P.O. Box 93, Middleville, Michigan, 49333, (269) 908-1673
Reaching people for Christ, Fighting the good fight of the faith.
1 Timothy 6:12



Wait til 8!

The majority of calls that I receive these days from people inquiring about Karate instruction are from parents asking if we will teach their toddlers. I have had requests from people who have wanted me to teach their little ones as young as 2 years old. This short article is meant to explain why we at Warriors For Christ pretty much insist on the good old “Wait til 8!” stance on teaching youngsters.

One of the first things we have learned over the years is that the 2-7 age groups just do not have the attention span to properly learn Karate. In Karate repetition is the rule and toddlers just do not have the attention span to do the multitudes of repetitive motions necessary for learning Karate. They get bored very quickly and want to move on to something different after only a few repetitions. As a result, most “pee-wee”, “tiny-tots”, or whatever clever name someone has come up with for toddler programs, wind up being little more than Karate themed games and activities aimed at keeping kids entertained and smiling.

Another thing that we have come to realize is that toddlers just do not have the consequential thinking to handle the responsibility of learning genuine Karate technique. If you teach little ones how to punch and kick then that is exactly what they will be doing, going around punching and kicking things and people. Toddlers do not fully understand what they are learning and merely parrot what they have been shown. They don’t yet grasp that there are consequences to their actions. As a result, when they get to preschool or daycare and little Bobby or Suzy takes their toy or cookie, they don’t understand why it is not appropriate to employ their Karate skills and beat the tar out of the poor unsuspecting tike. You wouldn’t give a toddler a weapon such as a handgun would you? So why teach them to be walking lethal weapons??

Most people do not realize just how involved learning a genuine Karate style really is. Most people see Karate as just a sport or activity that even toddlers can participate in. The truth is that true Karate is 90% mental and only 10% physical. In true Karate training you learn the science, physics, history and purpose behind what you are learning. In true Karate you also receive in depth instruction on concepts such as courtesy, courage, honor and respect. Although there is no age too young to start introducing someone to such concepts, it has been my experience that little tikes lack the cognitive abilities to grasp and appreciate such concepts. Besides that, most instructors of toddlers spend the majority of time each class trying to teach them left from right as well as trying to be entertaining and otherwise keep the little ones attention. The result is that there is very little time left to do much more than mention a deep concept such as honor, etc.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I mean no disrespect to those who do teach the Martial Arts to toddlers. Many of them have a genuine desire to impart as many good things as they can in the usual short time that they have with them. The fact is though that most people who start Karate, both young and old, rarely make it to the rank of Black Belt as it is far from an easy task. Although some Karate schools do take toddlers because, well, to be honest, they help pay the bills so that the school can keep its doors open and allow them to teach something more substantial to older kids. We however at Warriors For Christ desire to start teaching something of substance right from the beginning so we hold fast to our “wait til 8” rule.

Now that you have a better understanding of why we “wait til 8”, let me share why we allow children in our regular classes and only separate kids and adults when class sizes grow large enough to make it necessary. Other than we allow kids to spend a little more time in each rank so that they have a better chance to learn, our adult curriculum is not much different than our kids curriculum. The only main advantages in having an 8-12 year old specific class is that this class meets earlier in the afternoon (typically before regular class) so that the youngsters have a chance for a good nights sleep as we meet during the school-week. Also, they have a chance to interact with kids closer to their age. I said that there isn’t much difference between the adult and kids curriculums but we do have some easier to learn movements and some fun activities in the kids only classes which can be advantageous to the kids, but fundamentally the requirements for each rank and the basic syllabus are exactly the same.

Kyoshi


PS, If you wish to provide discipline for you 2-7 year old, I recommend the book “The New Dare to Discipline” by Dr. James Dobson