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Sanchin
11-24-2005, 02:37
Martial arts are taught to children for various reasons. And all of the reasons presented are sound and valid. Kids should be involved in physical activities, learn respect, coordination, self confidence. In general the MA's are an excellent vehicle for those ends.

I personally don't beleive in teaching my art to children. And I abhorr walking into a dojo seeing a bunch of little kids with brown and black belts, doing goofy,child like techniques, thinking they know crotty!

Recently I have been coming to the conclusion that certain arts lend themselves better to children than others. The ones that spring immediately to mind are BJJ and Judo.

I don't want to phrase this wrong, or take away from the seriousness of the study of those arts, but I think they appeal to childrens natural tendency to want to wrestle and tussel and appear more like "playing".

I also think TKD is geared toward kids these days. All the jumping and flying kicks,it's much like they see in the movies and aspire to be like.

How suitable is your particular art for introduction to children? Are there others more suitable for children to learn? Do you want to/have to teach kids or would you prefer not to?


owari

bluemeanie
11-24-2005, 10:32
Funny, I've been curious a time or two as to whether or not the school I attend WOULD teach kids under 16 but never got around to asking. A previous school I went to did, and from showing up early and observing their classes, I'd say the young man teaching them wasn't teaching them much in the way of discipline. They ran out the door amped and ready to pound any sibling that crossed their path on the way to the minivan.

I might spend the money to enroll kids in a program that gave them patches or awards for good grades and good discipline, after I thoroughly checked the background of every adult who would come in contact with them while in class and getting some kind of written assurance that they'd be supervised ALL the time. Too many parents are ready to talk themselves into a program before they know all about it, I think.

bunkerbuster
11-24-2005, 12:13
Well, at least TKD and Judo are Olympic sports now.

:)

Roundeyesamurai
11-24-2005, 12:53
Long *sigh*...

Shifting ass in chair to settle in comfortably...

Big swig of cider...

OK, let's address the issue of kids in martial arts.

Firstly, anyone who believes "their art is too deadly" to teach to children is kidding themselves. Up until adolescence, children are (for the most part) only able to grasp the technical skills of a martial art. Abstraction of the level needed to really comprehend "deadliness" is beyond them (for that matter, it's beyond many adults, too).

Not only that, but you'd be hard-pressed to find under the age of 13 who is physically capable of actually inflicting serious harm on another child approximately their own age (aside from the obvious ways, such as poking at eyes).

Up until adolescence, anything you teach them is going to be "playfighting", and nothing more.

Now- why teach martial arts to children? Simple: They were DESIGNED to be taught to children!

Virtually all of the Oriental martial arts stem from warrior societies- where a person is prepared, from childhood, to function in adulthood as a combatant.

Imagine yourself (selves) at about age 8 or 9. I'm sure most of the boys here could memorize every statistic ever seen on any basball card they'd ever held. The girls probably had something similar, but I'm not a girl and I wouldn't know what that "something" would be!

This is because, within that age range, children are focused on learning the "how" of things- "how" does this work? "How" many pushups can so-and-so do? Etc. At this age, teaching them the technical skills of a martial art (the techniques) is most beneficial. Teaching technical skills in adolescence is a waste of time, because teenagers don't want to study, they want to fight; teaching technical skills in adulthood is frustrating, because (most) adults aren't as adept at repetitive practice of simple technical skills as are children.

Once the child is into adolescence, and has some years of technical training under their belt, then they can start to learn to apply these skills- by fighting. Sparring is most valuable an exercise for adolescents- because they WANT to fight! Children engaging in sparring is a detriment, because children don't really understand the concept of "competition" as being inconsequential.

When the student reaches early adulthood, they are ready to begin to explore the "why" of the martial arts- the philsophical stuff that those in the college age range (18-23 or so) are most apt to want to delve into- and it's also the period of time in their lives when they will be most receptive to such considerations.

The martial arts is, fundamentally, a life exercise- and its phases of learning are precisely the same phases that we experience in our lives.

On the subject of child black belts- this is a product of commercialization. Then again, the idea of a "black belt", itself, is a product of commercialization, many decades ago.

Fedaykin
11-24-2005, 14:26
Last I heard, Judo is ranked by the American College of Sports Medicine as the safest contact sport for kids under the age of 12. Jiu-jitsu is not far behind. My martial arts experience is in Jeet Kune Do, Jiu-Jitsu, and Aikido, and all three arts are willing to teach kids. Children's programs can be effective, provided:

(1) You should take out the dirty fighting tactics like eye-gouging and groin striking so that little Johnny's playground scuffle with a bully doesn't turn into a lawsuit. Training in submissions is actually quite useful for this kind of thing.

