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KF Sempai
KF Sempai

Joined: 15 Dec 2009
Posts: 1609
Location: NH USA
Styles: Isshinryu

PostPosted: Thu Aug 28, 2014 10:40 pm    Post subject: Filing a Flight Plan Reply with quote

"If you don't know where you're going, you'll end up someplace else."

- Yogi Berra

One often hears the study of martial arts referred to as a journey. A bright eyed young beginner energetically takes off into the vast, endless sky of martial arts knowledge, hoping someday to land in an exciting new place from which limitless new journeys are possible. Yet just as a pilot never takes off without creating a flight plan, so a martial artist must never set out without knowing where he or she hopes to end up. In order to successfully bring any student (including oneself) to a desirable place of knowledge and skill, one must constantly ask three essential questions:
  1. Where am I?
  2. Where am I going?
  3. How do I get there?
By asking these questions constantly and reassessing regularly, you can stay on course and, though not always at the estimated time of arrival, you will land safely at your destination.

Where Am I? or Formative Assessment

When you think of "assessment" in martial arts, what's the first thing that comes to mind? More often than not, it's the rank test - that grueling, sweat-inducing day where everything you've worked for these past months and years comes to a head in a single all-or-nothing display of knowledge, skill and determination. It's the summation of all your hard work and dedication and when it's over, you either go back to the starting gate or successfully move to the next leg of your journey.

But what about before that? Does any good pilot take off in the direction of his destination and then proceed to not look at his instruments again until he begins his descent with fingers crossed in the hope that he's landing in the right place? Just as a pilot must constantly read his instruments to know where he is at any given moment along his flight path, so must we check in regularly to keep track of just where we are at any given moment in our training.

We must get into the habit of constantly assessing ourselves and our students, and teach our students to constantly assess themselves. In the education world, this is known as "formative assessment" - assessment which helps form and reform learning as it's still taking shape as opposed to "summative assessment" which takes place at the end of learning - the summation of all that hard work. Formative assessment is sometimes known as "checking in." We ask ourselves what we're doing wrong, what we're doing right, and what we could be doing better. We assess our confidence in a given skill and use that information to shape what we do next. This checking in must be happening every minute. A student can know she's struggling with a certain move and use the information to determine she must spend more time on it before moving on or that she must seek additional help. A teacher can check in with a student during class by noticing a look of confusion on his face and know he must go back and re-explain a concept in another way. These second-by-second determinations of position, and adjustments to the course of action, are essential to getting to any destination.

Here are a few ideas to gain better understanding of where your students are:
  1. Observation. Keep an eye on every student. How are their moves looking? What are their facial expressions telling you (confused? bored? confident?)? Who might need a little extra work?
  2. Self-assessment. Ask your students how they're feeling about certain techniques or concepts. How do they think they're doing? What do they think they need to work on? Encourage them to ask themselves these questions at regular intervals.
  3. Teach backs. Have your student turn around and teach you the move they've been working on. This will not only force them to organize the move better in their minds, but allow you to determine just where in the process they're struggling.
  4. "Exit ticket." Have the students demonstrate a certain move or kata as a "ticket" to move on to another activity or take a break. Remember, even if they don't perform the move to satisfaction, this is for you to see where they're at - don't actually hlist=1d them back from doing those things after they've shown you.
  5. Games. Especially with younger kids, but even with adults, games can provide a fun, low stress way for you to see where everyone is at. Relay races, stations, contests - all can give you an idea of where work is needed without seeming too much like a test.
Where Am I Going? or Setting Objectives

Is there any point in knowing where you are if you can't then determine whether to turn left or right? Once you've decided where you or your students currently stand, the next step is knowing where you're headed. This could be in the form of knowing your final destination (long term goal) or just knowing your next stop (short term goal). Goals must be set for every length of time - where do I want to be with my martial arts in fifty years? Where do I want to be in a year? Where do I want to be next week? Where do I want to be in five minutes? The larger questions are important to keep in mind for the sake of motivation and general direction, but it's the more immediate goals on which we need to concentrate day to day. Take care of the inches, and miles will take care of themselves.

