We all know that practice makes perfect, right? But sometimes helping your child to practice at home can be a challenge. It can even be frustrating trying to get them to practice their martial arts moves if you aren’t aware of their specific needs and abilities, and it goes beyond just the physical moves.
For example, kids between the ages of 7 and 9 are at a unique stage of development that makes home practice even more of a challenge, but this is an age at which home practice becomes even more important. Here’s why:
The average 7-9 yr old tends to struggle with sequences of moves that require the use of fine motor skills. They are growing quickly and becoming stronger, but do not always have the best control or awareness of how their movements affect the area around them. Our schools teaches techniques that are meant to challenge this stage of their development so that the student is able to learn, grow, and apply the appropriate movements.
Repetition at home is a great way to build the muscle memory that is required to physically perform the techniques in a manner that will make them function in a real self-defense situation, plus it will help them develop a better awareness of cause and effect when they move.
This age group also finds it intellectually challenging to focus on things that are difficult, and sometimes they will “over-think” what is being asked of them. Our instructors typically will run into this when we are running the students through their forms. You do not have to practice an entire form to begin to see the benefits. Even running through a short string of combinations helps them build a better working knowledge of their forms. Forms teach a wide variety of lessons, only one small part of which is the actual ability to memorize the moves, so even if the kids practice bits and pieces, or even spend time creating their own moves, there is tremendous developmental value to the practice.
Another BIG bonus associated with at home training is a boost in confidence. This age group will tend to show excessive fear if asked to do something brand new in front of an audience, or if they are put in the spotlight. Having parents and friends as a familiar audience will help them build up and prepare them to be AMAZING! This is particularly useful for kids who exhibit a tendency toward shyness. Performing with friends and family is a great way to build competence, which will lead to confidence as they work on expanding their comfort zones to include classmates, instructors, and even strangers.
Lastly, when practicing at home they are bound to run into challenges that may frustrate them to no end! It is in these situations, you will have a valuable opportunity to teach them how to address these challenges in socially acceptable ways! You may notice that they project their frustrations outward which may interfere with the current drill or cause other students to become uncomfortable. We now have the opportunity to coach them to “Take a Breath”, “Count to 10”, or “Change your focus and come back to this later”. Bringing these same lessons home to help them face challenges also provides them with another opportunity to learn how that the way they conduct themselves in class can and should be extended to everything they do, and reinforces the bond they have with you as a source of direction, advice, and safety.
In conclusion, practicing at home is not solely about repetitive movements. It is a valuable opportunity for them to learn and grow as individuals. Working with their parents, being able to receive coaching advice that extends beyond the Martial Arts, all while learning to nurture a mindset that encourages self-improvement are what work together to be the driving forces behind “practice”!