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Michael Rust
Michael Rust's picture
Building a Curriculum

Hi All,

Currently, I'm working on creating a curriculum for our dojo training. Naturally, I'll be benchmarking and using my Pinan Kata's as the main reference.  With that being said I've had a look at what other people have done and I'm wondering how in depth I should go. There are a lot of things I could add that are not in the kata or they may be in the kata but, not as extensive.

For example,  we know we have throws, joint locking, choking, strangulations and ground work.  Is it necesssary for me to say we must learn these 40 throws, 20 strikes and 30 joint locks ? Or should we just be trying to discover what's in the kata let that be our guide and not really having anything written down that's formalized on paper ?   Thoughts ?

Drew Loto
Drew Loto's picture

The first step is to decide what the purpose of your instruction is.  Are you teaching self-defense, art, exercise?  For the purpose of this post, I'll assume you have a particular interest in self-defense.

It always seems like there are two perspectives on martial arts instruction.  (There are likely a number of other nuanced views, but these two seem particularly popular.)  The first view is that a school of martial arts ought to represent some sort of compendium of martial arts techniques.  In other words, students learn certain techniques because those techniques are considered part of the art--and all parts of the art, by way of being part of the art, hold value.  This seems similar to your current approach to teaching, regardless of whether you decide to teach a large amount of techniques or decide to limit your technical instruction to what is found in kata.   It is a type of instruction that is inherently directive.  I would be careful to avoid letting the art control you.  I offer you an alternative approach to developing your curriculum.

Instead of thinking about what parts of the art students ought to know, think about what types of attacks students are studying to defend themselves against.  How are the appropriate responses to such attacks and situations manifest in your kata and in the supplimentary material you know?  In terms of self-defense, it is normally considered better to know only a single defense for a specific situation.  It reduces the time it would take the defender to process the situation and to produce an appropriate defense (because he or she is not deciding what he or she ought to do.)  That is the avenue I would recommend--carefully consider what is useful for your students.  This could be directive, with you telling your students exactly how to respond.  Or it could be partially non-directive, with your students developing their ability to follow up after performing a core technique.  In the case of non-directive instruction, although you aren't teaching every single student every single technique, when you recognize a student who would benefit from learning a certain strike, throw, or lock, you can take a little bit of extra time to impart that particular technique to that student.  You don't always need to teach your students everything you know.  You just need to teach them enough.

I realize it is oftentimes difficult to take up the latter approach without feelining like you are forsaking your art and all the effort your teachers put forth to give it to you.  You should not necessarily discard the other stuff you know, but instead save it for special occassions.  Everyone likes learning things that they don't practice in the course of their regular training.  You could save techniques for special seminars or other such events, rotating techniques in and out of practice as you see fit, while maintaining a solid core of material.

Whatever path you choose:  good luck!

Michael Rust
Michael Rust's picture

Thanks Drew. One of the guidelines I really like is the 36 Habitual Acts of Violence laid out by Patrick Mcarthy. I think for the most part all the types of common attacks in unarmed combat are listed there. So what I'd like to do is demonstrate how the Pinans address them. I already think Sensei Abernethy has shown how the  Pinan's do that but, there are a few other areas I'd like to explore. Or Maybe I won't be able to find all the answers in one set of kata  but, those are the ones I know and study. So I wonder if I even should be trying to address all 36 acts of violence ?

Kyoshi's picture

I have been building my curriculum since 2009 - and not Being finished because of change of idea All the time i Can see over time that i have gone from primarely technique based criteria to undetstanding of principled and directl test of skill via obstacles 

Black Tiger
Black Tiger's picture

I've changed my Syllabus so many times since I started. My Syllabus is Complete upto 3rd Dan which falls in line wiith my core style of Ashihara Karate.

The latest I've reduced my Kata from 16 to 13.

I agree with what's being advised, is your school after trophies at all the local or national competitions or is your school out to teach Street Defence. I've not met a school that does both (Seriously I've seen so called schools that do both and their "street defence" is about as useful as rubber nails). Its either "Karate Do/Jutsu" or "Sports Karate" not both

What is your core style as this needs to be the basis ot your syllabus?.

Have a look online where some schools publish their syllabus on their website to see what theirs is like.


Black Tiger
Black Tiger's picture

So how is your syllabus progressing?