There are several criteria for setting effective lesson objectives.
  1. An objective must be achievable. Setting high standards is always laudable, but if those standards are too high, you're setting yourself up for failure and discouragement. Set a goal that will be a challenge and will take work, but set one that you're going to be able to meet.
  2. An objective must be action oriented. A good practice is to start each goal with "The student will be able to." Your goal should not be to "practice kicks" or "work on this kata this many times," but should instead always look to what your students will be able to do at the end of that practice that they weren't able to do before.
  3. An objective must be specific and measurable. "Be a better martial artist" is a great goal, but you'll get much further if you ask yourself what makes a better martial artist. Do you want to throw better kicks? Have more consistent stances in a certain kata? The more detail you can put into your goal, the more guidance you'll have in getting there. Keep asking yourself questions to flesh out exactly what it is you want. If you want to be a better kicker, what specific kick do you want to improve first? What about it do you want to improve? Do you want it to be higher, harder, steadier? Set a time limit. If you want to throw a higher roundhouse kick, how high do you want it to be in a month? How consistently do you think you can realistically throw that kick that high in that time frame? The pilot with the goal of "end up in the southwest" isn't going to get nearly as close to their desired location as the pilot with the goal "land on the third runway at the Gallup Airfield in Gallup, New Mexico at 7:30 Tuesday evening." The martial artist with the goal of "be a better kicker" isn't going to get nearly as far as the martial artist with the goal of "throw a roundhouse kick above my own head height on 75% of attempts by November 1."
And just as a pilot has to tell ground contrlist=1 where they're going, set up accountability for yourself. Write your personal goals down or share them with a training partner. Write the goals for each lesson on a white board at the beginning of class so you and all your students know what they're trying to achieve that day. Keep track of where you want to be so you know when you get there.

How Do I Get There? or Closing the Gap

The first two questions help us to identify what is called "the gap." The gap is the distance between where you are - what you know and can do now - and where you want to be when you've reached your goal. The third and arguably most challenging question identifies your plan for closing the gap between your current location and your destination - it's the flight itself.

This is a question that needs to be addressed on a case-by-case basis, depending on the individual and their answers to the first two questions. Here's where your knowledge of yourself and your students and of the material you are teaching comes into play. This step will be very individualized and tailored to the situation. The most important thing, however, is to ensure your course of action is constantly informed and adjusted based on the information gathered through your ongoing assessments and evlist=1ving goals. If a pilot notices his heading is off slightly, he adjusts his course immediately. This same flexibility is needed in teaching. As you constantly gather information on where your students are and where they're headed, you should be constantly changing your approach to help them get there. The information gathered in the first two steps can only do good if it's put into use consistently throughout every lesson.

Where are you or your students right at this very second? Where do you want to be tomorrow, next month, next year? What specific steps are you going to take to get there? By asking yourself these questions continuously throughout your teaching and training, and putting them to work every second of every day, you help keep your students and yourself on course to reach any destination to which you aspire.
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KF Administrator

Joined: 01 May 2001
Posts: 27128
Location: Los Angeles, California

PostPosted: Thu Aug 28, 2014 10:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for the submission, Devin.

Patrick O'Keefe - Administrator
Have a suggestion or a bit of feedback relating to Please contact me! Articles - Awards - Member of the Month - User Guidelines
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Joined: 13 Feb 2003
Posts: 6154
Location: Upstate NY
Styles: TKD;Shotokan;JuJitsu;Tai Ji

PostPosted: Fri Aug 29, 2014 8:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great article!!

"A Black Belt is only the beginning."
Heidi-A student of the arts
Tae Kwon Do,Shotokan,Ju Jitsu,Modern Arnis
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KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 23 Feb 2008
Posts: 14581
Location: Houston, TX
Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]

PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2014 4:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

An awesome article, thank you for it...solid points all throughout!!

**Proof is on the floor!!!
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KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 31 Mar 2006
Posts: 27914
Location: Hays, KS
Styles: Taekwondo, Combat Hapkido, Aikido, GRACIE

PostPosted: Thu Sep 04, 2014 3:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A very good article, Devin. Your use of the flight plan metaphor is fantastic, and you really lay out the hows and whys of setting goals and objectives.

A great article for Martial Artists to read several times throughtout their careers. Well done!
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KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 17 Jan 2007
Posts: 6185
Location: UK
Styles: Tae Kwon Do & Yang family Tai Chi

PostPosted: Mon Sep 08, 2014 2:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is a great article Devin.

Having a specific obtainable objective per training session has been something I've been trying to impress on students recently. Ideally the instructor should always also have a lesson objective too but I think having personal objectives too connects the student to their own training and helps to make them responsible for their own development.

I find it particularly important in sparring practice. A good deal of students get stuck in a rut of thinking they can't spar and that they lose every time. It is better to set an objective of "Today I'm going to improve X. I will do this by concentrating on Y". If that goal is accomplished by the end of the session, then the student can take it as a win.
"Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it." ~ Confucius
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