Last week, I tormented my karate students. After warm-ups, I split the class into two groups, one on each end of the mat. I lined up the groups by height, then announced we’d be playing Red Rover and told everyone to join hands. They did so with only a small hesitation. Then I told them that if their name was called, they not only had to run toward the other line, they had to perform either a diving roll or flying sidekick that would sail over the joined hands and between the two people. And if they didn’t make it that high, they’d have to do fifty pushups. Ignoring the nervous glances—particularly ones from my newer adult students—I immediately added myself to the end of one line and asked who we should call for first.
I had ‘em, until I couldn’t keep a straight face any longer. I lined everyone up to practice throws instead.
But why did they believe me in the first place? The obvious is that I have authority on the mat. I’m the sensei, and their answer to direction is supposed to be “Yes, Ma’am!” The truer reason, though, is the fact I’ve led them down a similar road—and followed through.
I've developed some rather odd teaching techniques, games the students play to develop skills and strength, get past the tension-barriers of attacking and defending, and foster naturalness in movement and mechanics. They do joint locks and quick escapes with their eyes closed. They fight sparring matches while tied to their opponent with a three-foot rope. Some katas have sound effects such as “Shazam!” I regularly make comments like, "Wonder Twin powers--activate!" and "There is no charge for awesomeness!" We play games called Swords and Shields or Eels and Piranha, and we’ve done a karate version of the Hokey Pokey as a warm-up.
Red Rover was close enough to what I’d already shown them to be a believable extension. I didn’t ask them to make a leap of faith, merely a small step.
So there we go. If we want readers to play Red Rover with abandon, we have to give them the Hokey Pokey first.
Alas, no one can protect us from those readers who adore Hokey Pokey and hate Red Rover. For them, no amount of Hoking and Poking will make them want to go Roving.