Instructor’s Corner: 4 Tips for Teaching Martial Arts to Kids (+ sample lesson plan)

I taught a class last week that I thought was pretty good. If I do say so myself. :P

summer camp

NWSMA students doing a group activity.

I define a good class as:

  1. A class where all the kids are focused and engaged (and maybe having just a little bit of fun–but not too much, because we all know there is no fun in martial arts! :P)
  2. A class where all the kids are motivated & trying their best.
  3. A class where they know some important details of techniques, especially injury preventing ones. Even if they can’t quite perform them. Yet. I know they’ll get there. :)
  4. A class where I get to assess each student’s skill individually (this can be a tough one).

Click “more” to see my lesson plan. 

I had a group of white, red, and yellow belts, all under age 7.

They’re all working on basic kicks 1, 2, 3 & 4 (karate front, groin, joint, & round). Kids this age are working on gross motor skills. With this age group, I emphasize certain important points (using correct striking surface, correct pivoting to prevent injury). I let go of other details until they get a little older.

Also, the lone white belt didn’t need to know the last two kicks. I had him follow along anyway, because sometimes there’s value in having the group work on the same things.

karate stanwood

Sempai Jasmine practicing alongside a younger student.

I split them up into two groups, yellow belts and red/white belts. Then I lined them up so they were facing each other.

“Kick faster than the person across from you!” I said.

Big grins.

Point #1: Kids LOVE competing. It’s such an easy way to up their motivation and focus!

After we did an energetic set of 10, I paused. I questioned them about the part of the foot we hit with.

Point #2: When you want them to focus, it’s very effective to pause after an energetic drill. Changing the tempo of your exercises is an effective tool.

Once we arrived at a satisfactory answer, we formed a single line. Holding a focus pad, I had each one do one right, one left on the focus pad. If they didn’t hit it correctly, they had to try again.

Point #3: Kids need to move around, a lot. Don’t expect them to be still for too long. Changing their line up lets them move around and then they are able to re-focus. It also keeps them guessing–whats next???

group work

Partner drills.

After everyone had a turn, I returned them to their lines facing each other. We moved on to the next kick, and repeated the cycle.

Point #4: By lining them up for a turn on the focus pad, I had a chance to see where each student was at in their technique.

This lesson was all kinds of efficient. They got to do fun things. I got to look at each one’s technique. They got to compete. I carefully managed their focus level.

Ready for kicks!

Ready for kicks!

I did a couple other cool things–like we used roundhouse kick to knock a cup off a chair–which allowed them to visualize the intention of each kick.

So, here’s a lesson plan breakdown:

Lesson: Basic Kicks (Ages 7 & under)

  1. 10 front kicks, 2 groups facing each other (compete for speed);
  2. What part of the foot hits on front kick? -brief discussion;
  3. 1 left, 1 right, front kicks on focus pad;
  4. Return to step 1, repeat for remaining kicks.

And folks, that’s it. Your lesson plan can be brief, basic, sketchy, as long as you know how your lesson helps your students learn. 

Teaching really is that simple!

If you have any other ideas, sound off in the comments!

About Sensei/YDN Caitlin

Sensei Yudanjanim Caitlin is a 2nd degree black belt, senior instructor, administrative assistant, and student of Tae Kwon Do, Karate, and Arnis at Northwest School of Martial Arts.
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