Saturday, August 11, 2012

What About Martial Arts for Children?

Modern children are typically pampered and sheltered from most of the harsher realities of life. This is a good thing for infants, toddlers, and most kindergartners. But as a child grows older and more independent, he will spend more and more of his time outside of direct adult supervision. If he does not learn to develop situational awareness and to protect himself as he gets older, he becomes a sitting duck for bullies, predators, and accidentally stumbling into bad situations.

What are the best martial arts to teach children in the beginning? In our opinion, Aikido, Judo, Jiu Jitsu, and wrestling. Here are a few ideas for teaching martial arts to children:

I think if I were to teach a class of kids aikido, here's some of what I'd do to avoid chokes, joint locks, and etc...

Mobility games
Ukemi - lots and lots of ukemi [ed: the art of falling safely and smoothly]
Walking kata
Evasion drills with partners
Brush-off and escape
Wrist releases
... Cool ki tricks (mind games, concentration, etc…)
Talk about how to deal with interpersonal conflict
Situational self defense
... So, there's still a lot of aikido and pre-aikido that we could do. Much of the pre-aikido stuff is identical to the pre-judo stuff we do in kiddie judo. _Aikido for kids

For a while, young kids should play a games-based judo approach. Fun preparations that build strength and coordination and familiarity with judo. But then at some point they have to move to "real judo." I'm not talking about adult judo - we start kids in regular adult classes at about age 13, depending on their physical size and maturity. I'm talking about an intermediate level between games-based judo and actual judo technique.

. One indicator that they are ready to step it up a level from games to real judo, is that they understand and can abide by the gentleman's agreement at the heart of judo. I've mentioned this Judo gentleman's rule before.

. The most central rule to judo practice is that if I am going to allow you to use my body to learn to throw hard and fast then you must save me at the end. You can throw with force, but you must support me and help me get into the proper landing position. .

Without people abiding by this rule, judo falls apart and cannot be practiced. When kids are progressively demonstrating that they can take better and better care of their ukes, they can be taught progressively more vigorous judo. _Judo for kids

Jiu Jitsu:
After teaching my own children and many others basic self-defense, I realized that children should first concentrate on a safe foundation system of self-defense based solely on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Only given solid aptitude of this system, at an intermediate level, would I then teach the striking techniques of Thai Boxing. The rationale for this is manifold:

Only a more advanced student will learn techniques that are inherently more dangerous (striking). This way, I will assure that only children who are mature enough to understand the safety issues will learn the technique.
In a fight, position is more important than pure striking ability. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gives a greater ability to control the position of your opponent than Thai Boxing. So, I want the student to know how to control their opponent long before they learn how to punch, elbow, or kick them. With positional control, punching and kicking can happen with relative leisure!
Beginners may get confused if they have too many techniques to focus on. After they have the fundamentals of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu "wired in," they won't get their mind as cluttered with dramatically different techniques of Thai Boxing.

Core Concepts

Safety first.
Understand the difference between causing pain and causing harm. Never attempt to harm a fellow student.
Avoid physical conflict.
Work out conflict with words. If you can escape a situation without physical harm to you or a family member, don't fight.
Words are never a reason to fight. Children are rewarded for avoiding fights.
Because of legal and school disciplinary issues involved in fights, the children are taught that in a situation where a fight is unavoidable, the words spoken and attempts made to dispel and avoid the situation beforehand can make a great difference.
Challenge the student to work hard.
The only true rewards in life come from hard work, dedication, and consistent practice.
Fitness through aerobic conditioning
Self defense in realistic situations
Have fun, but be serious enough to make solid progress every class!
Share techniques and learning with fellow students only.
It is important that they understand that this is a fighting system that should not be casually shared or demonstrated anywhere but in class with the instructor, unless self-defense calls for it. In other words, it would be very bad if they demonstrated a choke on a friend at the playground or kicked the family dog!
Don't advertise yourself as a martial arts expert! Many children take a few classes and think they are Bruce Lee reincarnated. A bigger bully will go out of his way to pick a fight with someone like this. Sun Tsu said, "All warfare is based on deception." Don't let them know what you know. More importantly, as a beginner, you don't know much, so don't pretend to know more than you do! _Jiu Jitsu for kids

Find a Team

Depending on your child’s age, there are several different options for the types of teams you want to sign him up with. The most popular choice for parents with children under the age of 10 is to start them in a freestyle/Greco-Roman wrestling club. These clubs typically practice folkstyle, the same style of wrestling contested in high schools and colleges across the United States.

Wrestling clubs are typically not affiliated with any specific school or organization. Rather, they are private organizations geared towards teaching children the sport of wrestling. However, many clubs may practice at a school and have the same coaching staff as a school’s regular team — but the club will not be related to the school in any other way.

Essentially, you want to look for a team that focuses on fitness and technical development, rather than competition. This is especially important for younger wrestlers. For more information on what to look for when choosing a wrestling club, check out iSport’s guide, _Wrestling for kids
Wrestling has traditionally been a male sport, but it is becoming more popular among females. It can be extremely strenuous, so children should have good health and fitness levels before beginning training. Most of all, choose a coach who is skilled, patient, a good teacher, and emotionally mature.

Martial arts training for children can be useful for many reasons, but the training needs to be age appropriate, and geared to the individual child's needs and maturity level. Basic training to develop respect for instructors and classmates as well as disciplined habits of practise, should precede more difficult and complex skills training. Early training should focus on fitness, mobility, escape, releases, balance, situational awareness and response, and the mental aspects of physical training and confrontation.

Training in strikes, kicks, weapons, choke holds, joint locks, etc. should be withheld until the child is mature enough to learn and practise them with proper restraint and respect for classmates and instructors. This should usually only occur after significant time (years) in training, under close observation, and only with other students who are prepared for such training.

Every dangerous child should be able to sense potentially dangerous situations and avoid them when possible. But he should also be physically and mentally prepared to deal with situations which occur outside of his ability to predict or prevent.

Dangerous children are by definition not helpless. This should be true physically, mentally, emotionally, and in virtually every aspect of his life.

So ideally, martial arts training will be just one aspect of a dangerous child's training in not being helpless. This is a different attitude toward child raising than one typically finds, but it is necessary.

1 comment:

Eric said...

Definitely a good idea.

A lot of detailed grappling locks can't be done under high stress, above 155 BPM. Even if they have a lot of training they might risk spiking their BPM if they encounter an unfamiliar situation, like having a knife or gun pulled on them when they were expecting a regular brawl. You have to get them used to being caught off guard and then recovering from that position of weakness.

At the same time you have to avoid making your training goofy because everyone gets bored of drilling for routine stuff that happens the most.

Learning to de-escalate is important because most of the people who fight don't actually want to fight. There are only a small number of hardcore predators out there, most of them are confused and don't realize that fighting won't get them to their actual goal. Most bar-room brawl stuff follows a set-pattern that escalates, you have to disengage the script.

Women and men have differences in what slows them down. Usually men have to be humble enough to understand that they aren't superman, and can have their ass kicked very easily if they face a serious opponent(s). Women tend to have a problem with needing permission to act, so you have to help them set up boundaries and no-go zones. You also have to sometimes specify when they should stop attacking.

The entire process is easier for males, by the time they can bench 250 most people will give them space.