No wet noodles allowed in class!
In the past week or so, I have introduced the concept of feeding to my 5 to 8 year old students. Before you get on my case about this, hear me out! 🙂 In this post, I discuss how to teach kids to feed properly.
In the previous post, Too Young to Learn Filipino Martial Arts?, I described the process of teaching my students, given that we train with rattan canes. When introducing new techniques, I always have them practice it on myself and my assistant instructors before being allowed to practice with each other. This way, we ensure they physically understand what they are doing, demonstrate control and safety. Once they pair up with a partner, we watch closely to ensure that the techniques are being executed correctly and to spot any potential safety issues.
Thus far, the kids have done well practicing their empty hand and cane sinawalis with their peers. They are quite comfortable practicing the sinawalis with each other. We practice the 12 angles of attack and the basic block, check, counter drill EVERY class. The caveat is that they are done against myself and my assistant instructors. See the video below.
It’s now time to change gears. They need to practice the block, check, counter drill against each other.
In order to do so, they need to feed each other.
With this goal in mind, I started teaching the concept of feeding last week.
The process of teaching this important skill to 5 to 8 year old children is described below.
I divide the class into two groups due to having two instructors, myself and Nathan.
(1) Work with them one on one: One group lined up single file with me and another group did likewise with Nathan. The students were instructed to feed me and Nathan angles 1 and 2. We performed the basic block, check, counter drill on them. What I was looking for was confidence in feeding angles 1 and 2. Strong feeding is essential to good training. They also need to get used to a partner performing block, check, counter against them.
While the “wet noodle” version of feeding (as in the above video) among adults can be problematic, I think that it would be even more of an issue among children due to safety reasons. “Wet noodle” feeding seems to have the effect of making the defender tentative and unsure of their technique. So for now, the kids will only feed the adults to ensure that they are doing so with good form, footwork and, most importantly, with confidence.
(2) Under supervision, pair them up in front of class: I then have a pair of kids take turns feeding each other in front of the entire class. I stress the importance of communication between the two of them. They must agree on who will feed and who is going to defend. They then go through the drill. Once they are done, they are instructed to reverse roles.
Interestingly, two issues have emerged in the early stages of this process. Some kids have been tentative in communicating about their respective roles in the block, check, counter drill. Learning clear assertive communication will be key here. Secondly, when they feed me, they have done well thus far. However, they are not as confident in feeding their classmates. This will take time as they get used to the idea of feeding.
It will take time before the entire class will be at a point where they can feed each other accurately, confidently, and independently. It’s going to be a step by step process.
(3) Say “No” to wet noodles: This will be stressed repeatedly. The “wet noodles” version of feeding has the magical effect on the defender in the sense that their defending technique is often weak as well. Ideally, the feed and the defending technique should be strong, decisive, and confident.
The process for the adult class is a bit different. I structure the adult class so that seniors are paired up with juniors. The seniors learn to teach and the juniors learn the art. I often have the seniors pair up with each other. Based on my experiences, I rarely have beginner students pair up as confusion often appears to be the norm in this situation. In any case, when it comes to the issue of feeding, it is the senior’s job to ensure that the junior partner feeds correctly, with good form and with a strong attack.
Solid feed at 1:06 of the above video.
In summary, I think that it’s extremely important to teach kids how to feed in a detailed, step by step process, starting by feeding me and my assistant instructors. They must learn to communicate with each other so as to make clear who is feeding and who is defending. Lastly, the “wet noodle” version of feeding will be actively discouraged by myself and the assistant instructors. When it comes down to, though, is this is a great exercise in teaching confidence and communication skills to the kids.
Over to you, do you have any teaching suggestions? Let’s hear them!