View Full Version : How many of your students are children ?

Michael Clarke
10th September 2002, 14:14
Looking through a few martial arts magazines recently I couldn't help but notice how many children there were in the photos.

I don't teach young children myself, a new student has to be around 15/16 years old to join my dojo.

So I was wondering; how many people have kids in their dojo, and just how are they taught differently from the adult students?

Look forward to your comments.

Mike Clarke.

Michael Clarke
11th September 2002, 06:44
Hey Ken,

That was my next question:p

Mike Clarke.

Harry Cook
11th September 2002, 11:59
In my own dojo I have around 20 kids, and the youngest I will accept for training is 7, but before they actually begin training I expect them to watch a few classes and so some informal training before they actually begin. The majority are related to one of the adults already training, ie either sons or daughters, grandchildren, or younger brothers or sisters. Those that are not related tend to be friends of the others. as for training they pretty much do the same things as everybody else, ie kihon, kata, kumite, pad work etc. The only modifications I use for the kids is to avoid conditioning drills which place undue stress on the joints etc. For example chishi drills are taught using either very light chiishi or simply wooden handles.
I think there is a danger in making the training for kids too "play based". Certainly some of the parents who speak to me want their offspring to learn to concentrate more and develop some form of personal discipline. I have been told many times that a child has improved in his/her behaviour, school work etc as a byproduct of training in karate. As I am a qualified teacher with post-graduate qualifications in education I am aware of the psychological needs and limitations of a child in regard to learning.
I also will not award a dan grade to a child. The lowest age we grade shodan is 16 and so far there has been only 2 awarded at that age - both of them happen to be my own children.
Harry Cook

11th September 2002, 13:23
at our school there are lots of children in both Judo and Karate classes.. ages start at around 5 years old.

From ages 5 till 7 it is what Ken describes, more something like a gym class than a real karate class.

After that they are taught everything (almost everything) that adults are taught, though in a way which is more fun. So lots of games to teach them things. As they progress in age so should their techniques which become better and better.

Both the Karate and the Judo federation over here have decided that the minimum age for a 1st dan exam is 16. So until they are 16 the highest they can get is 1st kyu (mind you I'd rather see that they'd raise the minimum age to 18).

Teaching kids is quite exhausting because their attention span is very short (as kenzo mentioned). As they start to reach puberty it becomes even more exhausting, because you have to keep motivating them every minute of the class.

But all in all I think I like teaching kids better than adults. The enthusiasm of kids is unbelievable. As an adult to hang in the ropes for as long as possible and you'll probably get a big sigh... ask a kid to do and the response (remember only before puberty) will be:

YEAH COOL WE'RE GOING TO HANG IN THE ROPES.... same goes for push ups and other stuff...

Michael Clarke
12th September 2002, 22:03
One might think, from reading this thread so far, that kids make up most of the population in a dojo?

If this is so, I'm left wondering what percentage of adults there are? It is the adult population that are after all, training 'seriously', and so making the place people are training in a 'dojo'

The other activity (teaching young children) is really just child minding parcelled up as martial arts, is it not? I know because I too use to have kids in my dojo (but not in the last tean years). I too recieved compliments on the way little Johnny was now doing well at school. but I always felt this was nothing the perants themselves could not have achieved if the would have spent a little more time with their kids instead of farming them out to karate classes!

Which leads to the question of whether or not many dojo could stay open if they did not get the income from the kiddies class?

So, and this might be taking the thread off on a tangent but, I wonder how many dojo would close if the kids stop turning up?

Look forward to your comments,
Peace and Love to all,
(and a sweety for the kids)
Mike Clarke.

:D :D :p

13th September 2002, 02:27
Originally posted by Kenzo

In Toronto Canada we have many full time dojo. these dojo are open 7 days a week from 10:00am to 10:00pm and boast 400-600 active students...with no kids these guys would have NO DOJO, now they start them as young as 3 I call it diaper karate :)

I think its a competition thing as in if I dont take the kid then the JKA dojo down the street will take him then I'll nver have a chance at him when he's 7. (if i only took them at 7)

YES some parents just use us as babysitters this I can not deny.


Sorry to take this thread a little off topic but...

I was wondering, have you noticed an increased enrollment (at the highschool age) over the last year? With Toronto's school funding problems leaving alot of extra curicular activites with no cash, I'm wondering if parents are turning to other privately run activities?

