Children’s Martial Arts Progress

Written by bryan. Posted in Coaching

Tuesday, 07 December 2010 18:50 Written by Steve Rowe


Karate, Martial Arts, Taekwondo, Tai Chi, Ju Jitsu

“C’mon kids – let’s go, basic techniques!”  Sifu’s voice was infectious; the kids loved the repetition of basics and counting in various languages….

“Punching in Chinese!”  The children all shouted as they punched…

“Yat – yee – sam – sei? – ng – yuk?- chaat?- paat?- kau!”

“Good….. Front kick in Japanese!”

“Ichi – ni – san – shi – go – rokku – zitch – hatch – kyu – jyu!”

“Well done guys!  Sit down…. legs crossed and arms folded.” The kids sat down immediately with their legs crossed and arms folded, wide-eyed and eager to learn.

Sifu looked around at the group and absorbed the eager energy. “What do you have to remember when you do the front kick?”

All the hands shot up….. “Sir, Sir……”

Sifu looked at little Damon and smiled, thinking that he might burst if he didn’t get the chance… “Damon….  It’s ‘Sifu’ – not ‘Sir’….”

“Sorry Sifu”, said Damon, “You have to remember to…” Damon started to count on his fingers… “pick the knee up to the highest point..”

Sifu smiled… “Good…..” but Damon hadn’t finished..

“Don’t fully extend the leg and pull it back to the knee high position,” he went to the next finger, “put the supporting foot directly to the finished position and don’t move it again, oh…. and hit with this part of the foot, he pointed to the ball of the foot just behind the toes. ”  Everyone clapped and cheered Damon as he waved his arms and whooped, obviously pleased with himself.

Sifu nodded, “well done Damon, okay then guys let’s get up and do it!”

The rest of the session was spent on improving the basic techniques, working on pads, putting them into workable combinations and then using them for self defence drills.

At the end of the class Damon’s mother approached Sifu.  “Can I have a word?”

“Sure” replied Sifu, “what can I do for you?”

“We’re a bit concerned that Damon isn’t working enough on his grading techniques and form..” said his mother in a concerned tone.

“Damon’s very happy with his training, he’s doing well for his age and needs to work on his basic technique to get it right” answered Sifu.

His mother responded; “I understand that, but he’s not getting the training he needs on his grading syllabus.”

“He is…” replied Sifu; “It’s not what he knows, it’s how well he does it that counts, all grades have to consistently work and improve on basic technique to get to each grade.  Therefore most of their work is on basic skills, he’s being taught appropriately, both physically and mentally for his age, as he progresses through the grades, it will take longer each time, but he’s mentally prepared for that.  He’s 7 years old and an orange belt, we aim to get him to black belt at about 12 years old, it’s going to take time, work and repetition particularly on those basic skills to get him to that standard.”

Damon’s mother was getting a bit frustrated by now… “But he needs more work on his green belt form…. Otherwise he will be getting fed up and bored…”

Sifu’s eyes narrowed, “Damon is perfectly happy and perfectly placed right now, his new form is made up of the basic techniques and skills that we are working on at the moment, he is learning the valuable lesson of never neglecting the basics in anything that he does, quality repetition is the cornerstone to success.  It’s not good to try and rush progress, as you will only have to return to it later to improve and then it will require a lot more work.

The truth is that you are getting impatient, not him.  He’s fine.”

Damon’s mother’s face reddened, “you’re holding him back, kids at the other clubs are progressing through the grades faster, he’ll get his black belt next year in the club down the road.”

“Indeed he will,” replied Sifu, but his standard will be the same as a green belt here and in any other quality martial art club, he will also be the laughing stock of his friends that practice good martial arts, he will think that everything in life is ‘easy’ to get – and never stick at anything that requires real effort – and heaven help him if he ever has to use his skills to save himself from serious injury or from being killed…”

“Can’t you at least teach him more of his form as a result of this conversation?” His mother asked.

“Madam,” Sifu replied, “I’ve been teaching children successfully for over 30 years, I only know how to do my job properly and to tell you truth.  I wouldn’t tell you how to do your job, and I’m quite happy for you to question me on mine and I will explain the reasons for my actions to you, but I can’t do my job badly to please you, or lie to you or your son. I have to live true to my art and pass it on the best way I know how.”

“Well I’m not happy with that,” retorted the Mother and stalked away.

Sifu shook his head as he watched her leave knowing the light was about to go out for a lovely, bright, talented child….

Parents…. Who’d have ‘em?



Written by bryan. Posted in Coaching


You don't have to be a Panda to do Kung Fu

You don't have to be a Panda to do Kung Fu


Sometimes the most dreaded words to any Martial Arts teacher and sometimes the most pleasing.


Adults start Martial Arts for many reasons, fitness, exercise, self defence, a new challenge or even to become a Black Belt. Children also start training for many reasons, some their own, some from their parents including fitness, confidence, discipline and exercise.  Often when one asks a student soon after they start training, the response is usually that they want to gain their Black Belt.


