Master Teacher: Teaching Tools for Instruction Refresher

Popular Teaching Tools

The teaching toolbox is a collection of teaching methods, techniques, and other things to consider when instructing in judo.  They are only suggestions that can be incorporated into your present style of teaching.  Many of the ideas are from modern education and are practiced in our classrooms today by some of the most effective instructors.

Show and Do

        For anyone who has ever studied judo either in a foreign country or in the United States from a foreigner understands this method of instruction is popular.  This method is akin to sign language, but can go a step better especially if you happened to end up as uke.  The method is simple:

The instructor demonstrates a technique and the student tries to mimic the action.  As most examples demonstrated by an expert, it looks simple. Then you try it and it doesn’t quite feel the way that it looked when the instructor did it.  The problem is that unless you’re a quick study, it’s lost till the next time it’s shown.  Following up with an explanation may or may not occur depending on the instructor’s skill in language.

The greatest advantage to this type of teaching is that is requires so few words.

Thus even if the instructor doesn’t speak your language, there is an instant connection and understanding of sorts.  Also for some students words only add to the confusion of learning a new technique.  Still others require auditory cues in order for learning to occur.  For many old timers this was the method of instruction by which they were instructed.  A quick demonstration with a possible follow up throw, a few grunts and then it’s your turn to try.  Today there is a bit more instruction with the demonstrations, but still usually just a few words with very little methodology attached to the show and do strategy.

To add instruction to the show and do instructional method, here are a few suggestions:

  • – Give a brief history of the techniques, who did it, how it looked, what is its advantage.
  • – Demonstrate the technique several times from several angles.
  • – Points out key points on the technique.
  • – After they have tried, give a quick review and have one of the better students demonstrate the technique so that others can see their peers and gauge their own progress.

Whole – Part – Whole

One of the more popular tools employed for teaching physical skills is the whole – part – whole method of instruction.  The technique relies on the ability of the instructor to divide a whole technique into its important segments, demonstrate the technique, then show its integral parts slowly, then once again quickly execute the whole technique.  Thus, whole – part – whole.  Next, you have the students go through step one, then two, three, and so forth until the each part is mastered.  Then it’s only a matter of putting it all together and executing the technique.

An example would be teaching a novel technique like a left Ippon Seoinage: Begin with demonstrating the whole technique then,

Step One – While assuming a right natural grip, your left hand grip is on, the opponents right sleeve and your right hand on, the opponents left lapel.  Your opponent is doing likewise.  You are at arms reach with arms slightly bent.  The first step is to pull the opponent to his front left side mainly using your right arm so that he is off his heels with most of his weight on the ball of his foot. At this point, he is ready to regain his balance by stepping forward with his right foot.  If you can feel him about to regain his balance then you have mastered step two.  This should be repeated many times so that you feel comfortable with this step and the movement feels automatic.

Step Two – Step across with the left foot while pulling the opponent to his left front corner.  Your foot should land approximately three to six inches in front of the opponents left foot.  Simultaneously release the left hand grip and shoot it across as your left foot moves into place forming the top of a “T” pattern with the opponent’s foot as the stem.  As the ball of the foot lands on the mat, you should have pulled the opponents armpit on to your extended entering arm.  Here the palm should be facing up.  Once contact is made with the opponent’s armpit to the middle of your biceps and you are on the ball of your feet, bend the arm and secure the arm to you, chest and shoulder with your arms.  Do this move several times until it is second nature.

Step Three – Quickly pivot on the ball of the left foot and bring your right foot back and place it in front of the opponent’s right foot.  As you pivot, keep your legs and hips slightly bent and lead in with the left side of your hip.  In this position you will feel how your right arm, if it is over the opponents left arm, will become firmly locked into place. Your left arm will further secure the opponents left arm so that it will be impossible to pull free.  Now all one has to do is bend forward slightly, an extend the legs, and turn clockwise.  This step should also be practiced at minimum 50 times just to scratch the surface.

Finish with demonstrating the technique, again.

Once students feel comfortable with this entry and can execute it fairly quickly and smoothly, you are ready to have them enter and lift the opponent up several times.  Now, on the count of three, THROW!!! This is how you show the whole thing first, then the integral parts, then execute the whole technique.  Whole – part – whole.

Hands-on Teaching

Hands-on teaching can take various forms, but in particular it occurs out of a slight frustration that the foot is not quite in the right place, or the hand needs to be shifted over a bit, or maybe the hip has to be pushed over for proper positioning when teaching a technique. It is where the instructor physically moves the student into proper alignment.  Hopefully, the proper body position will register in the mind of the student and he or she will try to get to this proper anatomical position in the execution of the technique.

