thus allowing victim to actually land solid blows
  • bully is more aggressive, featuring shoves and grabs
  • more than one bully
  • victim has prop, like mobile phone
  • organise environments – simulated classroom, corridor, up against wall, other confined spaces


firstly, I wish i had made more of this lesson the first time around.  i did state that a workshop is for the instructor to learn, and sure enough, I have, so I am pleased with my outcome, let alone the students’.   writing up this lesson, I can see where I missed learning points, so I will apply them the next time I use this routine.   I didn’t make enough of the footwork / step back, and I should have set the students expectations about demonstrating their findings to the rest of the team.  the students had great fun, and were threatened by a lot of different ages and body sizes.   repeated application of this lesson should allow students to be more in control of their flight or fight response when threatened, as the situation will be more familiar to them, and they will have programmed a response to such threats.

as usual, many thanks to my instructors and students, and also Jitsu Jamie, for a variant of this lesson at summer camp 2011