When you start to look at why people start there are many good reasons and they all start with high ideals and lofty ambitions. There is an oft quoted statistic that “Only one person in 1000 will ever earn their Black Belt.” Whilst I don’t think there is a way to actually empirically prove this number, it is fair to say that more people quit learning a Martial Art before they achieve the coveted status of Black Belt.


There was a study in America and out of 210 adults questioned in a telephone survey, the reasons that they quoted for quitting their Martial Art (Judo, Karate, Kung Fu, Kickboxing, Tae Kwon Do and other mainstream arts were all included)


Personal or work time constrains – 31%

Moved away from area – 23%

Lost interest – 18%

Medical Problems – 13%

Classes finished – 8%

Financial – 7%

Some things a Martial Arts teacher has no control over. We can’t change how someone determines to spend their limited leisure time. I’ve been in positions where I’ve not been able to attend a regular dojo for months, because I’ve been travelling around Europe working and living out of hotels working 18 hour days. Likewise I’ve also limited some of my training in order to spend time with my family and woe betide the instructor who tells me that I’m not committed enough because I want to spend time with my family. Family, work, Martial Arts in that order is the right approach for most people.

I can speak with recent experience of people moving area from the Basingstoke area. One of our students left to go and work in Denmark, another to live with her father in Wiltshire, two more moved because their job forced them to move. 20+ years ago I handed over the reins of a very successful Karate club I ran, because I was offered a chance to buy into a business that was 200 miles away from the club and I had to move, or rather I chose to move to start a new business adventure.

A good martial arts club that follows the guidelines laid down by The Martial Arts Standards Agency  should have good procedures in placed to help reduce the risk of injury.  However, along with every sport, there is always the risk or injury, no matter how carefully you practice. Before starting any training you should discuss with your instructor any injuries that you have and whether they limit your participation during any particular exercises. A good experienced instructor may be able to help you find a work-around that suits your body. There are of course other medical injuries that may prevent someone training, a friend of mine did Ballet for many years, sadly it caused injuries to her knees, which has currently curtailed her Martial Arts training due to having a knee replacement.

The financial reasons why people quit can be varied, it might be due to a short term change in circumstances, for example redundancy. It might be that there are other ‘more important’ things for that family to spend there money on. Whilst it may be possible to provide free classes to that person/family, the instructor always has to consider that they still need to pay their hall hire, insurance, rates etc. It’s also worth noting that some people can also use this as an excuse instead of giving the real reason why they are stopping training.

So out of the answers given by people who gave up a Martial Art, an instructor has little or no control over 74% of those. That does leave 26% of people who the instructor can influence.

8% of people said that there class has finished. New classes when they start are often small in numbers and unless the instructor has got the mix of advertising right, they are unlikely to grow too successfully. Ergo it becomes a financial drain on an instructor to teach a small class and they can close down. When starting a class an Instructor needs to carefully think about how to maximise a new intake and keep people interested and attending in order to build up numbers over a period of time.

The final one and the one that Instructors have the most influence over, is people losing interest. Instructors need to consider how to structure their syllabus and also their teaching style to engage and motivate people. Everyone has a different reason for practicing Martial Arts and therefore their approach to their training can differ. But this is the one key area that instructor can influence whilst teaching. The instructor should consider:-

  1. Do they teach the same thing all the time in the same format?
  2. Do they use any equipment to liven the lessons up for example bags, pads, grappling equipment?
  3. Is each student sufficiently personally challenged?
  4. Is there a clear and demonstrable path for progression? Are there different things for the student to work on as they progress?
  5. Are the classes actually fun (for both the instructor and also the student)
  6. Is feedback given in the right way and at the right time?
  7. Are you still actively training and learning new things to pass onto your students?

The correct practice of Martial Arts should be a natural progression, there is always more to learn and more to teach. I’ve seen too many classes where a green belt is practising exactly the same techniques in the same way as a brown belt or even a black belt does. Being a higher grade doesn’t just mean that the techniques are performed the same as a lower grade, albeit faster. There should be a whole new depth to the techniques and you need to make sure that as an Instructor or Coach, that you are teaching your students these new skills in order for them to grow and develop. Moreover as an instructor, you need to be learning new skills to aid your development as a Martial Artist and as an instructor, if you are not training for yourself, then you have no right to call yourself an instructor.

At the end of the day an instructor won’t keep every student, but if they can engage their students a little more effectively, then maybe just a few more people will stay the course and reach the coveted Black Belt.

As a final point, it is also worth considering that although a student may say “I quit” a coach or Instructor also has the right to tell a student that they are quitting them or in business terms laying them off. Of course an instructor has to earn the right to teach someone, but equally a student has to prove that they deserve to be taught and that has nothing to do with money.

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Martial Arts Standards Agency British Judo British Council for Chinese Martial Arts – National Governing Body The World Union of Karate Federations Shi Kon Martial Arts British Council for Chinese Martial Arts – National Governing Body Safeguarding

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