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DWx
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 20, 2016 4:10 pm    Post subject: What is the best age for children to start training? Reply with quote

What age is the best (earliest?) for children to start training in martial arts?

What are some of the prerequisites they should have? e.g. coordination or attention span

Is it better to start in one type of discipline first such as striking or grappling, or can they start anywhere?
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Nidan Melbourne
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 20, 2016 9:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I normally recommend to Parents that 6 years of age is the earliest that a student should commence Martial Arts Training. This is due to them commencing school in Prep that year, and that they should have a minimum attention span and coordination level.

Previously I have taught kids younger than 6, and they have been unable to concentrate for than 30 minutes at any one time, even when a session for them was 45 minutes.

Psychologically they are at that stage that they can comprehend simple instructions and guidelines that we teach them at 6.
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sensei8
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Joined: 23 Feb 2008
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Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]

PostPosted: Thu Jul 21, 2016 3:21 pm    Post subject: Re: What is the best age for children to start training? Reply with quote

DWx wrote:
What age is the best (earliest?) for children to start training in martial arts?

What are some of the prerequisites they should have? e.g. coordination or attention span

Is it better to start in one type of discipline first such as striking or grappling, or can they start anywhere?

Good topic, Danielle!! Thanks for starting it!!

Allow me to answer these 3 questions one at a time.

It has been my practice to allow children on the floor when they reach 5 years old. However, I've made exceptions by allowing 4 year olds on the floor. The choice, as to what age is the best to start them in the MA depends on what the CI decides. And at times, the governing body dictates that, and to me, that's wrong. Why? The governing body needs to stay completely out of the daily operations of a dojo/dojang/etc because they've no stake in anything outside of the governing body. The governing body has a full plate already.

As far as prerequisites are concerned, and what's required, I'll just say this...

Kids will be kids. Therefore, the prerequisite should be directed towards the CI. Can the CI teach kids? If not, then the CI needs to not ever teach kids. Teaching children requires a CI that knows exactly how to teach them. By the way, 'exactly' means that the learning curve for the CI concerning children needs to have some flexibility because what a child did today, might not echo to tomorrow. Why? Kids are kids!! Coordination in children are what they are, and in that, they'll not be as coordinate as adults are, but that should be expected. Attention span?!? WOW!! I know some adults that don't have the attention span of children. What I've learnt by the experts and professionals outside of the dojo/dojang/etc is that the age of the child matches the length of attention span in minutes. So, if you've got a 5 years old, you've got about 5 minutes before that child loses interest. HOWEVER, that 5 minutes will be a general rule because, that child will lose their attention span WHENEVER THEY DECIDE, and not the CI. Be prepared to expect the unexpected when teaching children the MA. If you bore that child to death, you'll lose the battle of will fast, and it'll take some creative and effective tools to bring them back onto your side.

When it comes to children, the parents/guardians decide which MA that child will start, and that'll have a varied factors that have to be meet before that child bows onto the floor for the first time. So, what I like to do, is sit the parents/guardians down and have an open conversation, and then go from there. The child can start anywhere, once the parents/guardians DECIDE!! Kids may want, but the parents/guardians decide ultimately. Sure, I'll push my brand, but in the end, my brands either fits their needs and expectations or it doesn't. I always encourage the parents/guardians to visit as many classes as they feel they need to decide because things decided behind closed doors are forgotten once the floor starts to reveal a many things.



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Lupin1
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 21, 2016 8:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It depends on the goals and focus of the class.

Our program just has one kids' class with all the kids mixed in (beginners are separated most of the time, but it's all going on at the same time). Because there's no dedicated class for younger kids, we don't accept under 8 years old. That's around the age they can generally stay focused through an entire hour long lesson and self-direct a bit when the instructors are working with someone else.

If your school has time, room, and staff for a separate class, I would support classes as young as 3 or 4 years old. Of course, they wouldn't be learning too much martial arts at that age, but you could begin to construct the building blocks of balance, control, movement, etc that will help them when they get old enough start studying actual martial arts.
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JR 137
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2016 5:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There's so many factors involved, but it ultimately depends on the kid. It's like potty training - the kid is ready when he/she is ready, not when the parent or anyone else is.

The goals of training also need to be examined. The younger the kid is, the more the focus has to be gross motor movement over fine motor movement. Teaching a traditional high block to a 3 year old, if you expect the kid to be able to do all the little things such as blocking arm crossing in front of the chambering arm, blocking arm ending up at a 45 degree angle above and in front of their head with the underside of the forearm showing, straight body posture in proper stance, and the rear hand chambered, all the while staying quiet and waiting for the next count, you're going to be sorry. If you expect the kid to be able to consistently swat away a blocking bat above their head that's swung downward at them, you've got a chance.

With kids' MA training, the "hidden curriculum" is more important than the actual curriculum - learning how class runs/routine, waiting their turn, not talking out of turn, giving, receiving and showing respect, etc.

