Not all martial arts teachers offer young kids’ karate. A few only teach adults. Most do teach youth. However, many instructors keep their minimum age requirement for students at around six years old. Students in the younger ages have shorter attention spans and a boon of energy which they are learning to use wisely. Between the age of three and six, they rapidly progress through many different developmental stages. Our Little Dragons program is for kids ages three through six. Here are some of the ways that we successfully teach these students.
Important Ingredients for Young Kids’ Karate: Consistency, Motivation & Reinforcement
Consistency is important for all martial artists. Getting to class regularly is especially helpful in young kids’ karate. We recommend attending a couple Little Dragons classes per week consistently. This keeps young children moving forward in their mental and physical karate skills. It is crucial for them for retention of the material taught.
Motivation is an important building block to help kids foster their love of learning and participating fully. We give plenty of positive encouragement for children’s effort in classes. After class, we make it a big deal to earn tickets for a great job in class. (They get a prize for bringing back 10 tickets.) Young students also earn stripes on their belt every few weeks as they progress, and stickers for special encouragement.
Reinforcement from their parents is extremely helpful for young children to get the most out of their karate training. They do best when parents watch class regularly. That way, at home, parents can reinforce the values taught and coach them through the tough spots in their training. They can also help them practice at home, and help them get ready and get to class on time. Here’s a blog from Century Martial Arts on more simple, practical ways to encourage your child in their training.
Progress in Young Kids’ Karate.
In our dojo, the Little Dragons curriculum is based on the requirements for older children, but we take it slow and steady, while working on the needs of the younger child. With regular attendance, a Little Dragons student usually tests for a new belt about every two months or so. The belt system includes the traditional kyu rank belts, plus two additional belts between each kyu rank. This allows the Little Dragons to see and feel their advancement as well as smoothly transition to the Kids Program when old enough.
Special Classes Tailored to Young Kids’ Karate
Kids around three to six years old are easily distracted and can have very short attention spans. We find it most helpful when their class is gear to their age group and is the only activity happening on the mat. We do not have them attend the mixed-age classes for six-year-olds to adults while in the Little Dragons Program.
Occasionally we will approve a more mature five-year-old for the Kids Program. But this program is more intensive, geared to older children, and has higher dues. Around the time that a child starts first grade and turns six years old, we start considering them for our Kids Program. That transition is made on an individual basis. When they do move up we make an adjustment in dues and open the Kids Program class schedule to that happily growing martial artist.
We have seen the result of a childhood of training in people who started traditional martial arts at a young Little Dragons age and are now grown up. These people are few and far between. But they are awesome, excellent, resilient, conscientious contributing members of society. They are one of the reasons that we are inspired to continue teaching young kids’ karate.