Starting Early Childhood Karate

My husband, Kirk Gauger Renshi, and I have been teaching karate to preschoolers and kindergartners for over 20 years. We started our martial arts training together when our oldest child was three. At our dojo, the Little Dragons’ early childhood karate program consisted of specialized classes geared to kids ages three to five. It still does 20 years later. Within a year of starting karate, I started assisting with the Little Dragons classes.

Fast forward a few years to when my husband and I accepted ownership of our instructor’s dojo. We had learned from an excellent teacher. We added all that we learned from our parenting experience in order to teach fun yet informative classes to our youngest students to promote childhood development in karate. 

For our children, these early childhood karate classes were their first exposure to a formal learning environment. Even when that is not true for other students, it still helps them to work on their learning skills in Little Dragons karate. We start out with the basics of learning how to learn. We focus on skills like listening, paying attention, following directions and doing their best.

When they demonstrate these learning skills, children in early childhood karate can move on to bigger things. Our Dojo Kun’s traditional values such as honesty, respect, perseverance and self control help with social skills as well as many other areas that are important in early childhood. We discuss these values in most classes, and translate the Dojo Kun into simple, straightforward words that preschoolers can learn and understand. Then we reinforce these things at every opportunity. For example, we praise them when we see them controlling their actions by standing still in line.

partners for self defense training

Is Your Child Ready for Early Childhood Karate?

We have a few prerequisites for Little Dragons. Children need to be at least three years old, potty trained, and able to communicate with an instructor. These basics indicate their ability to succeed in karate. The child’s cooperation is fundamental to their training.

Some early childhood karate kids may act hesitant to join their first class. We take a no-pressure approach with an unsure new kid. In this case, we are open to parents bringing their child to the dojo to simply visit. They can take baby steps of just meeting the instructors and other kids. And of watching the Little Dragons classes. I do remind parents that the classes are a lot more fun to participate in than to watch, so I don’t recommend making the child watch a whole class, unless they specifically  want to.

Many young children are ready to get out on the mat and give karate a try the first time they come to the dojo. That is one thing that kids are skilled with and we can learn it from them. You learn best by doing. You find out if you like a thing by trying it out. That’s why we have a no-obligation Introductory Program for new students. For a nominal fee, they get to try out a week of classes. That’s the best avenue for Little Dragons students in starting early childhood karate.

-Jenifer Tull-Gauger

Little Dragons fun hitting the heavy bag in early childhood karate

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