Most often, it's the parents' expectations that need to be addressed. For the kids, it's a physical activity like everything else they do at that age - gymnastics, dance, soccer, etc. These things all start at around 3 years old and don't pretend to develop kids into all-stars at that age. The competitive sport ones don't even play an actual game at that age, and for good reason; the kids don't comprehend that. MA should be the same; kids that age can't comprehend sparring.

Kids as young as 3 can be taught how to throw a punch, kick, and swat away a foam blocking bat. Don't expect perfect fist alignment, toe/foot position, balance, etc.

My 3 year old takes gymnastics, dance, and has done swimming, soccer and basketball. If MA was taught the same way, she'd have no problem with it either. Most kids wouldn't have problems either. Most have been half hour long, but gymnastics is a full hour. Gymnastics has the advantage of all the different apparatus keeping their interest.

All of my 3 year old's activities had something that I've never seen in MA - the parents were either required to be on the floor with the kid, or they were allowed on the floor at any point and expected to come onto the floor when the kid wasn't doing what they're supposed to do. I've never seen a "Mommy/Daddy & Me Karate" class, yet it's the norm for a lot of other activities for 3 year olds. 3-5 year olds' activities typically run in 6 week sessions, yet kids' MA typically has annual contracts. After the 6 weeks, a new session starts after a week or 2 off, and the next session is more or less the same, only changing with age unless all the kids are repeat students and have demonstrated proficiency in the very basics; then the teacher may pick up in the middle of the program and move on to more advanced stuff at the end.

MA really needs to learn some things from other activities for preschool kids. Traditional MA teaching at this age group is far too regimented and strictly taught IMO. Too many formalities. I think it's the parents' and teachers' expectations of MA.

So with all of this in mind, if 3 year olds can do any physical activities, they can easily do MA too. It has to be taught correctly, and the parents' and teachers' expectations have to be realistic. Don't expect a 3 year old Bruce Lee to walk out of the dojo in 6 weeks. The gymnastics parents don't expect their 3 year olds to do an Olympic medal winning floor routine or all-around.
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jaypo
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2016 8:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think a lot depends on the kid. For example, my son is 7, and he loves Karate. But he hates going to class! He'll kick butt at home, but when he's in class, he mopes and goofs off. And our CI is a magician with kids!

I don't necessarily think the age is the factor. It's the kid and his ambition.

Too many people are putting their kids in MA as "child care" and/or to discipline a kid that has problems being disciplined. It's hard to turn some of these into MAists, regardless of age.

However, as a benchmark, 4 is the absolute minimum that we've accepted, but that's for kids that enjoy being there. We usually let people take a couple of classes for free before inviting them to join.
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sensei8
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2016 2:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great posts, all!! Great things to remember and great things to consider!!

When the kids ready, and not anytime sooner!! That's gold advice, imho. Not the parents/guardians, but the children are oftentimes overlooked. Turns a parent/guardian into forcing a kid when the kids not ready.

Key off the kids, and not off the parents/guardians!!



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DWx
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2016 1:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great replies so far

Our school is lucky in that we have a kids programme dedicated for the first couple of years a child trains with us. In these classe they are not really doing martial arts per se but are learning basic coordination, focus and all the other basic physical and mental skills ready to join the main classes. They do this through games and really basic pad drills and technique combinations. Instead of belts they earn badges for things like learning to side kick or getting the splits etc.
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DWx
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2016 1:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

JR 137 wrote:
With kids' MA training, the "hidden curriculum" is more important than the actual curriculum - learning how class runs/routine, waiting their turn, not talking out of turn, giving, receiving and showing respect, etc.

Most often, it's the parents' expectations that need to be addressed. For the kids, it's a physical activity like everything else they do at that age - gymnastics, dance, soccer, etc. These things all start at around 3 years old and don't pretend to develop kids into all-stars at that age. The competitive sport ones don't even play an actual game at that age, and for good reason; the kids don't comprehend that. MA should be the same; kids that age can't comprehend sparring.


This is a great point.

Earlier this year I went on a course about youth development with one of the Team GB strength & conditioning coaches. The take home message he really pushed is that we should aim to produce all-round athletes rather than just football players, or basketball players or martial artists. Gross motor skills are much more important to develop as a child than specific skills like kicking and punching. In fact he had a whole bunch of statistics showing that individuals were much more likely to dominate their sport if they had a wide skill base and participated in many sports as a kid and specialised in later life.
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RJCKarate
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 24, 2016 7:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are so many factors to consider. I primarily look for the development (or developing of) general motor skills, basic balance, and being able to know their left and right from each other.

I generally accept students aged 8 on wards without too much concern, but do take students from age 6 on wards after a 4 lesson assessment of the above skills, and their ability to stay engaged and learning in a 45-60minute class.

If someone brings their child to my dojo, who is younger than 6, I generally suggest either judo, gymnastics or dance. The students that I've had come to my dojo who are <8 and have done one of the above, generally fit in very well.
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