Posted tagged ‘taekwondo’

The Dreaded “Triple Push-Up” & More Martial Arts Fun

March 4, 2010

photo courtesy of Shawn McElroy

Shawn McElroy Sensei, head of after-school programs at Sung Ming Shu Dojo in Atlanta, loves the “triple push-up,” adding,

I have had groups up to 5 do this exercise. Great for team building and strength!

What’s your favorite fun, funny, weird, creative drill or exercise for kids? Share it here. Leave a comment below, or – if you have a photo – send it to

Can’t get black belt no matter how hard they try?

February 9, 2010

Several instructors have posed versions of this question lately: What if you have a child in class who is dedicated and tries hard — but is simply too uncoordinated to perform the required material up to par? Is there a point at which you stop promoting this student through the ranks, in spite of his or her best effort? If so, is there a “magic rank” where this happens? –They might get green belt, but not brown belt; or, brown belt but not junior black belt.

I think we’ve all had students at one time or another who’ve caused us to ask these questions. Other factors usually come into play, like the age of the students in question, the reasons for their physical difficulty, and the expectations for future change as they grow and mature.

Instructors: Tell us about your experience. What have you learned about working with less athletically gifted students? What decisions have you made at test time? What advice would you give an instructor who is dealing with the issue for the first time? And, bottom line, can this student get his or her black belt?

Celebrate Kids Who Train in Martial Arts

January 5, 2010

Updated January 14, 2010

photo by Linda Nikaya

Happy New Year, everyone!
Let this be the best year yet for your training.
May you build strength, stamina, discipline and focus.
May you feel the joy of good health and physical expression.
May you have more fun than ever, pursuing an art that provides such serious benefits in your life. Have some serious fun.

Let’s celebrate in pictures. Send me a great picture (or two) showing kids in action, training in martial arts. Include appropriate credits (your school and instructor, and the photographer’s name). We’ll add it to the photo gallery here on this site. Pass the word to anyone you know who teaches martial arts to kids– or who has kids who train in martial arts.

A few folks have already responded– I have some pictures from Germany as well as the U.S. Let’s get as many schools, styles, states, and countries on here as we can!

Send your photos to I look forward to seeing and posting them!

Book Signing and Party at Redwood Dojo!

December 3, 2009

If you live in Oakland or the San Francisco Bay Area, stop by Redwood Dojo on Sunday afternoon, December 13, for a book signing, celebration, and martial arts demonstration by students of all ages and ranks. The Kids’ Karate Workbook will be on sale at a special price, and you’ll be able to get it signed by the author, illustrator, and some of the kids who posed for the illustrations. More information, and the address, can be found on the Redwood Dojo website.

And by the way, the book got a review in the Orlando martial arts section. The review includes some sample pages, so you can see what the layout and illustrations are like. It’s worth a look!

Tips for Teaching Kids, Part II: “A Million Times”

November 9, 2009

Rohai Dojo in Berkeley sometimes posts on the bulletin board a story borrowed from Louise Rafkin’s book, The Tiger’s Eye, The Bird’s Fist: A Beginner’s Guide to the Martial Arts. –This book, by the way, is a nice collection of stories, legends, biographies and history, giving kids an introduction to martial arts in general, their culture and philosophy. It’s out of print, but sometimes available at Powell’s Books or Amazon. In fact I was in Powell’s recently and saw a copy there.

The story is titled “A Million Times.” Here’s an excerpt:

A legendary teacher once taught one of his prize students to punch. The student put his fingers together in a fist and hit the target a few times.
“Can you teach me something else?” the student asked.
The teacher frowned. “First practice the punch a million times,” he told the student sternly. “Then I will teach you something new.” The student was discouraged, and went in search of a new teacher.
The new teacher taught the student a kick. “Practice a million times,” he said.
“What? Not a million times!” The student once again went to find a new teacher.
[ . . . ]

I’m going to leave you hanging, readers, but if you teach martial arts to children, you know this story; you experience it every day. Which brings us to the topic of this blog post:

How do you get kids to put in enough work on the basics, while keeping their interest up and teaching them the value and necessity of repetitive practice? Another way to phrase the question: How do you disguise repetition, while at the same time teaching the importance of it?

Different teachers take different views, and may have equal success with opposite approaches. I want to start the discussion off by revealing my personal bias, and feel free to disagree.

While some seek to keep kids interested by making everything in class into a game, I’m not a big fan of this. I like using games for a few minutes as warm-ups at the beginning of class, or as a release at the end of class, but the heart of class for me is practice, and most of that is going to be basics. So I have to find different ways to break it up—and there are plenty: change gears frequently; change tone of voice, speed, or counting; intersperse bursts of calisthenics; switch between forward and backward, front foot and rear, alone and with partner, in the air and on the target; have the instructor do sneak attacks with a foam “bopper” during basic repetitions. I think Kathy Varady meant something similar when she mentioned “theme classes” in her comment on our previous post about teaching.

There are a million ways to get it done “a million times.” What are some of yours?

How to Teach Taekwondo or Karate to Kids

October 11, 2009

Think back to when you first started teaching class, as an assistant or a junior instructor. How did you know what to do? Most likely, you started off by copying your own teacher.

Our teachers are usually the first, best source on how and what to teach. Then, when we have more experience, confidence, and the freedom of having our own class, we try out new ideas. We adapt things to our own personalities and interests. We look around at other instructors—our colleagues and peers—and borrow from them as well. We evaluate our students’ progress, and use this to evaluate ourselves. Through trial and error we develop what works, change what doesn’t, and improve ourselves as teachers.

Many of us, though, trained as adults in adult class, and teaching kids seems like a whole different game. What then?

If you don’t have a way to observe or assist with someone else’s children’s class, then imagination, trial and error must be your friends. Go ahead; jump in there. Just be flexible and ready to laugh when things don’t go as you expect.

Books and videos can be good sources of ideas. Some people buy expensive programs offered by successful professionals. These contain good material for those who want to spend all that cash.

I maintain that our best resources will always be (a) our colleagues, and (b) experience (trial and error). Sharing ideas and experience with others who teach kids will keep you on your toes and keep it fresh.

That’s why I want all of you out there who teach kids, or are interested in doing so, to participate in this blog. I’m not asking you to reveal your professional secrets for free. Just share some good ideas, small successes, and enthusiasm for the martial arts. Failures are great to hear about, too: What great idea did you come up with that totally flopped when you tried it in class?

Think of it as sharing selected entries from your teaching diary. You do keep one, don’t you? –Where you write down what you did in class that day, with some notes on how it all went? Or you could describe what you saw someone else do that worked well (or didn’t), or recount something the kids in your class accomplished.

Be sure to take credit, or give credit, where it’s due, and include a link to your blog or website if you have one. You can email your contribution to I’ll compile a few ideas into a single new post, or if it’s a longer piece, publish it as a guest post. Or—you can always send ideas by commenting on an existing post. For example, if you have some favorite martial arts puzzles or games, go to the previous post and leave a comment. If you have a good resource for teaching kids that you’d like to recommend, tell us about it right here.