This is a guest post about Silent Stretches by one of our outstanding, creative instructors, Sensei Nathan Jeffrey. He has developed a unique, innovative approach to get his class of children calm and focused before training. I have seen it in action, and it is super effective! Here is his post:
After playing a very vigorous game of double trouble at my new school at East Granville I needed a way for students to quickly identify myself as their new teacher. They were all sweaty, fired up and being rather loud which was great but not very conducive to what was meant to happen next, stretches. I needed the students to focus on me and calm down so they would be ready to practise karate.
I was faced with two options; I could either meet their noise with my own wall of sound or remain quiet.
I remained quiet.
Silent stretches are, as their name suggests, stretches with my class in total silence, with the exception of deep breaths. In order to ensure silent stretches are successful:
1. I need to be at the centre of the class so all the students can clearly see me.
2. I need to ensure that my silent stretches are exaggerated so that all students understand what part of the body they are stretching. For example, moving my hips in larger circles than needed and stopping the rotation of my arms for longer to denote that we are changing the way we need to rotate.
3. I need to establish quiet within the room. I do this by modelling silence because if you want your students to do something, you must do it yourself.
I’ve found that this way of doing stretches is useful for a myriad of reasons. Firstly, at a new school, where most students were unfamiliar with me, it allowed me to be established as the centre of attention. It identified me as the new teacher of the school and gave the students a focal point to look to. In choosing to remain quiet I modeled to the kids how I expected them to stretch. In remaining quiet and not raising my voice I modelled a calmness that helped the students focus and calm down.
There are two drawbacks that I’ve come across whilst using this method to begin my classes. The first drawback being that you can’t teach new techniques using this method. For example, I’ve found it difficult to go through Sensei Matt Klein’s new yoga stretches with my students. The other drawback is outside noises can undermine the effectiveness of calming students down and centring oneself as the teacher.
Silence is often overlooked as a tool we can use to teach and I think it’s much better to meet noise with calm and quietness. It also saves on the Strepsils’ bill.
In hushed whispers I hope to hear what you think about using silent stretches as a tool for teaching children martial arts.
Sensei Nathan Jeffrey