Most martial arts forms are rooted in tradition and have been taught the same way for years. And while tradition is vital to keeping the art preserved, the traditional way of teaching it isn’t as effective. As times change and as Instructors become more educated, we must adjust to meet the needs and understand the learning styles of the people we serve. This is especially true when teaching children.
In most traditional martial arts schools curriculum is taught as a set of techniques that get progressively harder as each new level is attained. These techniques are the same for a 3-year-old as they are for a 13-year-old, yet the abilities of these two ages are completely different. Because of this, most children often become frustrated and quit because they can’t meet the expectations of the curriculum. In addition, the instructors become frustrated because they don’t understand why the children are performing the techniques incorrectly or in a sloppy manner.
Further, this technique-based approach of martial arts instruction isn’t easy when you have a child that has low muscle tone, poor core strength, and has only had a few years of language development. It makes it very difficult for children at different ages to grasp the techniques and so the “confidence” that is trying to be built is unsuccessful. A better approach is what the Gentle East Martial Arts Instructors utilize which is skills-based training.
With a skills-based approach to martial arts training, the students are in classes that were created for their specific stage of development. For example, in a traditional program when an instructor is teaching a middle punch and the 3-year-old student can’t perform it the way the instructor would like both parties get frustrated. The child can’t hold the punch up for any length of time because they haven’t developed the strength and the instructor doesn’t understand why this is because they are not aware of the physical abilities of 3 year-olds. In our children’s program, the instructors have been trained on the stages of development and understand that a child at this age doesn’t have the muscle tone yet to be able to hold the punch out. Therefore, specific skills-based drills are used to develop this.
Since each age group is given a different set of skills to work on, designed especially for their stage of development, the child’s overall growth is more effective in class. And this doesn’t just include physical advancements but also intellectual, social, and emotional progress. But the biggest benefit of this type of training is that these skills can help children in school, at home, and in other sports as well.
When we understand each child’s stage of development, we can then begin to teach them and reach them where they are. Utilizing a skills-based approach to training children in martial arts is key. And by doing this, we are setting them up for success in all areas of their life.