How I Taught 100 Kids Karate For 2 Hours (Without Going Insane)

Can you imagine teaching Karate to 100 kids at once?

I couldn’t…

Until I taught a seminar in London 4 weeks ago.

For 2 hours straight, I taught 100 children – like they were in church!

Disciplined, focused & remarkably quiet.


To be honest, I was expecting a crazy “wild west” scenario at first.

But I was met with the exact opposite.

Teaching this class was a dream!

In fact, I was so impressed that I asked the chief instructor, sensei Alex Horsfall, to write a guest post for me and share his secret. He agreed.

Sensei Alex has studied Karate for 31 years and taught full time at London Karate for 17 years. Together with his father, a former SAS paratrooper, they’ve developed a masterful approach to teaching children Karate.

It consists of 5 key principles.

Check it out:

5 Keys to Teach Children’s Karate Successfully

#1: Structure & Routine

Young children love structure and repetition.

Therefore, don’t be afraid to repeat the same drills every week until all the students are doing it well.  

Children also love to know what they are going to do before they do it. That’s why communication is so important. I like to use verbal commands in the form of Now, Then and After (“Now we’re going to do X, then we’re going to do Y, after that we’re going to do Z”).

Additionally, all of our lessons start with Sensei’s Rules of Karate. This provides a predictable structure for every lesson.

We then practice our Karate syllabus and always finish with games. Games should be fun but include the skills they have been practicing.

As students get better, the syllabus gets harder – but the format stays the same! This makes it very easy for cover instructors to stand in because they know the format of the lessons already.

Due to this structure, students who change school will also have a repeat experience within our organization.

#2: Firm Boundaries & Discipline

Children should understand what is acceptable behavior in the dojo.

Chastisement must be short and should never isolate, humiliate or intimidate. Even a punishment protocol should be fun.

10 press-ups and a quick explanation is enough.

Personally, I’m a big fan of students sitting with their legs crossed and their arms folded when I’m talking. It keeps them focused.

But if a student doesn’t sit properly or is not paying attention, I will stop talking until they become aware of their behavior. I then ask them politely if they are ready to listen.

If it happens again, they do press-ups (no more than 10) so the student knows the boundary and understands the consequences of their behavior.

Children should understand that the dojo is a place of respect.

Believe it or not, children love discipline when used right.

#3: Teach Responsibility

Learning should be organic.

Once children have learned something, they should practice with partners. This is natural for them, and allows the more experienced children to share their knowledge and take responsibility for helping newer students.

Also, encourage each child to stand in front of the class to show and tell everyone what to do.

For example, I will go through our 5 basic blocks a few times, then get ask the class who would like to be sensei. A volunteer is chosen to come to the front of the class and take the exercise. I stand behind everyone facing the volunteer who tells and shows the class what to do.

This re-enforces their learning and develops self-confidence.

#4: Relationship Building

It is important to know every child’s name.

If a child wants to talk to a teacher about something before or after a lesson, he or she must feel confident to do so as a known and respected individual.

A teacher should always be a guide to good behavior by setting a good example over a long period of time.

This is why a sensei must be consistent in his words and actions, so that that a student knows how and when to approach him or her with a problem.

Personally, I like chatting with students about their lives. Children love to talk about what they’ve done and what they are doing next week and how awesome their lives are.

For example, one of my students always talks about rugby and how much he enjoys it.

Luckily for me, I love it too!

#5: Fun & Games

Finally, let’s talk about games.

Enjoying a class is an important part of teaching children. Therefore, all my lessons have games at the end (for a maximum of five minutes). That way, children remember that they’ve had fun in their lessons and want to come back.

Here are 3 games that I usually play at the end of lessons that are safe and fun:

  1. The Yoi Game. Students stand still like statues, in Yoi (preparation stance). The instructor then moves around the class, trying to make the students smile or lose focus. When there are two students left, they have a face off at the front of the class. The first person to blink loses.
  2. Sensei Says. This is like ‘Simon Says’, but with Karate moves thrown in.
  3. The Ninja Game. Everyone starts at one end of the room. The instructor stands at the other end of the dojo, with his back against the children. The goal is to sneak up to the instructor in cat stance. However, the instructor can turn around at any time – and if the instructor sees a student move, they are out. The winner is the one who touches sensei’s belt first.

These game are structured, quick and safe and most importantly fun.

Good luck!

PS. If you want to learn more about teaching Karate to kids, here are 3 related articles:


  • Awesome! I'm a dance teacher...and these principals are easily translated into teching kids dancing too...thank you :)
  • This is a great article with a lot of useful and well structured information for teachers of children classes. I like it very much!
    • Great Mario-san! Makes me glad to hear. Kids are our future! :-)
  • Alex Jonsson
    You rock, Jesse-san! Kids don't do what you say, they do what you do. No wonder your students are great ?
  • Alicja
    Great and very useful article. Thank you. I work with children on autism spectrum and your guidelines can be applied there too.
    • Yan Illgner
      This is incredeble! Congratulations for this work!
  • Akshat
    Agreed jesse san , children love responsibily and games Firm and boundaries are really effective Thx
  • Lorenzo
    Great article! These principles are exactly what my Sensei does for the karate classes for children at my dojo. I can definitely attest to their effectiveness. Glad to see others recognizing and sharing them too.
  • paul
    Nice work Jesse-san, sounds like a pretty cool dojo with really cool, focussed, real McCoy Sensei’s running it. Good to hear karate is alive and kicking :)
  • Ossu and thank you!!! My responsibility to teach white belts has come a bit early in my Karate career and I am always on the lookout for good tips for teaching kids. I'll read this article again before Tuesday evening's class :-)
  • Super article. I will definitely make used of this when teaching kids. Personally we are doing parts 1-3 fairly well, but not 4 and 5. Starting Wednesday I will learn every students name and we will end the session with 5 min games, Well done. Jesse do you have any book recommendation for teaching kids karate?
  • Thanks for your informative posting. Kids karate classes in San Antonio are effective because it emphasis on tremendous power as a result of sound scientific principles.
  • John Bain
    This is great. It really re-affirms what we are supposed to be doing in KICKSTART KIDS. (Check it out Jesse san I would really like to know Sensei's Rules of Karate. Keep up the great work!
  • You have a very interesting and great blog. Thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts. You're very influential.
  • Graziela
    These tips are really great! I'm gonna start helping to teach the younger Judo students at our dojo, they are not 100, only 20, but one of our instructors is currently at the hospital and we only have two. I think I could make these kids have a lot of fun and learn the proper Judo throws and how to fall, etc. Even though One of the kids has the same belt as I have(yellow, which is the third one in Judo, because we have one belt between 2 colors)
  • Melody
    Thanks so much for these ideas. My Dad owns a karate school and he often leaves me in charge of the class and sometimes i don't know what games to do with them but this really gave me some ideas!!!Thx
  • Yan Illgner
    Thank you so much!! Can u help me just with one thing in this article? cause i'm a karate teacher from Brazil and don't know what is "Simon says" ??? I think it's like "o mestre mandou" here!

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