Three simple questions for creating a thinking culture in your dojo

In my previous post, I talked about the importance of creating an environment where asking and answering becomes part of your dojo’s culture. Thus, you create a thinking culture where students start making connections and develop conceptual understanding and ability to use that knowledge and skills in different contexts. The process of creating such an environment is log and requires constant use of questions and reflection of what it has been done on the karate practice. Previously, I explained the big picture, something that should help you understand what inquiry-based environment is.

But you have to start from somewhere, patiently and slowly. A good starting point for making changes and introduce something new is by posing the following three questions at the end of each training session: WHAT, WHY, and HOW.


What, Why and How

Wrapping up your karate lesson with a discussion is a great way to solidify whatever you’ve done that lesson and connect it with what you have been working on for some time.  Most of the coaches already do this. It comes naturally. But if you are the only one talking, consider giving these questions and let students take over and talk about what they have done and what have they learned.

Besides verbal communication, you can have a visual and kinesthetic stimulus as well, which would help in better retention of the information. To do so, put the three posters (WHAT, HOW and WHY) on a wall in your dojo and let the students talk about each one. One step further would be to put a whiteboard and let the student write their thoughts and everything they think is essential. Keep and review this information at the beginning of the next practice.


The three-step process

  1. WHAT – What did we learn today? This could be related to the Key or Related Concepts (previous post) and everything your students find meaningful and useful. A new karate stance, block, kata, leg techniques, movement. It might be a tactic related to kumite as well.
  2. WHY – Why is this important to you? Students try to understand how what they learned relates to their performance of maybe overall health. They try to find out the connection between different element and interconnectedness.
  3. HOW – How do I know I have learned this? Student list criteria they related to a specific element or whether they were able to perform the whole kata without stopping in the right order.


Wrapping up

What about you? Do you have any personal strategies you use in your practice to help students gain a better understanding of karate? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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