(2) As Roundeyesamurai says, kid's programs should focus primarily on two things: technical prowess and moral cultivation. However, I believe that the "why" of martial arts should be progressively introduced to kids along with the "how." My first JKD instructor teaches critical thinking skills as part of his kid's program so that even his youngest students have the ability to engage many of the philosophical issues in martial arts typically considered appropriate for adults only. My own experiences as a teacher (both K-12 and college) support this notion: if you give kids the necessary tools for sophisticated inquiry, they will often surprise you with what they can do.

(3) Sparring, if done at all, should be kept playful rather than competitive. Grappling is generally better than striking, though the latter can be productive if you use appropriate protective equipment and keep the contact to less than half-power.

(4) Physical fitness should be emphasized through the inclusion of warm-ups, stretches, cardio-vascular exercise, calisthenics, etc. This helps to instill virtues of self-discipline to combat the video-game-based concept of "fun" that many kids have these days.

(5) A separate ranking system should be used for kids. In Jiu-Jitsu and Aikido, we have kid-specific yellow, orange, and green belts that precede the normal blue, purple, brown, and black belts for adults. No kid can advance higher than a green belt until the age of 16, and a black belt is never given to anyone under the age of 18 (in practice, it is more like 21, though the rule says 18).

Temet nosce,
Fedaykin

Roundeyesamurai
11-24-2005, 15:01
Fedaykin;

You make some great points, which I am going to elaborate on here:

Absolutely right that kids do, indeed, make some great leaps of cognitive ability- and providing an atmosphere where they can continually do so, is of paramount importance.

I'd even dare say it's THE most important thing they can learn from a martial arts environment at their age level.

Sparring for children should be VERY closely monitored- it's easy for a child who repeatedly fails at it, to start to believe that they're losing because of a deficiency in themselves.

This comes from the technical mindset of children- they understand the techniques, but beyond that they have very little understanding of "tactics". Sparring, for them, is an exercise solely in applying the techniques- if they fail, they believe they have failed because they haven't learned the techniques well enough, where we adults understand (hopefully) that the techniques don't mean much unless one knows how to apply them ("tactics").

Because of this, sparring should be kept as play-minded and inconsequential as possible- be sure the children understand that it's OK to lose. When they get into adolescence, the "fight" urge will teach them everything they need to know about winning and losing- until then, it's just a game, and nothing more, and this must be stressed.

Physical fitness kinda goes without saying :) But yes, placing emphasis on it at an early age is always a good thing.

With regards to ranking, and to aikido, I'll address them together:

I have a personal belief that aikido is not suitable for children- because aikido is primarily a conceptual exercise. To really appreciate aikido, even in its initial stages of instruction, one really must have substantial life experience, and especially combat experience.

Remember, O'sensei intended aikido as a "rejuvenating" exercise for war veterans- and those students he had who weren't veterans, were usually required to have some substantial rank in another martial art before training with him. The reason for this is simple: aikido can't really be appreciated, until after someone has already put the concept of "fighting" behind them. It is, to be short, a "post-combat" martial art, rather than a "combat" martial art.

As far as rank- I will state that I don't teach children in my dojo, so I don't have a need for a rank heirarchy for them.

In fact, I don't use colored belts at all for kyu grades.

I'm somewhat leery of aikido schools that do use them, because they really are a trapping of the masses. The progressive attainment of "rank" might be important to children and adolescents, but for mature adults (understanding that not all adults are "mature"), the purpose of training should be the training itself, not the attainment of rank.

Like Kensho Furuya likes to say, "If you ask me 'How long does it take to get a 'black belt'?', you've just set yourself back a few years".

When I do get the occasional parent who wants to put their children into a martial arts program, or they themselevs want to get into one for "fitness" or "recreation" or something like that, I will usually direct them toward a few other instructors I know locally, who teach karate and/or judo.

Those I get in who want to "learn to fight", I'll direct them toward the YMCA and tell them to sign up for boxing club (if, indeed, they've got enough fuzz to actually "fight").

Fedaykin
11-24-2005, 17:33
Roundeyesamurai:

Good post! On the subject of belts, I tend to agree that they serve no purpose for adults. I haven’t taught Aikido for years (when I did, I helped teach some of the kids’ classes), but do teach Jeet Kune Do on a regular basis (though not to kids). In JKD, we have no rank structure for our students, since (1) they don’t do anything to help anyone’s development (and can sometimes reinforce egoistic tendencies) and (2) it is obvious after training with someone for a short while how advanced they are in the art without needing to look at a belt. I have heard many people who don’t rank their adults argue that having a colored belt system can be beneficial for kids as a way of acknowledging their progress and giving them concrete goals towards which to strive (provided the instructor doesn’t take the McDojo approach and charge a $100 testing fee for every belt stripe!).

