Saturday, March 13, 2010

Big class / hard mats

We had 18 people on the mat the other night, up from 15 the week before.  With 15 on the mat, it was already crowded, so this week we borrowed some jigsaw mats and put together a two-layer annex to the side of the main mat.
Throwing practice on the main mat

I sent the most senior students (plus Tyrone the tyro) to the annex during break-falling warmup.  It reminded me of when we started the main Monash University club at the Clayton campus under Sensei Tony in the mid 1990s.  We borrowed some hard mats from I think the resident judo and aikido clubs and got stuck in.  The problem was that although the experienced students quickly acclimatized, and soon relished the harder conditioning, we couldn't keep new students: you need to ease into that sort of thing.  [In time, we got some softer mats, and the membership grew accordingly.]

Students gather around Anthony for R&C instruction on the annex 

On Wednesday I had my assistant Anthony (a brown-belt) on hand, and he took charge of the annex and taught a smaller group restraint and control techniques, while I led throwing practice on the main mat.  We rotated most of the students between the two stations, and then joined together for groundwork and rolls at the end.

* * *

Given the spurt in numbers, the Caulfield club is not only faced with a space shortage, but a changing dynamic.  That newcomers are signing up and staying is welcome after some lean years at the start, and I take it as validation of the current student body, my own efforts, and the appeal of our system of jiu-jitsu, but we face new challenges with the dynamic that the larger class size entails.

The growth itself will be self-limiting, because the quality of the experience for newcomers will start to decline if we grow much bigger at this stage: Once beginners constitute the majority I will need to pair newbies with each other more often, and that's not conducive to learning jiu-jitsu in a large class.

However, I have a plan in mind.  Thanks to a solid core of students with 1 or 2 years experience (plus a few more senior), I think that is feasible to now pick up the pace (a bit).  This will encourage and challenge the core group, and hopefully motivate the newcomers to rise to the occasion.

The increased numbers also gives me the opportunity to grow as a teacher.  With the increase in numbers I am doing more demonstration and supervision, and less one-on-one than in the past.  As a result I will need to do a bit more lecture-style talk to the group as part of my demonstrations, while keeping it brief and practical.  Thankfully I have several good models to base my approach on.

I anticipate a great year of learning.  When we come through it, we'll be in a position to grow again, and if the current numbers prove solid, I'll also look into expanding the main mat area.

P.S. Thanks to Brenton for taking the photos on his phone.


John said...

Our largest class so far! Class is certainly different than two years ago! Here's to the newcomers joining the core that we can increase the instructive unit.