Thursday, April 28, 2011

Teaching Large or Crowded Martial Arts Classes

 Ok, so lets say you have a class to teach by yourself or with very little help and now your class is getting pretty big! Crowded classes do mean profit, but there needs to be a balance. If your class sizes get too big you will lose students because they feel they aren't getting enough attention, or their needs are not being met. I consider myself very skilled at teaching a class solo with up to 30-40 students, but that is because I have mastered the techniques of motivating, keeping attention, streamlining, and making things run efficient in my classes; and you can too!

Tip #1
Make it a rule to never have a student sitting down, or standing still. Split lines of students into more lines if necessary and ensure that they are not waiting their turn for more than a few seconds. I try to have 3 people in a line, depending on what we are doing. A great drill to keep everyone busy and work conditioning is to have the first student in the line performing the drill or technique, then he/she runs to the back of the line and performs X number of pushups/situps/etc.. Here is a video example of a similar drill done for Form/Kata practice. By the time he/she stands up again, the others in the line are already finished with the technique and its his/her turn again. This reduces the amount of time students spend standing around waiting for the person ahead of him to finish.

Tip #2
Plan your class for little supervision, and choose appropriate drills. If you need to watch a few students, make sure the others that are not being watched are well informed as to what they are supposed to be doing. If you are doing an activity that students will have to wait their turn for, have them doing pushups, situps, squats, etc.. For instance if I am watching a group of students perform a form I will have another group practice something in the back of the class, or if space is really tight, the rest of the students hold squat position against the wall. I then rotate the groups.

 Tip #3
Make up for a lack of individual attention - The odds are you will only get to interact with each student for a few minutes total in a large class so make sure you use their name, make some kind of physical contact with them such as high five, pat on the back. Make it your mission to give everyone something to improve on, and tell them something they are doing well.

Tip #4
It is recommended that when you play any games, drills, or activity that involves a crowded class moving around a lot that students leave their head gear, mouthpiece, and elbow pads on. I have found that this cuts the amount of head collisions and accidental elbow bumps down dramatically, which is better for retention. Most injuries in kids classes occur from them running into each other, so modify the game or play games that have them crawl on the ground instead or running, or have them stay in place. It doesn't take too many times for a kid to leave class crying before mom takes him out of your program. It doesn't take too many days of missed work for an adult to quit either. Here is a video of a warmup you can do with a crowded class easily.

Tip #5
Floor Drills/Line drills work excellent in large groups because it allows you to walk around and interact with everyone without them running into each other. If you are really short on space, instead of having them step forwards or backwards with each technique have them step their feet together backwards and then step the other foot forward, effectively switching sides of the body in place. You can also have them step out at 45 degrees instead of moving forward if they are in danger of kicking others.

Crowded classes can be good or bad for your business. It depends on how you handle it, but ideally you should schedule as many assistant instructors to help as possible!

Jeremy Molley is the owner of For more free drills, videos, and tips become a facebook fan.

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