Lessons from The Karate Kid Movie

In the movie The Karate Kid when the karate kid goes to the Japanese karate guy and asks him to train him on karate, the wise experienced Japanese man asks the karate kid to paint his fence, wax his car and scrub his roof. He asks him to do one such task after the other. Each task involves so many repetitions of the same action and is exhausting. The karate kid then reaches a point where he gets fed up from all that and refuses to do any more ‘work’ for Miyagi, the Japanese guy, telling him that he has been using him to work for him and has not taught him karate. It is at this moment that Miyagi reveals the real reason behind such exercises he had tasked the karate kid with. He shows him how to use the moves that he has been practicing while painting the fence, waxing the car and scrubbing the roof in blocking attacks. It is then and only then that the karate kid starts realizing the true benefits of the exercises he had been tasked with carrying out and appreciates what Miyagi has done.

Similarly, a trainer may occasionally decide to temporarily hide the real reasons behind an exercise or activity and reveal them only after such activity is complete. This can allow trainees to focus on carrying out the activity and not let their minds go astray or be burdened or overwhelmed knowing they are attempting to achieve a particular thing they may consider perhaps as too difficult.

On other occasions however, the trainer may decide to reveal the real reasons behind an exercise or activity before trainees start carrying it out. And he may also explain to them why it works and how it would help them achieve the desired goals. This allows trainees to appreciate the activity they are about to get involved in and makes them exert more focused effort while carrying it out. They become more motivated as they keep the goal in front of them exerting their utmost in the hope of achieving it. When I used to deliver English language training I noticed that trainees exert way more focused effort in following my instructions and attempting to read slowly but correctly, when I have first explained to them why such method works and its effectiveness. Prior to that, when I just used to instruct trainees to attempt to read slowly but correctly they did not attempt to follow my instructions closely and usually didn’t mind making many reading mistakes while focusing more on reading fast.

A competent trainer would be able to use both methods well to provide the best training experience. He would explain in detail how and why a specific activity produces superior results when he needs to motivate trainees and have them follow his instructions to the letter. He would also be able to keep the real reasons behind some activities hidden and reveal them only after trainees have completed it in order to avoid overburdening their minds. It is up to the trainer to decide which approach to use. Sometimes a trainer may decide to reveal part of the reasons behind an activity or exercise while not revealing the rest of the reasons. Some such reasons may be discovered by the trainee himself long after the training is over as he witnesses striking improvements in his performance.



Information Discovery

One method of teaching is to directly feed information into the minds of students. In training, however, it is much more effective to provide participants with plenty of opportunities to deduce the information you want them to learn on their own. One powerful method for discovering new information and gaining new insights is reflection.


A trainer can show a carefully selected short video to participants during the training session that touches upon one or more points related to the training. The trainer may then ask participants to split into groups and collaboratively reflect on such a video they have just seen deducing lessons and coming up with new insights from that video. Showing a video is a highly engaging activity for participants and is a sure way to get and maintain their full attention. Each group of participants can write down their reflections on a sheet of paper then come up and present them in front of the rest of the participants.


A trainer may provide participants with a game during the training session that has specific training goals. After the game is over the trainer may start asking participants about what they have learnt from that game. The trainer may also ask them about how they felt at specific times during the game. By allowing participants to reflect on their own feelings and on the development and outcome of the game they have just played they are often able to come up with new insights and lessons from such experience they just had.

Self Discovery

During attending the graphic facilitation workshop, the trainers asked us to draw the process of making coffee. After we finished the drawing activity, they asked each of us to look at his or her drawing of the coffee making process and try to discover something about his or her own personality. I kept gazing at my drawing for quite a while without being able to discover anything really meaningful about myself. Then it suddenly struck me that the drawings clearly indicated that I am a multitasking person who likes to do several things in parallel since I did not draw the process in steps, like most of my colleagues had done, but rather drew all components of the coffee making process as if they were happening simultaneously without a specific order or sequence. I like to finish things quickly and reach for the end goal in a short time. Such was another example of using reflection to gain insight after a training activity this time being a self reflection.

Wrapping Up

After providing participants with ample opportunity to reflect on a video you have shown them and express their findings or reflect on a game they have just played during their training you can then proceed to summarize and comment on their reflections perhaps stressing some of them, modifying others and even adding some insights of your own. Reflection is a powerful technique that can provide participants with deep insights and high rate of information retention if used appropriately by the trainer in various occasions during training.

