Black Belt at Home Blog
How to Teach Your Kids Martial Arts at Home
- February 14, 2018
- Posted by: Michael Hodge
- Category: Kids
As a child, did you have the awesome experience of going through the ranks, competing at tournaments, and learning from a wise Sensei (or Sifu)? When I was 7, I started to take karate classes, because I thought my dad looked like a real warrior when he trained. He was already a brown belt at that point in time, and I remember seeing him take on one or two guys at a time at his belt tests. At one test, he was even beat out the door by his sparring partner. It was the real deal.
My Martial Arts Childhood Served Me Well
My classes were physically challenging, sometimes painful, but always rewarding. I knew that my belt was truly earned when I wore it around my waist. It became apparent pretty quickly that martial arts training gave me some athletic advantages in other sports and in fitness tests at school. In the yearly elementary school “Presidential” fitness tests, I always did more crunches, pull ups, and ran a faster mile than the other students. I also felt like I could control my temper and mind pretty well, which allowed me to make better grades and get in trouble less. As the shortest and one of the smallest-framed kids, martial arts gave me more confidence, and made me less of a would-be target for bullies. I remember having to hold my own when some of the big kids would put me in head locks, or wrestle around trying to show off.
Maybe you had a similar experience with martial arts training? Whether you started BJJ in high school, or did Taekwondo at an olympic level, or just enjoyed watching Bruce Lee – you’ve known for a long time that there is something mysterious and powerful to martial artists. Something that goes above and beyond just fighting. That something is called self-mastery.
What Age Should Your Child Start?
The first question I often receive is “how young should you start your child?” After teaching kids martial arts classes for the last 14 years, I have seen a wide variety of mental aptitudes, physical characteristics, and behavior patterns. To gain the most out of the time spent training, I recommend waiting until your child is at least 5 years old. This can vary child by child. Some kids can be mentally ready at around 4 or 4.5 (6 months is a huge difference when you are talking about these early ages). Whereas some might need to wait until 6 or even 7. The child should be able to focus intently on the activity for at least 20-30 minutes straight while applying a high level of effort the entire time.
Should I Enroll them into a Local School or Teach them At Home?
If there is a high quality, qualified, and professional martial arts academy near your home, then by all means, this should be your first option. Nothing can compare to learning from a great teacher, that actually gives you the attention and time you need to progress. However, especially with some larger, more commercialized martial arts school these days, this is not always the case. Here is how to go about selecting a local school:
- First, you need to contact the school to find out more about what the program actually teaches, who the instructors are, the class times, cost, and financial commitment (contract or no contract). Most school allow you to do a free lesson or short term trial, this is very important.
- Take your child in for a first lesson to see how they react to the training. The instructor’s demeanor and personality is really the most important factor in choosing the program. Sometimes large schools will work with your child one-on-one to get you enrolled, and then throw them into a class with a poor instructor to student ratio. This can be problematic. If your five year old is in a class with twenty other kids, it will be very difficult for him/her to get enough attention to make real progress.
- Discuss the price and contractual obligations. Do you need to pay an enrollment fee, monthly tuition, equipment, and other fees? Does the school offer a very high quality curriculum (that not only teaches martial arts, but also leadership/character development)? How many classes can you attend per week?
- If it feels right, and both you and your child are committed to the training, enroll.
Reasons to Teach Martial Arts to Your Child at Home
There are plenty of situations where a local school will not work out for you. If you find yourself in one of these, then teaching your child at home (with the help of a quality online program or home study course), makes more sense:
- Distance from School – If you live too far away from a qualified school, then your only option will be to do online/home-based training.
- Class Schedule Does not Work – If you cannot make the class schedule, even if you live nearby.
- Cost is Too High – Some commercialized martial arts school can charge excessive monthly tuition, fees, equipment, and other costs that can literally cost $2,500+ per year, just for one child. If you have more than one child, it can be exorbitant.
- You’re a Martial Artist – If you are a martial artist, put your experience and knowledge to work, and pass along your training to your children.
- Special Needs Child – If your child has special needs, they might not be able to participate in a normal group class. One-on-one learning at home could be a much better, and more comfortable fit.
- You do Homeschool – If you are a homeschool family, and like to have control over your own schedule and child’s education, then this could fit right into your overarching philosophy.
How to Teach Your Child at Home
Now that you’ve decided on teaching your child at home, you need to get prepared. A teacher is only as good as their current knowledge and tools, so hopefully you are already a 9th degree black belt Grandmaster, or you are seeking out quality at-home training programs.