Hands-on teaching may also refer to demonstrating with the student what a technique should feel like when properly done.  Or where to grip a particular opponent, or how to get a grip off.  Sometimes a simple 15-second action executed properly on the individual is more appropriate than 15 minutes of pure explanation.  This type of teaching and learning is often referred to as “one-on-one learning” since it involves just you and the other person.

On a harsher note, the seemingly effortless ability of some individuals to defend and execute techniques on others comes from many hands-on encounters.  We call this type of practice “Randori”.  To become experts in judo, we have to engage in this form of practice.  This is where both participants attack and defend at will.  Usually where one is more skillful than the other, he will be able to hone his skills by finding different ways to throw, pin, choke, or arm bar his opponent.  The opponent will also learn to make adjustments and better defend against aggressors and may also get in a few techniques of his own.  Periodic changes in partners bring different dynamics.

Where once you were dominant now you may be more defensive.  The combinations of partners, their ability, and what we learn from each encounter is as varied as the partners one picks.  There is much to be had from hands on learning.

Audio and Visual Considerations

Have you ever tried turning down the volume to 0 and watch football, basketball, or boxing.  Oh, and try golf, even with Tiger Woods playing.  Boring?  Yes, unless you have a vested interest in the game it’s like watching other people’s kid’s birthday party.  What makes a demonstration come to life are the words you add to the action.  It is a subtle fact that people learn a tremendous amount from auditory input.  In fact, there are some students who are more auditory than visual when learning is involved.

Here are a few tips to consider when demonstrating:  Even if you know the student is watching the demonstration, talk the action through as if he is sight impaired.  To begin give a brief introduction to what is to be taught.  ON key points emphasize by saying something like, “Now notice carefully how the wrist is wrenched laterally in the neck to cut off the blood supply.”  or, “I repeat,” “Look again,” “The better athlete will —-.”  Etc. Give some historical background prefacing a demonstration.  “This was Kimura Sensei’s favorite throw”.  At the end, summarize.  In conclusion…  And end with, “Are there any questions?”

When demonstrating, keep these visual thoughts in mind.  You want to have an attention getter.  This can be done by executing a technique quickly and accurately.  Once you have their attention give the greatest visual consideration possible.  Demonstrate the technique three of four time constantly changes the angle of view for the student.  In this way, he or she will see it from the front, back, and side.  Also execute the techniques at a moderate speed. Stop periodically to emphasize key points by telling the students to zero in on a practical area.  Slides, books, videos, pictures, and computer aid may also augment learning.

Negative and Positive Reinforcement Considerations

Studies during the 1970 through the 1990 seem to favor positive reinforcement over negative reinforcement.  However, today there are a few studies that justify the use of negative reinforcement except in some isolated instances.  Usually the athlete is more mature or is a professional and time is of the essence in understanding the problem.  In instructional situations for a dojo where time or loss of money is not an issue and we are dealing with children, the more prudent method to use is positive reinforcement.

So often at tournaments when a student and adults loses and comes off the mat, he is greeted with, “What’s wrong with you!  I told you to!”  If the child is timid, he or she may feel a loss of worth and feel uncomfortable in the sport.  If the child has some spunk, she or he may shoot back with an excuse.  Hopefully, the child is not forced into a chronic excuse-giver mode.  If the child is recalcitrant, he may just refuse to continue in judo. Then again, children subjected to constant negative reinforcement may develop a tolerance to it and actually become tougher mentally.

Some instructors will use a combination of the two types of reinforcers, but for the most part, it is always a smarter move to praise a student first, make friends and tell him or her what may be the problem. For the more timid student, the ration may be two to one. For every one negative, lead with two positive reinforcers.  “You had great aggressiveness, you tried three techniques that were very good, but we need to work on getting into the right position with that Osotogari.  What do you think?”  As instructors, we have to remember that our students are looking for approval and confirmation and we are the ones who fulfill that need.

Video Assisted Learning

  1. What are the benefits to be derived from video?
  2. You are in Los Angeles but you can see what happened in Asia or Europe.
  3. Your student swears he executed 5 throws in the match. The video reveals only 1.
  4. You can study a lightning-fast technique in slow motion, reverse, and stop-action.
  5. You can keep a record of progress.
  6. Scouting is easily performed.
  7. Techniques can be learned.
  8. Videos are also entertaining.

