In my kendo club we have been re-organizing our lesson plans and asking others to step forward and lead classes. It’s been an overall positive experience in that we are questioning everything that we do and starting to hold everyone accountable for their part in making the club a positive and successful place to train.
One of my biggest concerns is the concept of quantity over quality in the training experience. In a two-hour class, an hour of mind-numbing warmups and drills reduces the energy of the next hour of class, jigeiko (free-sparring). A better use of our time would be a quick warmup, a short set of drills to set the energy level, and then, jigeiko. An hour of spirited, high-energy practice is way better than two hours of drudgery.
The most important factor in an energetic practice is the tone of the instructor. An instructor is like an actor on stage or a conductor before the orchestra. He or she is using voice and body to communicate on the verbal and non-verbal level, bring out the very best from everyone.
A conductor has to be “present” and focused on making sure that the “music of class” is full of energy and commitment. This takes some planning beforehand (in terms of the drills to be done as well as consideration of the various skill levels of the students) but the most important part is the execution.
A class led by someone who looks like they want to be somewhere else or who does not seem to have a game plan is a useless class. I’ll close with a set of comments that I made to some friends and this great TED Talk by Itay Talgam:
“..conducting a class is like conducting an orchestra. The music rises and falls nicely, according to the natural ebb and flow of the orchestra and the music. The conductor sets the tone from the very beginning and the tone will vary, all with the goal of creating beautiful music and a harmonious connection. Showing passion and humor along with setting expectations.”