As a subject for general discussion, what do you guys think –- are belts merely reinforcing egoism, or can they serve a beneficial purpose (I myself am somewhat neutral on the issue)?

Roundeyesamurai
11-24-2005, 17:46
Originally posted by Fedaykin
As a subject for general discussion, what do you guys think –- are belts merely reinforcing egoism, or can they serve a beneficial purpose (I myself am somewhat neutral on the issue)?

I can't speak for everyone else, but I think they do a few detrimental things:

1) They reinforce egoism, as you mentioned;
2) They take emphasis away from training itself, and place it on advancement in rank;
3) They set artificial "landmarks", which reinforce the notion that yudansha standing is an (eventual) entitlement, which is most certainly should not be;
4) They provide another avenue for using the martial arts to generate profits.

---

As an aside, go over to this thread:

http://glocktalk.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=463905

Scott Lowther, heckuva cool guy and a buddy o' mine, tried to respond to this thread but (for some reason) the forum wouldn't allow him to. So, he started a new thread.

Sanchin
11-28-2005, 01:36
Originally posted by Roundeyesamurai
[B]Long *sigh*...

Shifting ass in chair to settle in comfortably...

Big swig of cider...

OK, let's address the issue of kids in martial arts.

Firstly, anyone who believes "their art is too deadly" to teach to children is kidding themselves. Up until adolescence, children are (for the most part) only able to grasp the technical skills of a martial art. Abstraction of the level needed to really comprehend "deadliness" is beyond them (for that matter, it's beyond many adults, too).

Not only that, but you'd be hard-pressed to find under the age of 13 who is physically capable of actually inflicting serious harm on another child approximately their own age (aside from the obvious ways, such as poking at eyes).

I'll agree with you there. I say that my art(the way it is taught) is not suitable for children because of the circumstances of the training,not the deadliness of it.
We regularly do knuckle pushups on the road,we train outside year round,we regularly spar with good contact,and the classes are mostly physically demanding.

Sanchin
11-28-2005, 01:39
Originally posted by bluemeanie
Funny, I've been curious a time or two as to whether or not the school I attend WOULD teach kids under 16 but never got around to asking. A previous school I went to did, and from showing up early and observing their classes, I'd say the young man teaching them wasn't teaching them much in the way of discipline. They ran out the door amped and ready to pound any sibling that crossed their path on the way to the minivan.

I might spend the money to enroll kids in a program that gave them patches or awards for good grades and good discipline, after I thoroughly checked the background of every adult who would come in contact with them while in class and getting some kind of written assurance that they'd be supervised ALL the time. Too many parents are ready to talk themselves into a program before they know all about it, I think.


Randy has taught under 16yr olds and adjusted the class to fit their needs(he's good at that!) I assume that if we get the spot in the gymnastics studio teaching kids will eventually come into play,but under the conditions we train now most parents wouldn't even let their children if they wanted to. ;g

G33
11-28-2005, 05:00
Things I think would help every kid, given proper instruction:

Judo
Swimming
Camping
Shooting
Boating
Balancing checkbook.

;f

FortyCaliber
11-28-2005, 22:25
Originally posted by G33
Things I think would help every kid, given proper instruction:

Judo
Swimming
Camping
Shooting
Boating
Balancing checkbook.

;f

I agree, and don't stop there. Add Citizenship, Communications, Conservation, Hiking, First Aid, Cooking, Safety, Emergency Preparedness, Wilderness Survival, Orienteering, Metalworking, Archery, and Home Repairs, too. It's called BSA! :) ;?

Martial Arts supplements a BSA program nicely.

It's hard to imagine what the Boy Scouts would be like without ranks and merit badges.

habu3
11-30-2005, 22:27
One of the biggest problems I have had with teaching children is not with the children it is with the soccer mom parents. A couple of months ago we had a mom try to walk in-between a couple of sparring senior students to try to get to her son. Thank goodness they saw the lady in time. Yes, there is a rule that parents are not allowed on the Dojo floor. That does not always stop them. It is also those same parents that tend to push the when is my child getting promoted stuff.

Our Grandmaster recently took over the dojo from the business man that ran it. Things have changed a lot. Sensei's rule is that he determines when a student is ready for promotion with input from the instructors, not the student or parent. His rationale is that it is his signature on the certificate and he will ensure it means something. When a prospective student is checking out the dojo we ensure the student and parents all understand the policy and that there is no such thing as a regularly scheduled promotion. The emphasis is on training, regardless which of the available martial arts the student selects.