- Choose the Right Martial Art. Really consider what style or styles that you want to include in your home training program. Do you want your child to compete and win at local tournaments? Do you want them to learn street-ready self defense? Do you want them to be extremely flexible, agile, and have gymnast-like body control? Do you have a specific style that you have always been interested in?
- Find a Good Course of Study. The problem with trying to teach/learn from youtube videos or random DVDs, if that they are not chronologically laid out, and fully comprehensive in the art that you are teaching. You need a complete course of study, that can take you from white to black belt. Check out the complete Black Belt at Home Courses (Shotokan Karate, Krav Maga, Bo, Nunchakus, Tai Chi). You can also look on amazon, by searching the web, or find some used programs on eBay. It is helpful if the course has a digital option for watching on the go (and so that you never lose your content if the discs scratch up), and also a guided home study manual with a full syllabus.
- Enroll in an Online Course. If you want to take it one step further, and have your child actually earn real rank at home, find an accredited online martial arts school. Just like when vetting a local academy, find a school with a credible instructor, comprehensive training materials, and the ability to interact and receive real feedback as you progress. Make sure that they also allow for children to enroll and earn rank. The Global Martial Arts University is known for their easy to follow courses and online testing.
- Setup a Home Dojo. Clear out some space, and designate a room as your “home dojo.” There is no need for the dining room, basement, garage, or laundry room to be so boring and typical – make it into your home dojo! Buy some mats for the space (a bonus is to have a roll-up mat that you can easily move, or puzzle mats). Look on craigstlist first to see if you can find some used mats, or get some from GreatMats. Buy some boxing gloves and hand targets for training. You can get by with just square hand targets or focus mitts. Later on, you might opt for a freestanding bag or punching bag, along with a larger kick shield or tombstone. Heck, you can get by with just a dense couch cushion at first.
- Set Up a Training Schedule. Kids needs consistency. They need routine. Really, this is where it all falls apart for most “do-it-at-home parents.” They sign up for a course, they get some equipment, they have a few fun sessions, then life “gets in the way.” It is not that life really gets in the way, but that the parents have not set and forced themselves to respect this new training activity as important and necessary. If you set home karate class at 6:00-6:30 pm every Monday and Wednesday, then you’ve got to stick to it. If you or your child is sick one day, then you need to make it up when you feel better, don’t just miss classes. Make your training real, and your child will respect it as well.
- Integrate Rewards. Of course, if your child is actually working toward earning a real belt through a legitimate school, then the next belt is a huge goal. Along the way, earning stripes or even patches can be very helpful. If you are creating your own training program at home, use prizes, points, stickers, or something else to make it fun, and reward progress.
- Engage the Whole Family. Ask mom to do class with you and the kids one night. Or have grandma or grandpa, or invite your son’s best friend – if you can get even more people in your training group, you will all have more fun. Also, as a bonus, your child will get to practice with people of different shapes and sizes. If you always have the exact same training partner, you get used to their body size, speed, and power. To develop real skills, you need to have a lot of training variance.
Turn on “Coach Mode” – Turn Off “Parent Mode”
When you are teaching your child, be more of a coach. Encourage, motivate, point out mistakes (with a positive tone), give high fives, and push your child to do better. Your child should actually feel like you switched gears, and you are now Coach Daddy, not just Daddy for example. This has helped me when I teach/train my own three kids. If I stay in daddy mode (or, Papí mode, as that is what my kids call me), then they have less respect and seriousness around the martial arts practice. Not that they don’t respect me as their father, but there is just a difference between learning something from a coach or teacher, compared to your parents. So, in some ways, you want to differentiate your attitude, while still maintaining that positive love and support for your child. This is one of the challenges of teaching your child at home. But, if you are a homeschool parent already, then this would be nothing new to you.
See Your Child Sprout into a Black Belt!
It will all be worth it. Your kids will have so much fun bonding with you. They will look forward to every kick, punch, block, kata, push up, choke defense, nunchaku spin, and bo staff strike. Teaching your kids martial arts will make you a better martial artist, teacher, and parent. You’ve got this!
About the Author
Michael Hodge is the founder of Black Belt at Home. He has been teaching martial arts classes for the last 14 years. Michael teaches online students from around the world in the Global Martial Arts University and runs a local kids-only private academy. He has three young kids, who are homeschooled at their house on the prairie.