13th September 2002, 06:53

I think your observation is quite right. At least for the full time dojo. The full time teachers usually rely heavily on the children classes they teach.

As for the influence on children, I think (and see it frequently) that a MA Teacher has far more influence on the children than either parents or normal school teachers.

This is probably due to the fact that the MA teacher teaches the children something they really like and because there is (for reasons unknown to me) a tendency in parents that they do not spend very much time with their children or try to understand and relate to them. (mind you this is not so for all parents)

Don't even get me started about current day school teachers....

Michael Clarke
13th September 2002, 11:00

Leading on from what Ken and Rogier have said, lets throw this in the ring and see where it gets us?

If you have young kids in your dojo (nothing wrong with that in my book), do you still think of them as 'karate-ka' ?

Are they students of karatedo, or ankle biters, whos fees help keep the dojo doors open?

Come on, be honest now:rolleyes:

Mike Clarke.

13th September 2002, 13:09
I like to think of them as karateka to be... they do learn quite fast and though they usually aren't able to do kata and other stuff in the hard and strict manner that things are supposed to be done.. the basics are there.

They know which way to walk, what punches and kicks to use. Once those things are there the only thing you really have to do is fine tune them as they grow older.

Sometimes when I see how quickly some kids pick things up I will become a little bit jealous and wish I had started at such an early age instead of starting when I was 18.

13th September 2002, 17:18

Our "age-limit" is they have to be able to concentrate for the hour-and-a-half workout, wich seems to mean about 12-13 yrs.

No special program for kids in our tiny low-budget dojo, due to lack of instructors.

If a person, albeit of young age, is taking his/her first curious steps on the "way", why wouldn't you consider him/her a karateka as much as any beginner?

Based on my limited experiance, very few beginners (regardless of age) put any deeper meaning into ther training, that seems to come later.

...or something :-)

Ari Lappinen

14th September 2002, 00:46
The school I teach at has over 50 kids per class. We even have a waiting list because there is limited floor space (4000 sq. ft.). It is an afterschool program and many fun things are interwoven into training. We play fun games like "crab soccer", "snake", and have obstacle course races. All of our fun-time stuff is really physical and cooperative training. A bit of mental and physical conditioning is masked in the fun-time.

The kids try and attend tournaments about 4-6 times per year. They do really well, especially for being a new dojo full of new karateka. We've won "Best Dojo Overall Score" 3 times out of the last 4 tourneys, and all of our students usually place in either kata, sparring or both.

During the summer we run a karate summer camp and go on field trips to the zoo, sea world, etc. and excursions to various parks. The parents and, most especially, the kids love it. Like Kyoshi Cook said the majority of parents say that they have noticed a drastic improvement from their kid(s) in school performance and socialization skills.

We try and train them in a way that is conducive to their individual talents, but won't really make exceptions for those too lazy or unwilling to listen and learn. Unless the kid suffers from a mental or physical deficit we don't give rank to everyone testing at every grading. Some parents have complained, but we like to keep it as traditional and fair as possible while letting the kids have fun.

We also don't teach alot of the self-defense principles inherent in most karate. We focus on kihon, mechanics, kata, and kumite. They do bag and focus mit training, and some have gotten really good just after a year of training.

Our adult class only has 8 people in it. They are very dedicated and enthusiastic though! Most adults in Texas figure that the only MAs training they will ever need is Gun Fu, I guess! Americans in general seem to dislike MAs. I guess they think it makes you violent or animalisitic. It's weird because violent gladiatorial sport is LOVED to the Nth degree in the West! Oh well, you can't have a clue about what you don't understand!

Michael Clarke
14th September 2002, 11:06
I guess, from those who have been posting here so far, there would be fewer dojo in the world if children were not accepted into them?

I also see that the activity the kids get upto in the dojo for at least some of the time,is not the martial art as such, but games and other activities that will, hopefully, help them become better people at some future point?

I'm now wondering when MA ,and karate in particular, became an activity fit for kids? When I started training (January 1974) there were no kids in the dojo, and no way they would have survived if there was.

At some point the dojo has changed from being a place of martial training, to a place where folk can drop their children off so they can go shopping or something?

Those of us who teach have also changed our objectives too it seems?
I don't try to turn out hardend street warriors or competition champions, but I do try to help people find something within themselves that will empower them to find a balanced and contented lifestyle for themselves.

This is my understanding of the 'tradition' we traditionalist speak of. If a person has a different goal then I expect the activities in their dojo will relect that.