How else can reflections be used other than after watching videos, playing training games and making drawings?

Group Work Activities for Training Workshops

Interactive training workshops are more engaging than boring lectures and are more effective than mere presentations done by a trainer. Group work is one of the main kinds of activities that can make a training session highly interactive and engaging and thus enjoyable and of high impact.

Single Presenter

Here is basically how group work works:

  1. Trainer divides participants into groups.
  2. Trainer asks each group to discuss a specific topic and write down their thoughts in points.
  3. Trainer then asks each team to nominate one of its members to come and present the points of his team in front of all participants.

Multiple Presenters

A variation would be to ask each team to send 2 or even 3 of its members to present the points written by the team. This is helpful in team building training where you want participants to practice collaboration and cooperation. In such  cases, you must clearly state that both participants sharing the presentation have to share equally in presenting their team’s points. It is not acceptable that one participant goes ahead reading and explaining all the points while forgetting all about his colleague who is standing next to him and not leaving any points for that colleague to cover. The trainer must clearly state that this is not allowed. The trainer must state this before the teams start their presentations.

Time Stretching

The time it takes each team to present their points is proportional to the number of team members giving the presentation. If you ask each team to send 2 of its team members to give the presentation this would take them more time than if you had asked them to send only one team member to do the presentation. Similarly, 3 members would take a longer time in presenting than 2 members even though they have the same number of points to present. This phenomenon can be used by the trainer to reduce or expand the time of the group work activity in order to manage the training session time.


Before the teams start their discussions, you can provide them with flip chart sheets to use for writing their points. You may even ask them to cut the sheets themselves from the flip chart and divide a single sheet into 2 or 3 parts and divide it on the other teams.


It is of great value that you ask the teams to sit in circles. As they start their discussions, if you find one of the teams not arranging their chairs in a proper circle go to them and guide them to do so. The seating positions during this activity have a very high and noticeable effect on the performance of a team. Sitting in a perfect circle makes it possible for everyone to participate and boosts synergy among team members creating what might seem like a sort of resonance.

Getting Creative

I remember once that one of the teams got creative during their presentation and threw in a mini-play instead of a mere reading and explaining of the points they have written. A trainer should praise and encourage such creative initiatives.


The topic of discussion can be to reflect on a video just viewed by participants or to try and find answers for a question or solutions for a problem or just to list any kind of information the trainer asks them to list.


Group work is an activity that participants usually enjoy greatly and benefit from. Nevertheless, the trainer should take care to alternate between it and other forms of training so that participants do not get over-exhausted. Group work is usually a fundamental part of every interactive training workshop.

What kind of training program do you think group work would not be appropriate to use in?

Gathering Trainee Expectations

It is essential to gather trainee expectations about the training at the beginning of the first session of a training program. This can be done after the trainer has introduced himself or herself, explained the training style and thrown an icebreaker.

Trainee expectations can be gathered using the think and listen technique. Expectations can also be gathered using various other means.

Documenting Expectations

It is important at the end of an expectation gathering activity to write down such trainee expectations on the flip chart in front of everyone. You may ask one of the trainees to do the flip chart writing while the rest of the trainees mention their expectations. Remember to give such a trainee who volunteers to write a chance to write his own expectations about the training as well. If a trainee repeats the same point already mentioned by another trainee a check mark can just be added next to such point on the flip chart. At the end of writing all trainee expectations down on the flip chart the points with the highest number of check marks next to them would be the ones expected most and desired most by the trainees.

The flip chart sheet that has the trainee expectations listed on it can be kept till the final training session and revealed once again at the end of such session in order to check which points in it have actually been covered during the training program and which have not.


Allowing participants to search for and express their expectations and hopes from the training program makes them feel more comfortable that the trainer is fully aware of their actual needs. It also provides the trainer with insight into the desires and hopes of the current group of participants which may lead to him making some adjustments to the training program to suit the current group of trainees.

Furthermore, a trainer may clearly state that one or more of the points expected by trainees are outside the scope of the current training and will not be covered during such a training program while explaining why they are not going to be covered. This helps set trainee expectations right and makes them more accepting when such a point is not covered during the training because they are aware of the reasons for it not being covered.

Gathering trainee expectations is an essential activity that a competent trainer should be carrying out at the beginning of the first training session in a training program in order to provide a great learning experience for all trainees.

