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Finlay's picture
Teaching young children

A friend of mine recently asked if i would be willing to do some classes with some very young children (about 5 years old), I have experience teaching group of children in my day job so i said i would think about it.


I have some ideas for the class so far

Focus of the class, i don;t want ti to be another punch kick class ideal would like to teach them something more useful. more aviodance of danger, confidence building etc.

Attention span of students- i now from teaching before thisis going to be an issue, keeping the classes short , active, and fun is my aim. so a game based approach

Content -  becasue of their early development stage i am not really wanting them to pad work, especially not with the hands, i would like to teach them some body awarness drills, balnace, rolling, co ordination, possible some very short simplified forms


can anyone out there with more experience give me some feedback on what i have so far please. any siggestions welcome

gazrichards's picture

I teach about 5 classes a week to kids of ages 4-7. I'm not ashamed to say that it pays my mortgage and my clubs bills and allows me to teach the senior grades without the pressures of rent fees and the hassle of little kids disrupting the class. 

my first advice is to do shorter lessons and earlier in the day. Mine are typically 30 or 45 mins long and at 4 or 5 PM. 

Obviously a lot of the practical element of karate that we talk about on this forum is not suitable for little kids and I never touch the subject except for things like bullying and I try and teach some aspect of self control and reasonable force (meaning I explain to them that just because they can punch or kick doesn't mean they should attack another kid that steals their sweets!)

To be honest I try and make my classes more a solid introduction to karate so that when they are old and mature enough they can join in a real session. I run a slightly adapted syllabus that still involves some kata and some prearranged kumite and I play games with them. 

Any games I play I try and make behaviour or skill focused and never just things like throwing a ball around etc. 

kids that age are really into routine and if you change something they will notice straight away so I tend to do the same warm up exercises every session. if I change the warm up I have to explain that we will be doing something new. 

Last piece of advice....once you lose their concentration it's gone forever! Some kids that age will concentrate for 5 minutes at most and then usually have a disruptive element on the class.  I have no qualms about making these kids sit down and rest and join in again later. It's not a punishment, just a rest. 

At that age if you can teach them to stand still in a line, ask to go to the toilet politely (or not just go in their pants!) put their hand up before they speak and show respect for each other and their surroundings then you have done a good service. 

If you can teach them a kata then very well done! 

I have a few kids that started with me at age 5 or 6 and have slowly grown up through the ranks to be some very good black belt teenagers that I am extremely proud of. 

Also teaching kids this age can be really easy because you don't really have to plan a session. It's almost the same thing every week just be prepared to let your hair down an bit and enjoy spending a session with some really fun loving kids!

rframe's picture

For kids that young, try to take concepts and build games for them.  They dont need to know they are learning building blocks toward a martial art, they just need to have fun while developing some motorskills, balance, and a good base.  Use a TON of positive reinforcement.

My kids are working through the Bullyproof program.  We do it as a family.  While this has jiu-jitsu roots, the concepts are brilliant, transferable, and they build interest and excitement for the kids.  The first section, and the only section that younger kids work on, are strictly games.  My kids love it and actually ask to do it a lot.

Here's a sample:

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

That's a great drill! Lots of fun while developing important skills :-)

DaveB's picture
On a side note, has anyone got any advice for introducing and sustaining their own child's interestin martial arts.
Dod's picture

DaveB,  I’m not sure there’s any magic solution,   and I but here are some of my thoughts which are mainly common sense things rather than training methods  (my son just turned 7 and has been going for 20 months):

  • Above all,they can sense when you are trying to push them into going (bless them) so all the blackmailing,bribing and mind games must look to them like it is their decision to go,otherwise the is a natural tendency for them to resist

  • For me the aim is also long-term attendance,so personally I’d rather the lesson contained only 15 mins of actual karate and they keep going rather than an hour and they give up quickly

  • Clearly games that teach karate skills by stealth are good

  • Belts and medals do work for the small ones (despite the fact that I tell them long terms benefits are more important)

  • Get to the dojo early as they love the riotous run-around on the mats and playing tag for a few minutes before they inevitably have to behave themselves.I think they look forward to this part as much as anything else

  • Discipline and fun balance to be considered:obviously a sensei that is too strict will put them off,but they get a degree of comfort from rules.

  • Bribe ideas:Matchbox cars,Transformers

  • Lots of praise when they are trying

  • It helps if you train as well,and that there are other kids whose parents train so that it seems a natural thing,and they are not being asked to do something that you won’t also do

  • Common sense things:make sure that just before it’s time to go training they are not too tired,hungry or they see their friends are around having fun

  • They like hitting things, especially adults

  • Sometimes it seems like one of those things that they don’t really know will benefit them at the time,but hopefully they will be grateful when they get older that they have learned strong fundamentals

DaveB's picture
Thanks Dod. My boy is four so perhaps a little early, but he's showing signs of interest since I started helping his older cousin go through the kata sequences. Also if anyone wants to introduce weapons, I recommend the Lego stiffened foam swords. He wanted to sword fight with plastic sticks so got these instead and play fencing for tummy touches.