So, when much of the activity in a dojo is child minding dressed up as karate, what is the connection with budo?

As always, I look forward to your comments.
I'm learning lots here, thanks everyone.

Mike Clarke.

14th September 2002, 18:39
So, when much of the activity in a dojo is child minding dressed up as karate, what is the connection with budo?

well you do try to learn them of the values that are important..

But as was mentioned before, lots of adults have absolutely no idea of what they're doing, or think beyond kicking and punching. So is there a really big difference between kids and adults??

Michael Clarke
15th September 2002, 22:02
Well I look at it like this,

If adult students don't have any idea ebout anyhting beyond kicking and punching, who the hec are they traing with, AND WHY ????

Mike Clarke.

Michael Clarke
15th September 2002, 22:04
You can tell the posts I write early in the morning:D

Okay, back to bed;)

Mike Clarke.

Yes ,bed. I've been up all night writing.

16th September 2002, 06:54
it's not so much that they don' t really know anything beyond the kicking and punching, but you can not force thoughts, ideas or lifestyles on people.

Usually as people spend a little more time in the dojo (by a little I mean a few years...) they tend to get more feeling for the budo background (didn't know what else to call it)

But compare someone who has been training for 1 or 2 years with children.... nope not that big a difference as far as the thoughts behind the training go.

16th September 2002, 11:37
Originally posted by Michael Clarke

Leading on from what Ken and Rogier have said, lets throw this in the ring and see where it gets us?

If you have young kids in your dojo (nothing wrong with that in my book), do you still think of them as 'karate-ka' ?

Are they students of karatedo, or ankle biters, whos fees help keep the dojo doors open?

Come on, be honest now:rolleyes:

Mike Clarke.

I think what Mike means is a more literal take on what -ka means. Since a karate-ka would denote very high expertise in all areas, what is the child student in respect to the suffix "-ka?"

In Judo, at least in the west, all who practice judo are judo-ka, but in Japan, some schools, particularly the Kodokan, refer to any judo practitioner as "Judoshugyosha." This remains true until 4-dan or 5-dan. 6-dan and above are refered to as Judoka. It is the same with sensei, I think. A young BB refered to as "sensei" by a much older student would probably be told that the term is not correct in the way the student just used it. After all, the student is the older one.

So are child practitioners, no matter what age and experienced, are they still called karate-ka?

In general, I'd say no, but then I'm not really so exact as to use any other term but judo-ka. Some things just aren't important enough, but it may be something older ones may research a little and find out for themselves.


16th September 2002, 13:59
most schools and dojo I know of use the the ka suffix very freely. So that means all practitioners of judo are judoka and all practitioners of karate are karateka..

I've always been taught that is correct way to use it, and I don't actually see if there is a problem in using the term in that manner.

16th September 2002, 15:20
MarkF wrote

"I think what Mike means is a more literal take on what -ka means"

"6-dan and above are refered to as Judoka"

If that's the case, don't you think the question if children should be regarded as karateka is rather meaningless?

I mean not an awful lot of children hold the rank of 6.dan or above :-)


Ari Lappinen

16th September 2002, 20:09
I mean not an awful lot of children hold the rank of 6.dan or above :-)

not many adults do either :D

18th September 2002, 05:39
Rogier wrote:

"not many adults do either"

Maybe not in the Netherlands, but in Finland there are at least three :-)

Ari Lappinen

Michael Clarke
18th September 2002, 07:27
Thanks for the imput guys,
You're right mark, I'm trying to get at what it is we are doing in our dojo these days, and so, what are the folk in them actualy involved in?
Rogier has a point though, the term 'ka' has been used so freely for so long I think it may well have passed over to mean just about anyone who is involved in that art?

This is not to say that just because we do something for long enough, it somehow becomes correct though.

I'm really just trying to get a handle on what it is people think they are doing, and if that's the same as what they are doing?

I have a problem with youngsters being told they are training in martial arts, when in fact they are not. But I don't have a problem with kids in the dojo learning to control their emotions and gaining some enjoyment through the training at the same time. But are they told this is what they're doing?
And what does this say about 10 and 11 year old nidan's ?

At the end of the day, if you're not teaching a martial art to those who attend your training, is the place you train in a dojo?

Peace and love to all,
Mike Clarke.

18th September 2002, 14:34
Mike Clarke wrote:

"At the end of the day, if you're not teaching a martial art to those who attend your training, is the place you train in a dojo?"