In addition to the entertainment value, the greatest value for the instructor is in reviewing student performance through video.  This does, however, take training and is not as easy as just making a few passing comments.  In our USJF coach certification program, we have a special segment on video analysis that is strongly advised for instructors but in particular coaches who aspire to be successful.

Command Style Teaching

When dealing with large groups of students and executing relatively simple tasks with which they are familiar, the commend style of teaching is excellent.  It is quick and efficient.

Examples of this style would be: “Do fifty uchikomi.”  “Turn left, stick your right leg across the opponents right leg while continuing to pull towards you with both hands.  Now pivot on the ball of your left foot so that you are facing in the same direction as your opponent.”  Muska Mossion, a well-known physical educator feels that the problem with this type of instruction is that it trains people to react only to the commands and when the commands are not forthcoming, the individual is less likely to be able to adapt to the changing environment.

Task Style Teaching

In task style teaching the student is given a project to accomplish.  The project is usually simple or familiar.  In this way, the task style is closely related to the command style of teaching.  The difference in a task situation is that the participant is given more time to accomplish his objective.  “Practice and demonstrate four ways to fall correctly by tomorrow.” Devise a plan to improve your performance over a 12-week period.  It should include how to lengthen your workout time, increase the number of techniques applied successfully in a given time, and increase the number of wins in local tournaments.  “Finish 1000 uchikomi by the end of practice”.  These are but a few examples of tasks that are assigned to the student.

One of the advantages of task style teaching is that it gives a certain amount of autonomy to the student and if the task is one that is doable by the student, it can instill a certain sense of accomplishment.  This method may also instill the idea that there are certain prerequisites to accomplishing one’s goals.

Cluster Style Teaching

Cluster or group style teaching is where you may have a large group of students of varying ages and ability.  Let’s say twenty five kids ranging in age from 7 to 12 and of different physical abilities.  You can split them into three homogeneous groupings, all the tough kids in one group, medium in another, and weakest in the last group. During the randori sessions, they are only allowed to work with those in their cluster.

Cluster groups may also be used where groups of individuals or teams can be made and given a similar task.  Let’s see which team can execute the most number of perfect taiotoshi.  Or which team can win in a round robin championship.

The advantages to clustering are that it can engender teamwork and also provide for safe workable groupings.  Clustering into smaller groups also allows for a greater number of leadership roles.  With five clusters, you can have five team captains as opposed to one chief of twenty-five scouts.  Within the groupings, children are more apt to contribute verbally in a group of four of his peers rather than twenty-four, most of whom he may not know too well.

Problem Solving Teaching

The basic premise of this approach is to pose a problem to the student and allow the student to solve the problem.  The answer to the problem may or may not be known to the instructor.  Thus the result of the quest to solve the problem is the answer and may be novel to both the one who asks and the one who answers.  What is important here is that a problem is presented which activates a need for a response and an answer.  The response will be determined by the urgency of the need to solve the problem. Here are a few questions:

  1. How many uchikomi can you execute properly within a minute?
  2. What can we do to increase attendance at our dojo?
  3. Should we or should we not allow kids to do drop seoinage?
  4. Can you tell me what constitutes a shodan?
  5. Some people don’t want to bow. What should we do about that?
  6. A person with HIV wants to join your dojo. What do you do?

Essential to problem solving is to have an approach to solving problems.  The following is one approach.  First write out the problem.  Unless this is done, it is difficult to pin down the actual problem or problems.  Next, prioritize the solutions as well.  They should be in a form that allows one review the results and make appropriate adjustments.

Guided Discovery Teaching

One of the more sophisticated methods of instruction is that of guided discovery.  Here the student begins his journey again with a problem or a question.  Only this time, not just one question, but a series of questions slowly leading the student into the realm of knowledge.  This time the person asking the question has a preset goal or answer in mind that he wants the student to get to.  As an example, the teacher may ask, “You are all beginners, but I’d like to know how you would throw someone to the mat if the only direction you are allowed to throw, is to the opponents right side.  Oh yes, and at the moment your right foot is full of sticker’s mostly on the bottom and inside part by the big toe, so you don’t want to hit those parts against anything.  Well, what do you think?

Mark: I’d push him real fast while hopping on my left.
Collins Sensei: Yes, but he keeps stepping back faster than you can hop.
Tom: I know.  I’d wrap my right leg around his leg from the inside and trip him.
Collins Sensei:

Do you think you might bump your foot moving it to the inside?

Remember you’ve got stickers in you foot.

