“What You Do, You Become:” My Teaching Philosophy by Sensei/YDN Caitlin

Sensei/YDN Caitlin doing her form at a tournament.

Sensei/YDN Caitlin doing her form at a tournament.

Good teaching requires intention. Really, that’s not so different from what is required to be truly good at martial arts.

But there’s so much more to martial arts than kicking and punching. (And I know you’ve heard that before, so let me explain!)

My name is Caitlin. At NWSMA, I’m known as Sensei Caitlin. I’ve been teaching martial arts for nearly as long as I’ve been doing them. At the time of the writing, that’s about 15 ½ years.

I believe that the word “skills” covers more than just kicking, blocking, and punching. More than sparring or forms. Interpersonal skills, or lifeskills, like how to get along with classmates, how to resolve conflicts, and how to talk to adults are among some of the many skills children learn as they grow up.

To be successful in life, ALL children must learn these lifeskills. The skills include: how to focus, how to Continue reading

Kata for Focus: Helping Children with ADD/ADHD?


White belts working on punches.

White belts working on punches.

As parents, educators, and mentors, we all have times where we wish a certain kiddo had a little more, well, FOCUS!

Focus is a particularly salient problem for children who are diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. Countless anecdotes will tell you that martial arts are good for kids (& adults) with ADD/ADHD.

But no one really knows WHY martial arts help work to control ADD/ADHD.

But as someone who’s been teaching martial arts for over 15 years, I have some thoughts. For one thing, it is well known that ALL children focus better in school when they are given ample opportunities for vigorous exercise! Vigorous exercise also contributes greatly to physical health. Martial arts certainly covers that category!

But in my opinion, there is something else. Traditional martial arts are different because they include something called forms, sets of movements that are memorized and performed. The difficulty level usually increases with rank, and forms are evaluated as part of a student passing from belt to belt.

So, what is it about forms that help cultivate skills for focusing–not just for ADD/ADHD kids, but ALL children? Continue reading

School’s Out! (Tips to Get ‘Em Reading)

We’re challenging all NWSMA students to read for 20 minutes (or more) every day this summer!

In the sage words of Kid President, “If you wanna change the world, you gotta know something about it. So read a book!”

My class seemed a little surprised the other day when I told them that comic books, newspapers, and magazines all would count for summer reading.

Book Selfie

Book selfie!

Time to share some information about reading! How do we get those darn kids to read more books?

Here’s what we know about reading. Continue reading

A (Student-Generated) List of Ways to Show Effort in Class


I was cleaning out files, and I found an exercise I had my classes do about a year ago.

I sat the class down and explained that I wasn’t inside their heads. I couldn’t tell what they were thinking, unless they told me with words or acted a certain way.

We broke out into groups. I gave each group a sheet of paper and assigned a scribe. Together, the group created a list of “Ways to Show Effort in Class.”  Continue reading

3 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Martial Arts


Maybe you’re new to martial arts. Maybe, you’re a long-term student and you’ve hit a plateau.

Either way, my 3 tips for getting the most out of your martial arts class will help you reflect on the process. Are you really doing what it takes to get the most out of your martial arts class?

And what does it really take to get good? Get better? Get past the plateau in your training?

Ultimately, the control is in your hands. You need patience, goals, and mental presence in class. Click “read more” to find out why!

Continue reading

6 Classroom Management Tips for Martial Arts Instructors


Classroom management isn’t just for public school teachers. These 6 classroom management tips for martial arts instructors will help you take your teaching game to the next level!

No matter what they teach, teachers find ways to ensure that their classroom runs smoothly. Good classroom management should also help a teacher prevent disruptions before they occur.

Effective classroom management techniques ensure that your students spend the maximum amount of time doing what they love: practicing martial arts.

Hit the “more” tag for my top 6 classroom management tips for martial arts instructors! Continue reading

Top Instructor Do’s and Don’ts from NWSMA Black Belts

Black belts

A bit of introduction here: NWSMA holds a “black belts only” class once a month. We split the class time between practicing advanced material and talking about what it means to be a black belt and an instructor.

They are assigned a reading the week before class, and this month I gave them an excellent piece from Black Belt Magazine, titled, “How Karate Sensei Can Avoid Mixed Messages in the Dojo.

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5 Tips for Teaching Assistants in a Martial Arts Kids’ Class

Eeek! Sensei just gave you 3 adorable yellow belts. You’re supposed to be teaching them blocks, but you have no idea how to handle kids!

group work

Sound familiar?

Teaching assistants are a vital part of any kids class. They let the senior instructors step back and measure progress, both individual and as a class. They also give older kids & upper belts a chance to exercise their leadership muscles. Plus, it fosters a great sense of community and togetherness in the dojo or dojang!

Click “more” for my top 5 tips for teaching assistants!  Continue reading

Instructor’s Corner: 4 Tips for Teaching Martial Arts to Kids (+ sample lesson plan)

I taught a class last week that I thought was pretty good. If I do say so myself. :P

summer camp

NWSMA students doing a group activity.

I define a good class as:

  1. A class where all the kids are focused and engaged (and maybe having just a little bit of fun–but not too much, because we all know there is no fun in martial arts! :P)
  2. A class where all the kids are motivated & trying their best.
  3. A class where they know some important details of techniques, especially injury preventing ones. Even if they can’t quite perform them. Yet. I know they’ll get there. :)
  4. A class where I get to assess each student’s skill individually (this can be a tough one).

Click “more” to see my lesson plan.  Continue reading

Chang Moo Kwan: Taekwondo or Tang Soo Do?

Taekwondo or Tang Soo Do?

What is Tang Soo Do?

What does Tang Soo Do have to do with Chang Moo Kwan anyway?

Arnis black belt

To clear up some common misconceptions about Chang Moo Kwan (and TKD in general), hit that “more” link!

Continue reading