I do see what you mean, and think you have a good point, but the word (dojo) in itself doesn't mean it has to be a place where you practise a martial art, does it?

Bit off topic, sorry :-/

Ari Lappinen

Kevin Meisner
19th September 2002, 06:14
I have taught a kids class (in addition to an adults class) for the past 5 years. Before that it was mostly adults with a few kids here and there. Since I started teaching when I was in college, I was spoiled by having hard working college kids in class for many years. Lately I am tired of teaching children. Some of the children have been in the class for almost 5 years, and they seem to have stopped progressing, and some are regressing. I have tried all sorts of things to motivate them. Lately I am thinking about reducing their class to once a week and teaching adults the other 3 to 5 classes I teach. What do you guys think?

Kevin Meisner

19th September 2002, 08:01
Kevin.. I think that might not be such a bad idea, it's your classes anyway so it's up to you to decide what you want. But it sounds if you're really having that much fun anymore teaching the classes. And if you're not having fun at teaching it, then you'll only be annoying and frustrating yourself needlessly..

To mike..

Maybe my choice of words was a bit poor in my previous postings. It's not so much that you don't teach kids martial arts, it's more that you teach them an adapted form. The focus is a bit shifted..

But I think you might have a point in not selling it as full martial arts...

Michael Clarke
19th September 2002, 13:55
Hey Arnie,
You're right the word dojo is not specific to the martial arts, in deed I understood the word was first used to describe a room set aside in a temple where one went to recieve instruction ?
The martial arts world used it from this meaning I believe?
But I was really using the word in it's more widely understood form, as a place where martial arts take place, a place of the way.
And I stick with my question, is it still a dojo if the activity going on there is not predominantly martal arts?

Yeh, I was just wondering what people put in their publicity handouts when it came to recruting children? I have taught kids myself many years ago an so I know what you mean about 'adapting' things for them.
But I always made it clear to the kids and the parents, that they were not training in budo or self defence.

Last word for Kevin,
What a great part of the world you live in Kevin, I have family in Torrington, and I love that whole New England corner of the U.S.
Anyway, I agree with Rogier. If you're no longer enthusiastic about the kids then you have to change the situation. You could try to set them up with a teacher who is (even if they're not within your own group)still keen to teach kids. Or maybe you could try to cull the class a little and only teach those kids who are hungry to learn still? At the end of the day you have to act in the best way you can, but I would advise you not to keep filling your life with negativity. If you do it will reflect in your teaching and that will do the kids no good at all. It's as well to remember that few adults continue training for more than five or six years, so we should not expect kids to.

Regards to all,
Mike Clarke.

Shitoryu Dude
20th September 2002, 02:33
The dojo I attend has a host of rug-rats ranging from 4 years old and up. The all get their red and red/white belts and I think it has some benefit as they are without a doubt the best behaved kids I've seen in ages. All told I bet we have about 50 of the little twerps.

I think that they have to be around 10 or so before they actually start testing for kyu ranks, and we do have a few young black&white belts that are under 14, but only a very few and they spent a long time getting there. Well over 90% of the black belts are about 30 and over would be my best guess.

I rather like having kids at the dojo. First, it provides a good revenue stream and keeps the place in business and the costs down. Second, its one of the few things that helps produce well behaved kids anymore. Third, they are a good indicator of the mental health of the instructors - believe me, you can tell a lot about a dojo by watching the peewee battalion during a workout.


Kevin Meisner
2nd October 2002, 11:31
I took my kids class and reduced it to one night a week, devoted to the kids exclusively (no adults that night). I took the class and separated it into two classes, one for "beginner/intermediate" and the other for "advanced." Each group gets an hour. This approach seems to be working - the smaller student-to-teacher ratio seems to improve the students' focus and they seem to be working harder. Breaking one class into two allows me to work more advanced stuff with the kids who have been in class for a while and spend more time on basics with the newer kids.

Kevin Meisner

p.s. New England is a great place to be, especially in the Fall season. It's about to get real pretty up here.

2nd October 2002, 13:21

I hope this works out for you. You do sound a bit more content in your post.

The biggest problem you can have is when your students (especially children) seem to lose focus quickly and do not work as hard as you'd like them to.

Teaching like that costs a lot of energy because you keep giving and giving and you get nothing back for it. When they do respond and work hard it is great to teach...

good luck