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nielmag's picture
Bunkai for Children

Was just wondering, when do is the ideal time to to start kids in bunkai?  for kids under 10-12 Is it better to teach kids kihon/kata/kumite to learn proper body mechanics, then as they get older then teach bunkai?  Or is it better to teach bunkai right off the bat?  Just wanted to get everyone's thoughts.

shoshinkanuk's picture

There's no way I can teach our bunkai to under 18's, it's just to dodgy to do so without changing the material significantly.

Not so much that it's 'bad asss', just the level of control to work it safley is difficult to happen for youngsters and to risky for me as a teacher.

I send youngsters to Judo generally.

michael rosenbaum
michael rosenbaum's picture

When I taught children I never showed them any bunkai that could be considered dangerous or life threatening. Fifteen and under I always stressed motor skill development, proper form and technique with a little bit of point sparring thrown in. But, then again, I'm not a big fan of teaching kids under the age of 10 because I feel soccer, baseball, track, softball and basketball instill better motor-skills and physical stamina than 30-45 min of karate does at that age.

Mike R

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

There are some things you obviously can’t teach children safely or responsibly. Chokes, strangles, joint-locks, heavy impact training, etc are all inappropriate for young bodies and minds. However, there is much bunkai that can be taught safely. This would include, gripping, striking, limb-control, throws, grip escapes, etc. This gives them a solid base to progress to the “adult curriculum” of kata / karate when they get older. It’s also little different from the things children would be doing in a child’s judo class or common or garden karate class.

Personally, I don’t take on students under 14 years of age so the issues associated with younger children never surface. However, I still think it is possible to teach children bunkai … we just need to be sure it is the right kind of bunkai; with the other stuff being saved until they are older.

All the best,


Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

I did soccer as a kid and hated it..my parents put me into Karate because I didn't really like sports, turned out to be a good thing. Sportsd may teach better stuff I don't know, but some kids don't like them so...the kids attracted to team sports and the kids attracted to Karate may not always be the same.

Far as bunkai i'm on board with what Ian says, years ago when I had a kids class it mostly consisted of rolling and agility games, then I would teach them simple striking and a few  fairly safe takedowns they could do with one another slowly. Another fun thing was holds, you can teach them plenty of escapes from holds..and in fact one thing that is sure to come in useful for them is teaching them how to deal with headlocks and other 'schoolyard grappling'. Dollars to donut they will at some point be put in one...and you don't need to teach anything terribly "offensive" there either. You can make it into a fun game for them to escape holds and such..as long as you can keep them from going too crazy.

Tau's picture

The Bunkai that we gain from kata is generally not suitable for kids (as stated above) due to the effective and debilitating nature of it. However I'm a strong believer in teaching Martial Arts to kids. I just think that there's so much that they can gain from it. THe style that I primarily teach has seperate syllabi for adults and kids. For children it's gross motor skills, stances and escapes. They can be introduced to the more direct techniques as they age and progress.

Oerjan Nilsen
Oerjan Nilsen's picture

In my dojang the focus when it comes to kids is not "bunkai" but they are taught the block kick punch applications they need in order to do the one and three step sparring. I generally teach some release techniques from the patterns as well or just a part of a "bunkai" if it is appropriate. For example if a pattern show a release from a common bullying hold or typical school yard scrap but it also teaches a nasty follow up I will remove the nasty follow up but I will teach the release technique. We also stress that the martial arts are only for self defense and that it should not be used to start fights or threaten anyone etc. I do not know any real life examples that our students have been in "fights" as Norway is a country without much violence. It is often the health reasons that grown ups continue training, and children are often inrolled at Dojo/Dojangs by parents wishing their children to learn dicipline.