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OhioMike's picture
Repetition by stealth and gamification

So I have decided to leave my current school and start looking for another place that I can teach and study. It had gotten to the point that my kids and me were really not getting anything from the class. So I have been trying to form my own syllabus and working on updating my training methods. After listening to the last audio lesson on the app about making things fun and "Repetition by stealth". I have started looking for more ways to incorporate that into my teaching. In the proccess I found Jesse Encamp's video on Gamification of martial arts training.


This got me wondering what game like training do you know/practice, Jesse's suggested process seems practical but I am trying to expand my list of samples so that I can get a better handle on the principles.

I do use this currently in at least a few situationals. I know that kids (especially little kids) hate pushups, but I can get them to do wheel barrel races for 20 mins without them  realizing they are working the same muscle groups. I have also put a hockey puck on the ground and play keep away, or pass around the circle, or even set up goals to have them work on sweep kicks and just general kicking. I also occasionally use Karate tag, where I put loops on masking tape on the kids uniform and have them play at pulling the tape off. I find that it helps with control, since they want to move at full speed but they also want to grab something off the surface.



Nimrod Nir
Nimrod Nir's picture

Hi Mike,

I have vast experience in training children, and these are the games I find most useful (assuming you have a matted floor):

1. Sumo - sumo wrestling. Get your opponent out of the ring or throw him down inside the ring. You need marking on the mat resembling a ring (circle or square) for this game. Improves basic grappling, stability under pressure and aggressive instincts. Obviously, you need to know sumo rules, but these are simple enough even for kids to master quickly. There are also variants for 2 vs 2, 3 vs 3, 1 vs 2, etc.

2. Piranha Fish - in this game, one kid is chosen as the Piranha. He cannot get out of the "river" (as defined by two lines on the mat). The rest of the kids needs to cross the river every time you say "go". While they are in the river, the Piranha can grab them and try to tackle them down to the mat. If they successfully get tackled, they become a Piranha themselves and join the predators. If they manage to cross without falling (even if they are grabbed), then they are free, and the Piranhas should leave them alone until the next "go". The last one who manages to safely cross is the winner (or the last one to fall if none manage to cross in the same "go"). If the kids stall too long before crossing (which will definitely happen after they know how to play) you start counting to 10. If you reach 10 and they are not in the river trying to cross, they are disqualified and become a Piranha. An excellent and exciting game which improves evasion, stability under pressure and aggressive instincts. 

3. Last One Standing - similar concept to Piranha Fish, but without a river or borders. The kids jog around the mat until you shout out one of their names. All the other kids need to tackle the named kid, and he needs to run away and try to avoid being taken down for as long as possible, while you count aloud. The winner is the one who managed to keep standing the longest. This game also allows you to slightly vary the length of the count (to help out certain kids or make it a little harder for the favorites).

4. Rolling Tag - you need to teach them how to roll before playing this game. It is basically a Tag game (you can select on catcher or more), in which every tagged kid needs to lie down on the stomach and protect the head with his hands. The other kids need to free the tagged kids by rolling over them. Skilled rollers can roll over more than one kid in a single roll. Excellent game for implementing the concept of front rolls, which is a vital self-protection skill in my opinion (arguably the most useful skill I ever used in "real" life, which saved me several times, especially when I was a kid myself).

5. King of the Ring - I used to save this one for special occasions like holiday practices. You need an additional gym mat for this game. All the kids enter "the ring" (the heightened gym mat). When you say "go" they start pushing each other out of "the ring". If any part of you touches the regular mat, you're out and need to leave "the ring". After a few kids are out, you can signal the eliminated kids to start pulling the remaining kids from outside "the ring" (this helps avoiding long boring duals). You can also encourage them to go for a specific kid (in order to help certain kids and make it harder for the favorites or the previous round winners). The last kid remaining is the "King of the Ring" and all the other kids raise the gym mat and take him on a victory lap around the dojo to glorify him for the spectacular victory.

6. Competitions - anything you want to teach is more fun as a competition: Kata competition (you being the referee), distant rolling competition, head-stand and hand-stand competitions etc. Competing is fun, but it is very important to match the kids appropriately to avoid unnecessary upsets. In my experience, it is best to start by practicing the skill and then finish with a competition. If there are more skilled kids, you need to make it harder for them (e.g. all the kids are doing regular head-stand but you are on category 2, which means elbow head-stand etc.) 

There are other variants for these games, but I feel these are the most exciting and productive games I know.

Disclaimer: All these games are quite dangerous. You need to run them only if you are a qualified instructor with first-aid knowledge. Most of the injuries kids sustained during my time teaching (very rarely indeed) was during such games. More frequently than in sparring. So be very careful.  

Hope this helps and gives you some ideas to play with,


PASmith's picture

Have you looked at the Gracie jiu jitsu bullyproof programme? Their first level set of drills (aimed at 5-7 year olds iirc) are called Gracie games and introduce the basic structure of brazilian jiu jitsu/grappling. I do those with my kids (one is 6 and one 10) on a mat in the conservatory. There's one called crazy horse (i call it naughty horse) where my kids climb on my back, take a seat belt grip (or around the neck for the little one), get their 'hooks' in and try to hold on while i pretend to be a wild horse. If they hold on i pretend to get tired (doesnt take much pretending some days) and they feed me sugar lumps.

MCM180's picture

I’ll second the Gracie games. I did them for a while with my own kids. Helpful for everyone. 

The only concern is that it is a lot of rolling on the floor with children  You can easily hurt them, and you’ll want to be sure you don’t have a situation where you’re accused of any inappropriate contact etc  with the kids

PASmith's picture

Yep I would be very wary of doing gracie games with other people's kids but mine love it. My 6 year old son likes grappling with me (as well as some taekwondo basics, forward rolls, being superman balanced on my feet, etc). Even my 10 year old daughter likes the physical contact of it at a time when she is becoming less physically affectionate. It's a form of cuddling disguised as grappling. The gracies on their dvd explain some of the dangers in the drills, how some movements can trap joints if you arent careful for example, but with such a big weight disparity its definitely something to be aware of.