Can you imagine teaching Karate to 100 kids at once?
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:
- 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.
- Sensei Says. This is like ‘Simon Says’, but with Karate moves thrown in.
- 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.
PS. If you want to learn more about teaching Karate to kids, here are 3 related articles: