Often I am asked why we do not have separate children’s classes. And the simple truth is that after well over 30 years of teaching I have found that all ages and all ranks training together is by far the best way to achieve the goals that we have for each student. There’s nothing wrong with separate classes for kids, however there are other angles worth considering – here’s some thoughts:
Martial Arts training is completely different from any other kind of activity. The training is very personal and each student goes at their own rate, without any pressure to go faster, or to not let their team down like you find in so many other sports programs. And at the same time there is a wonderful sense of belonging and community too, because everyone is working to better themselves, help everyone else improve and having a blast in the process.
Part of a students training as they advance is learning to teach others. And we also want everyone to be helping each other all along so in many ways each person in class is a student of those above them in rank, and a “teacher” to those below them in rank. So being in a class with a lot of “teachers” or role models is terrific. Plus, with lots of different skill levels each student can watch and learn from those who are at the next level they want to achieve and beyond.
That’s why I personally love the larger class settings. There are lots of levels represented, the energy is high, more students are there and into the class dynamic, and all that rubs off and motivates everyone else to excel. Plus the larger group offers many more options in terms of how we run each class too. There are more possibilities to break up into smaller groups doing different things when that will work well, or staying all together and working on the same thing but at different levels etc etc. It’s really terrific.
Another important point is that most students will rise to the level that’s expected of them (within reason of course), and sometimes we don’t do younger ones any favors by making their classes “easy” or with lower expectations than for the other students. Of course there are different levels of physical, mental and social development that need to be taken into account for each student as we allow them to develop at their own rate, and we do. And allowing that individuality while training in a group setting with many different ages and skill levels gives each student exposure to much more of what we are trying to teach then they would get otherwise, and in many cases seems to propel them even further as they can get a glimpse of what’s ahead.
One final point (and then I’ll give it a rest : ) is that having a mixed class also makes some important statements about etiquette, discipline, respect, honor and more. Simply put, when an adult student bows to a younger student because of the rank order, everyone involved and observing realizes that these disciplines and character qualities are for everyone. When students of all ages and skill levels learn to say “Sir” and Ma’am” regardless of who they’re talking too, some very dynamic things are happening all the way around. And in a kid’s only class where all they do is high 5 everyone some very important things are lost.
Hope that helps! If you have any questions to feel free to contact me anytime.
Mr. Ron Hagelganz – Senior Instructor