Saturday, 31 July 2010

Teaching children martial arts

I've taught children as part of regular Tang Soo Do practice for about ten years. As with lots of other martial arts, higher grades are expected to take small groups of lower grades to instruct them on syllabus as part of the class. This is done under the auspices of the presiding black belt who will instruct on which aspect of the syllabus should be covered. This way the students can work towards their next grading, filling in gaps where necessary.

Since November 2009 I've been helping out Master AC with the children's class: something I really enjoy. I take the entire class of juniors (including some dads) for an hour before the senior class starts. This means I can focus on giving the children appropriate instruction tailored to little minds and bodies. The age range varies greatly, which makes the job difficult, but half way through I regularly get help from adult black belts who arrive early for their class and who are willing to help out.

What I like to do is use half an hour of warm ups and games and exercises to convey some principles of the art. The kids like this as they don't think they're learning as such but do exercise broad principles such as balance, body awareness, spatial appreciation, striking in a particular way with correct posture and energy direction. At half time I use the idea from Shorinji Kempo where we sit and I'll chat to them about philosophy in very broad terms. It also gives them a chance to drink (I oblige them to bring a bottle of water with them). this 'philosophy' moment is also ideal for talking about physiology, why we are training and guiding them in ideas about martial arts generally. It might sometime involve a 'classic' martial arts story.

The second half is more technical and focuses on combinations, partner work and hyung. It's here I need the help of other black belts so I can split the class into age groups.

Recently, though, I found I have a problem. Master AC assessed the class for the next grading and found they most of them didn't know their syllabus well enough. It seems I'm good at imparting general principles and keeping the children excited and interested in Tang Soo Do but not so good at drilling them on syllabus. I've over focused on giving them what I think of as a good martial arts experience without training them in the more technical aspects which I thought would be more boring for them.

So this is my new challenge! Trying to maintain a more traditional syllabus and keeping the children involved and interested. Everything we need to learn can be found in hyung (kata) so I need to look here again and start breaking it down for them. That's how karate was originally passed on and there are so many interesting applications within the hyungs that I'm sure I'll find a way.

I have the summer to think about it and turn a failure into a success...

Sue's article on teaching children:

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