Creating Compassion from Competition: 

Unveiling the Secrets of Mr. Jerome’s Teaching Method 

          Teaching can be a strenuous, difficult job.  Teaching children, who do not understand proper social etiquette and who do not have long attention spans, can be even more stressful. On January sixteenth, I observed a children’s karate class in action. 

        The event, at first glance, appeared to be a typical karate class. However, analyzing the event carefully revealed something much more spectacular. I expected that a class involving combat amongst children would generate strong competition and rivalry. 

         However, this was not the case. 

        The instructor was able to create a productive environment that encouraged a strong sense of competition, camaraderie, and restraint amongst the students. 

           The class was held in the auditorium of a public arts and crafts center called Jaycee Park. While karate classes are not typically held at the center, the auditorium had been rented by the instructor on Friday nights to offer classes. The room was very spacious with high ceilings and wooden floors, which allowed for plenty of movement. 

        When the class started, not all of the students had arrived yet, so instruction began with only one student, David. However, about five minutes into class two more students, Zack and Edgar, came. Every class begins with basic warm-up exercises such as jumping jacks and leg lifts to loosen up the students. 

           After this, the students then move onto actual fighting techniques. This class started with basic kicks and punches, which eventually led into roundhouse kicks. 

        However, the main technique they practiced involved attacking and defending in the shape of a star. The instructor began by creating a plus sign out of tape on the ground and then superimposing an X over it with more tape. 

        The students had to attack and defend against the instructor without letting their feet move off the tape. This method of fighting on a star teaches the students which direction to attack or defend in when combating an opponent. 

        After this, they moved onto special karate chops and discussed the reasons for using each one in terms of balance. The class then briefly practiced the learned techniques on each other, and then one on one with the instructor. 

        To end the class, the instructor presented Zack with an achievement award, recited the class’s pledge of honor, and dismissed the students. The students ran to their parents and spoke excitedly about what they had learned. 

          During the class, I noticed that the students interacted surprisingly well with each other.  Even though they were all different sizes, they all seemed to be on a similar skill level. One would imagine that a class involving attacking and defending would create a very competitive environment. 

         However, the students seemed at ease and supportive of one another. Even when sparring with their classmates, the students would speak encouragingly to each other and help one another with their technique. They appeared to be comrades, not competitors. 

         In addition, the class seemed to have a great deal of respect for their instructor, Jerome Nojima. Although the students did lose focus here and there, perhaps because of their age, Jerome did not have to raise his voice once to get their attention back. While the class has no written rules and only one of the child’s parents was present, the students seemed to strive to meet Jerome’s expectations out of their respect for him, not because of punishment for misbehaving. 

            The children were inquisitive as well, asking questions occasionally, showing their interest. Even though the students were ex-hausted at the end of the class, it was clear by the way they spoke to their parents that they were satisfied. 

            I interviewed Jerome after the class to get additional information. He was ideal to interview because he understood every aspect of the class and worked with each student one on one.  Jerome spoke about how he has been teaching for over twenty years now, and how he derives his motivation to teach from his student’s enthusiasm. This is how he remains calm and collected with the students and refrains from getting frustrated. 

        He says he has found that as long as he is teaching well, the students remain excited, which in turn makes him pleased and creates a productive environment all around. His students learn about his programs through flyers sent into the school system, word of mouth, and through advertisements in the Greenville Recreation and Parks brochure (Nojima). 

        There were only three students that night because the class had not been highly advertised around that time. Jerome also touched on his student’s interaction. He mentioned that he teaches the students to use their natural sense of competition to fuel themselves to work harder, instead of spending their energy getting upset with others. 

        This way, when one student is jealous of another’s ability, he or she strives to improve and may eventually obtain the other student’s skill (Nojima). Over time, the students in the class indirectly improve each other’s abilities, and when they notice this, they grow closer. Jerome’s teaching method encourages citizenship amongst the class. 

        Fighting, by nature, is a competitive ordeal, but by teaching his students to work harder instead of getting angry with one another, Jerome is able to transform a hostile sense of competition into a healthy sense of camaraderie. He is able to make the colective goal in the class to better oneself and to indirectly help others to improve. 

        Jerome’s calm confidence combined with the student’s enthusiasm to learn results in a great deal of respect for both the instructor and the students. This respect allows them to interact productively in terms of learning, and also pleasantly in terms of friendship. Treating his students equally and letting them help each other also creates a sense of belonging. 

        In fact, in the interview, Jerome explained that although he appreciates Zack’s lengthy attention span, he does not have a favorite student or believe that any one student is better than the others (Nojima). This mindset allows each student to have an equal opportunity. 

           While Jerome obviously instructs the class in self-defense and encourages companionship amongst the students, he also incorporates a more widespread cultural value, restraint. He effectively teaches restraint through the concept of self-discipline. 

        While every student’s goal is to become the best fighter they can be, Jerome makes sure that the students are realistic with their abilities. At the end of every class, the students recite a code emphasizing restraint from violent behavior, unless absolutely necessary. Jerome teaches students to prepare for the worst and to live for the best. 

        This encourages community citizenship outside of the classroom because in today’s culture, it is unacceptable to become violent every time you have a disagreement with someone. In training children who are still developing their social skills, it is important to mention when and when not it is appropriate to engage in violent behavior. 

        When most people think of karate, they imagine violence and pain. Before I had observed the karate class at Jaycee Park, I expected just that, if not a bit more controlled. However, what I found was just the opposite. 

        Instead, Jerome, through his teaching style, was able to create a sense of friendship amongst the students that led them to work harder. His skill as a karate instructor of young children was excellent, but his ability to incorporate values such as companionship and restraint through self-discipline was incredible. His teaching methods allowed students to have a sense of citizenship not only amongst the class through friendship, but also throughout the community with restraint. 

Works Cited 

Nojima, Jerome. Personal Interview. 19 Jan. 2009. 

John Huffman 

English 1200 - Section 011 

2 May 2009 

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