Note: This is the first of 2 essays I wrote as part of my test for Kyo Sa (certified instructor) in Tang Soo Do Mi Guk Kwan.
One of the classes I am often responsible for teaching is our Saturday morning Family Class. This is an all-ages, all-ranks class that is designed to enhance the family and community feeling of our dojang by providing families with an opportunity to train together. As a result, we often have a highly varied assortment of students on the mat, ranging from 4 and 5 year old little dragons to dans that are comfortably above the age of 25.
This eclectic mix of student ages and levels of experience creates some particularly challenging situations when it comes to presenting material, especially since one of my primary goals when I teach this class is to ensure that the various groups of family members get the opportunity to work together as a family unit, regardless of whether there is a large disparity in their ranks. For example, we often have parents that have begun training a year or two after their children attend this class, and I want them to look at this class as a chance to spend some time on the mat together (as opposed to just working independently on curriculum that is appropriate for their respective ranks).
The biggest challenge I’ve encountered in planning classes like these is keeping the content meaningful and constructive while also encouraging cooperation and a sense of fun among the family members, regardless of what their rank or age is. To this end, over the past year I’ve adopted some of Kyo Sa Nim Jimmy Vasquez’s excellent Family Class activities that I first encountered when I began training with my own family years ago, and have also come up with several class activities of my own that I think both challenge and help develop skill in students of all levels while also encouraging a fun, family-oriented activity.
Student-Selected Line Drill Sequences
This is a technique that I first learned from Kyo Sa Nim Vasquez, who learned it from Sa Bom Nim Nunan. Briefly, this is line drills where each student in turn picks a favorite hand or foot technique and adds it to an ever-growing sequence. For example, the first student specifies middle punch and we do a series of those: second student specifies low block and we a series of center punch/low block; third student front kick, and we do a series of middle punch/low block/front kicks, and so on.
This exercise always creates some chaos (and more than a few laughs) on the mat, especially when the students are chaining lots of techniques (and beginning to lose track of them) or when a student proposes a new technique that doesn’t flow well from the previous one. Kids and adults alike typically encounter some problems and have to laugh them off, which tends to inspire a lot of camaraderie on the mat. I typically frame this with a discussion about it being not just a good way to exercise our ability to concentrate (as we try to keep all of the many techniques straight in our heads), but also a really good opportunity to learn how some techniques flow together really well, while some don’t work well at all.
Simple Form Creation Integrating One Step Techniques
In one recent class, after a discussion of some of the attack and defense sequences in a form, I was discussing with the students how our one-step sparring techniques are also attack/defense sequences and that it’s possible to take a portion of a forms and substitute a one-step for a specific move, thereby creating something a little different and new. As the class consisted of white belts to red belts, all ages, I had them first work through the 10 basic one-steps. Then we performed Gicho Hyung Ill Bu, but in place of the standard center punches we instead did basic one step number one, incorporating the blocking technique as well as the punch. Some of the students had some issues doing the one step from the opposite side, as you’d expect, but after a few tries everyone got it down.
At this point I broke the class up into family-based groups with the instruction that each group should take 10 minutes and work together to modify a Gicho form, “mixing it up” a bit by substituting one or more one-steps (more advanced students were encouraged to use intermediates, use a more advanced form as a starting point, or to create their own if desired) for some portion of the form. After 10 minutes were up, each family group got a chance to present their form to the rest of the class.
I really enjoyed this class, and the students did as well. From a practical perspective, I think it helped open a lot of eyes to the ways in which one-steps can be part of larger sequences of movement and of how forms are constructed on smaller sequences that can be thought of as one step sparring techniques on their own. It also provided a situation where the students got a chance to practice doing some one-steps for the “non-standard” side of their body, which many found challenging. Finally, it provided a forum where the groups could explore the creative aspects of our art. Ultimately, it gave the families a chance to work together on and present something they could call their own.
Line Drills, Gicho Forms Using Bong
Earlier this year, as word got around that we were going to begin learning and teaching a bong form at the green belt level, a number of younger/lower ranked students in one of my Saturday classes expressed some concern as they hadn’t really ever had a chance to work with a staff before. I decided to take this as an opportunity to demystify the staff a bit. Again, we had a varied group of ages and ranks, but the vast majority of the class had little or no experience using a staff before.
I had each student select a staff from the one we had available at the dojang, and then I worked with them on the proper way to hold the staff. Once everyone was comfortable we lined up and performed a series of simple line drills using the staffs, just doing low block, center punch, and high punch while holding the staff. As part of the discussion at this point I noted how the staff does a remarkably good job of forcing your ready hand into the proper position on the side of the body, and also pointed out how weapons are in many ways simply an extension of your own hands, and as such many of our standard techniques only need slight modification to work when performed using a weapon.
Once everyone was comfortable with these simple techniques, we moved on to working on performing Gicho Hyung Ill Bu while holding a staff. As this form uses only the low block and center punch motions it didn’t present too tough of a challenge for the less experienced students (biggest challenge for them was moving the staff out in front of their body into an intermediate position after a low block prior to executing the center punch), and after a few attempts everyone was able to execute the form well. As a result, even the youngest students got an opportunity to work with a weapon in a controlled fashion that helped to demystify it and excite them for future opportunities to work with it more. The students that were preparing to learn a staff form also had the opportunity to get “warmed up” on the weapon without also having the added challenge of learning a new form pattern at the same time. And everyone, including the higher ranked students, got to try something new together. Again, this helped foster a good feeling of cooperative experience between the students, and especially between the various family members on the mat.