Thursday 12 July 2007

My dojo entrance exam for children

I originally wrote this article in 1993 when I had my JKA (Asai faction) Canterbury club, in Christchurch-city, New Zealand. 14 years on, and I am happy to say that this 'tradition' continues...

(Please note the jpeg images used in this post are not from the original article).

To enter my children's karate class I have an entrance examination. If under the age of eleven years old, they must sit still in seiza (the kneeling position), with eyes closed, for three consecutive minutes.

They must do this without any moving (including blinking or twitching), or making any intentional sounds. They must also sit with their back and neck straight. In the case of not knowing good posture, I position them correctly, before starting the stop watch. The entire time I sit directly infront of the child, examining them closely.

Failure in this 'Entry Examination' means they cannot enter my kids beginners class. Interestingly enough, some older children fail, and the very odd five year old manages to get in. Like these students I started karate at five and passed this test, but in saying that, I can't remember doing it. My point here, is that the entry examination was obviously not traumatic, as I remember the majority of my first lesson.

Often children who fail, get upset and cry, and their parents try to 'bribe me' to accept them into JKA. Naturally I can't give in, and explain that 'their child is not ready for the strictness of traditional karate'. I never just fob them off, but rather appologise, and invite them to try again in a few months. If I loose students, that's too bad. I would prefer to have less money, and have a dojo where everyone can learn authentic JKA karate. Because without this serious focus and disciplined environment, real Shotokan simply cannot be learned.

The use of such a test makes my children's classes very different to the majority of dojo, especially in Western countries. You may question ''Is this too strict?'' Well, in my opinion, this is merely 'standard'. You might then laugh at me and say ''Well buster, your dojo floor will be empty''. But according to my teacher and JKA Chief Instructor, Tetsuhiko Asai Shihan, ''Many parents are now looking for a more strict environment, for their children to learn karate-do''.

The bottom line is that there ain't no way I am baby sitting for money, and pretending it is Shotokan karate, like so many do nowadays. I refuse to 'further deminish' the worldwide standards of traditional karate, created by the 'student-numbers-competition'.


Why, don't I accept students who do not pass my 'Entrance Examination' is very simple! Because I am not a baby sitter, and regardless of age, if children want to do karate, they must have the maturity to start. Likewise, my existing students need to be developed in an environment which maximises their potential. Therefore, accepting children who are not ready isn't acceptable. We model our karate on that of JKA Honbu Dojo in Tokyo, and that's what gives us the edge.


© André Bertel, Japan 2007

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