Mark: Ok! Ok! I know now, I’ll jump in quick and move my foot to the opponent’s right foot and hook it from the outside.
Collins Sensei: Do you think your foot pressure, by itself, is enough?
Tom: Of course not. You have to be pushing forward hard too. I think it’s all has to be done in a coordinated fashion.  The hopping, pushing, hooking the foot, and kicking backwards are all important.
Collins Sensei: Yes and in Japanese this throw is call an O-sotogari (outside major reap).

Notice that although Collins Sensei already knows the name of the throw and also knew that the final outcome was going to be an osotogari, she continues to the end of the questioning.  When the students have finally executed the throw, she confirms it as an osotogari.  In this way, the students get to have a feeling of ownership in the throw, a sense that they invented a throw.

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance means you are aware of something being amiss. It’s a term used by educators to denote a style of instruction.  The way the process works is that the teaching avoids giving an answer to a problem even if she or he may have one. The premise is that any answer may be corrected and that what is important is the process of seeking an answer.  In a sense, this is open-ended learning. The game is infinite rather than finite.  Here’s how it works:

Sensei: What is a technique that can be applied without the use of the feet being used to make contact, to off-balance the opponent?
Mary: Oh, that’s easy, it’s a Seoinage.
Sensei: Well, it could be.
Mary: Hmmmm, then it must be a Kataguruma.
Sensei: That’s another nice throw.
Mary: Was I wrong?
Sensei: Those were two excellent choices.
Susan: We’re not talking about Uki-otoshi are we?
Joe: I think you are all barking up the wrong tree.  It’s probably a Newaza technique.
Sensei: You’re all making fine choices, and Joe, you’re thinking “Out of the box. Very Good!”
Joe: Ahh! Then I am right.
Sensei: You made a fine choice, as did all of you.
Leslie: Well then who’s right?  This is too irritating not getting a definite answer.

Oh really.  But did we learn anything?



Notice that no definitive answer was given even when there was a level of frustration.  This is exactly what the instructor needs to pull out of the students.  This is what motivates one to find an answer or solve a problem.  It’s frustration, anxiety, and a sense of being unfulfilled that are important here.  As the instructor you will use a lot of this type of answer: “Mmmm…, could be.  It’s a good possibility, Great choice, what do you think?  You know judo. I like that answer, that’s something to think about.  Definitely a possibility.”  By not giving a definite answer the student cannot rest until one is found.  Thus the process of looking for an answer is emphasized rather than just finding one answer.  “Now, what qualifies a technique as a hand, hip, or foot technique?  It could be.”

Conceptual Motor Learning

In the practice of judo, there are a number of unique movements that are particular to judo-type movement and performance. Some of these movements have been identified and drills have been devised to give the participants a kinesthetic sense of timing and body placement in order to best execute a particular technique.  These drills are referred to as conceptual judo drills and include some of the following concepts:

  1. Front corner off balancing drill.
  2. Back corner off balancing drill
  3. Pulling/Pushing drill
  4. Pull and enter
  5. Push and enter
  6. Circular movement drill
  7. Circular entry drill
  8. Snap/ snap front/ back drill – side to side
  9. Hip switch drill front
  10. Hip switch drill back
  11. Counter drill for seoinage, osotogari, ouchigari, kouchigari, deashibarai, etc.
  12. Combination drills
  13. One handed judo drills
  14. Off the grip drills
  15. Slow-motion drills
  16. Medium speed, non-throwing randori entry drills
  17. Situation drills
  18. Low risk attack drills
  19. Grip drills

Judo Drills

Originally devised by the French Judo Federation these drills differs from the conceptual drills just slightly in that some of the drills are devised for gross motor skill understanding and may not be judo specific as are conceptual drills.  Some are even made for purposes of having fun.  These drills will be presented in a specialty course on Judo Drills.

Sutegeiko – Nage Komi

Sutegeiko is more of a type of practice than it is a teaching method, but deserves a line or two since it involves learning.  Here however it is the student who teaches himself.  He does this by finely tuning his technique.  Unlike uchikomi or entry practice, sutegeiko actually goes through the full range of motion. This allows the practitioner to know what it is like to finish the throw.  Usually the partners will trade off and throw each other 25 times until a hundred or so throws have been accomplished.


Randori (sometimes called free practice) is one of the most important parts of the practice of judo.  In a way randori practice is one of the most difficult and sophisticated method of learning.  Here the conditions are constantly changing and instant adjustments must be made.  It prepares us for the unknown and the student, for the most part, teachers himself or herself.  The practice has elements of the above mentioned styles of teaching as a part of its built in structure.  If this style of learning is practiced earnestly over a period of time, the body automatically begins to adjust and the participants start to look like judokas.  Much of it done without too many words.