Friday, February 26, 2010

How mixed level practice can work in judo

Last Wednesday I had three white belts (new this year), four purple belts (our lowest tested grade), one yellow, and two orange belts.  Having a mixed-level class is great, in that many students get a chance to be junior, senior and peer, often all in the one class, but it's quite complicated.  Here's how I rotated the pairings on the night ...

In the cooperative throwing section of the class:

Demonstrated: leg throws 1 to 3 (see this Kawaishi method index of throws)

  • 2 x  pairs of purple belt (peer learning)
  • 3 x white belt - higher belt (most experienced / beginner pairing)
Demonstrated: leg throws 4 to 6
  • 3 x white belt - purple pairs continued working on throws 1 to 3 (reinforcement)
  • orange - yellow pair, and orange - purple pair worked on 4 to 6 (rotating through the purple belts)
Demonstrated: leg throws 7 and 8
  • same as 4 to 6
Demonstrated: leg throws 9 and 10
  • same as 4 to 6
With this system of rotations:
  • the white-belts spent most of their time on the most fundamental throws
  • the purple belts engaged in peer learning, helped the white belts, and got a taste of the higher throws as they rotated into the senior group
  • the senior group worked with the beginners initially, but also had time to work on the higher throws, mainly among themselves, but also with the purple belts
  • everyone got a taste of at least a couple of more advanced throws (variety and exposure)
Besides rotating among the grades, students got to work with people of different shapes and sizes.  Although I started with roughly similar heights and builds that soon changed.  The best mis-match of shapes was 6'5" beginner Tyrone (in his second class) with purple belt Lizzie (not much over 5').  They did well!

The rest of the class was a selection of restraint & control, and then immobilizations, followed by groundwork randori.  Not much rotation in these sections, although I jumped in and did some light randori with about half the class (one at a time, not all at once) at the end.

This kind of rotation scheme depends on who turns up on a particular night, and setting it up is a challenge for any teacher.  Concerns include: safety; getting the newbies off to a good start; blending the need for consolidation with variety; giving the more advanced students adequate time to practice the more advanced techniques that they will need for their gradings.