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Kovar Systems
Student Retention Staff Development Instructor Tips

Teaching Martial Arts to Young Children

By Dave Kovar

When teaching young kids martial arts, I believe that the first thing to consider is what your objectives are. If your objective is to develop a highly-skilled 6-year-old Black Belt, good luck.

More appropriately, I think the emphasis for this age group should be on:

  • Teaching them to pay attention so that they can become better learners.
  • Developing better coordination so they can become better athletes.
  • Teaching them how to be more respectful and courteous.
  • Showing them the foundational qualities of cooperation and trust.
  • Teaching them basic martial arts.
Here are a few guidelines that will help you to have the best results with a younger group, especially with the new challenges of virtual and socially distanced classroom formats. You might even have to over exaggerate these techniques for them to work with a digital or distanced audience.
 
1. Make it fun.

This is the most important rule in developing young students. At this age (or for that matter at any age) playing is a big part of life. In order for students to be interested and excel in the classroom, they must have a good time. The easiest way to make sure that your students are having a good time is for you to be having a good time as well. The class structure of discipline, respect and concentration does not have to be compromised in order to achieve this.

Remember though, there is a difference between having fun and being funny.

2. Don’t be overly picky about good form.

In time you can become more detailed. Initially however, be happy just having the kids follow along.

3. Show a lot of examples.

Young kids learn best by copying other people. If possible, have an older, more skilled student demonstrating and participating in the entire class and being a good example for all the little ones to follow!

4. Change drills often.

The average child’s attention span is very short. To work with this fact, keep the drills even shorter. Never do any one thing for more than three minutes (or shorter for virtual). You can, however, do a lot of repetition. It is merely a matter of disguising the repetition.

5. Praise Efforts - Encourage Participation - Celebrate Often

Initially it doesn’t matter if the students are improving as long as they are trying their best. This is why earnest effort should be praised. Shy students should be encouraged, not forced, to do things. Make it as easy as possible for them to participate and then celebrate their victories, giving lots of praise, focus claps, and say “you’re awesome” a lot.

6. Make a big deal over effort, regardless of where they placed.

So what if someone came in fourth place in the relay race. If you saw them give their very best effort, go out of your way to let everybody know what a great effort they gave.

7. Remind students not to compare themselves with others.

When students compare themselves with others, one of two things happens:

A. They gets a false sense of superiority.
B. They get a false sense of inferiority.

Remind your students that they win whenever they give a good effort.

8. Set realistic goals followed by constant feedback.

Students need to have a clear image of where they are going. For this reason, it is important that each student has set specific goals. It is the job of the instructor to help set these goals. Remember, each student has different strengths and weaknesses and they should be taken into account. Feedback is the breakfast of champions. Once goals have been set, constant feedback should be given to help keep each student on target.

 

INSTRUCTORS: Your Last Opportunities for this Year!

Dave Kovar's Instructor Boot Camp Online - Nov 21

LAST CHANCE this year to attend our 3-hour workshop for instructors of all experience levels. Learn how to teach your best class ever in-person, virtually, or socially-distanced. Limited Space left!

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Martial Arts Fall Training Online - Dec 4

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by Dave Kovar