When do you think it is not essential to for a trainer or facilitator gather participant expectations?

Think and Listen

I had read about the think and listen technique in the past in a PDF document that I had stumbled upon online. It was a technique used in meetings aimed at community building and working collaboratively for activism.

Productive Meetings

I then later set out to try it out during delivering a training session about productive meetings. The think and listen technique turned out to be a great success. I used it once again during delivering another productive meetings workshop to a different group of participants with tremendous results. I then started using it regularly during my training programs for various things.


Here is how the think and listen technique works:

  1. Have participants seated in a continuous circle or U-shape.
  2. Go in turn giving each participant a number in sequence starting from #1. Start with participants on your left side.
  3. Ask participants with odd numbers to raise their hands.
  4. Now ask those with even numbers to raise their hands.
  5. Ask those with odd numbers to turn their chairs slightly to the left side and to look to their left sides.
  6. Ask participants with even numbers to turn their chairs slightly to the right side and look to their right.

Participants will find themselves being paired with one another! They will start smiling and speaking to one another.

Now explain to them how the think and listen technique is carried out and the benefits of doing it such as practicing the all important listening skills.

  1. Now ask participants with odd numbers to start speaking to their colleagues about a specific topic you had specified.
  2. Participants with even numbers must keep completely silent and only listen to their colleagues.
  3. This can continue for 2 minutes.
  4. You then ask participants to switch roles allowing participants with even numbers to speak, about the same topic, while those with odd numbers must now listen while keeping silent.
  5. After another 2 minutes, you signal to participants to stop speaking.

Go Round

A fast round of go round should follow the think and listen activity. Each participant in the circle takes a turn to select and mention to the whole class one and only one of the many points he had just mentioned to the colleague he was paired with.


An optional step would be to write down what participants are saying in points on the flip chart. You can even ask one of the participants to do the writing. If one of the points is repeated, a check point can be added next to the point that has already been written. When the round of go round has finished the technique now has completed.


The think and listen technique can be used for a variety of purposes such as collecting problems facing participants at work, gathering their expectations at the beginning of the training or asking them to state what they would be doing differently at work having attended the training.

Where else other then meetings and training sessions do you believe the think and listen technique can be successfully used?

Trainee Self Introductions

Icebreaker Combo

It is a good idea to allow for introductions among participants at the beginning of the training. This can be done during the icebreaker. In such case, introductions would be combined with a fun activity that would help participants loosen up and get familiar with one another.

Elaborate Self Intros

Introductions can also be made in a slightly more elaborate manner than the brief and fun icebreaker. For example, participants can work in pairs each getting a turn to introduce himself to his partner mentioning his name, his job and his interests. After both participants in each pair introduce themselves to one another, the trainer can then go around asking each participant one by one to introduce his partner to the whole class. This strengthens bonds among participants and improves group work later on during the training program.


Introductions also dissolve any need for recognition among participants and helps avoid characteristics of the difficult trainee arising.

Therefore, it is always a good idea to allow for introductions at the beginning of a training program in order to guarantee a smooth running of the program and better and closer participant interaction.

What other trainee self introduction methods have you experienced?

Collecting Trainee Feedback

Trainer Development

One of the best methods ever for a trainer to improve his or her skills in delivering training and to advance with time is to continually gather and analyze feedback from trainees then adjust his or her training practices accordingly. The importance of such an activity in the advancement of a trainer cannot be overstressed.

Simple Feedback

There are several ways to collect feedback from participants. One of the simplest and easiest, yet most effective, methods for collecting trainee feedback is one I learned from an instructor who had been delivering business courses to us. That was around one year prior to my starting on my training career. If I remember correctly, he also told us that he had learnt it from his instructor.


The method is very simple. At the end of the last training session of a training program provide participants with two sheets of paper. Write “+ve” at the top of one sheet and “-ve” at the top of the other. Ask participants to write down their feedback about the training course in those two sheets of paper in the form of points.


If a trainee finds that what he wanted to say has already been written by a colleague he can just add a tick next to that point instead of writing that point again. Do not allow participants to discuss with one another what to write. Have each participant decide on his own what he should write.

Processing Feedback

After collecting such feedback from participants I used to go a step further by writing them down and condensing them in a notebook specially kept for such feedback.

What other interesting methods for collecting trainee feedback have you experienced?