Honestly if I would take younger students I could have retired a long time ago! Seems like calls are always coming in about taking little ones. Now there are a lot of schools around that will be glad to take your money and enroll your 3 – 7 year old, but let’s take a look at why in our Karate program we recommend that you “Wait Until 8.”
Note: Obviously there are exceptions and some young students are truly amazing, but generally speaking these are some of the reasons that we have chosen to start our program at 8 years old.
Attention Span: Just the title says it all right? Little ones have a tough time staying focused on anything for very long. And so the pee wee martial arts class ends up doing a lot of obstacle courses, story telling, coloring, all kinds of stuff to keep their attention and occupy their time, but is that really what you want? I purchased a very popular curriculum for very young students that is taught all over the country, just to see if it made sense. There were lots of ideas for activities, projects, and things to keep kids busy. There were motivational tools and ideas for keeping that young age group happy, but very little mention of martial arts at all! Just how to keep them busy, happy, testing, and mom and dad paying. No thanks.
Consequential Thinking: When you teach a little guy or gal to punch and kick, it’s tough to expect them to understand why they get in trouble if little Johnny at school takes their cookie at lunch and they kick them in the stomach! They just don’t get it. At their young age they don’t think consequentially and in many ways we set them up to fail at this point. Not always, but usually by age 8 they are more socially adept, understand things more, and are better able to have the headwork needed to keep things in their proper place.
What Rank is That? If you look at the program for the little ones that you’re considering, you’ll probably see every colored belt you can imagine on the kids, plus stripes everywhere too. Often even different colored stripes on each side of the belt! What happens is in order to keep the younger students motivated and excited about continuing, LOTS of extra levels are added into the curriculum. It’s designed so that the student can “test” every other month and sometimes even every month so they are constantly getting a new belt or new stripe or something, but in reality all its doing is costing you more money! And along with that often comes more stuff to buy at each level too. A new practice target, or a weapon or whatever, all designed to keep the student there and you paying. We use a traditional 10 level program with no extra belts, stripes or anything. So a younger student just has a longer time span between ranks, and our job is to keep them excited about training without adding all the extra stuff, and guess what? It works great!
Weapons? Are you kidding?? Something that really concerns me is seeing youngsters training with weapons. Often along with the curriculum for kids comes segments training with various weapons – wooden swords, staffs etc. And while it’s fun and gives them something different to do for a while (and something else for you to buy…), do you really want your child learning to handle a weapon? Think about it, honestly most kids have a difficult enough time standing still correctly, much less being responsible for controlling a potentially dangerous weapon. At Whole Armor Martial Arts we believe that weapons have no business in the hands of children of any age, period. That’s safe, and that’s smart.
So You Want a Black Belt? Another thing you’ll see is Junior and even Pee Wee Black Belts. Sorry, but that’s just silly. Again it’s all designed to keep the student progressing and you paying, and has nothing to do with reality or traditional martial arts skill. At Whole Armor Martial Arts we will not issue a Black Belt certificate for anyone under 16 years old. That means that even if you wait and start your child at 8 years old it’s going to be a minimum of an 8 year journey to get that Black Belt. If you start them at age 4 or 5 it’s just a long way to go, better to wait until there’s a real chance they’ll stick with it and actually make it!
My child turns 8 in a month, can’t we start now? You’d be amazed how many times I get asked that or something very similar. In fact, I’ve had some folks get really angry that I wouldn’t let their child start earlier than 8. But think about it this way; if I claim to teach respect, honor, discipline, self-control, obeying the rules and all that kind of thing and yet am willing to break the rules to make an exception for your child, you should find another teacher anyway! If you can’t trust me to follow my own rules, how can you trust me to instill good habits to your kids? So sorry, age 8 is a hard a fast rule, and I hope you are encouraged that we stick to it!
Why Wait Until 8?? It just makes sense. It’s safer, your child will gain more and retain more, and have a better chance of actually sticking with it and achieving what few people do – earning their Black Belt!
And even more important at Whole Armor Martial Arts, week after week your child will be learning far more than just games or physical skills. They’ll also be learning important truths and the life changing values from God’s Word in the Bible at each class, and be exposed to role models sold out to Christ who really will make a difference in their lives.
Hope that helps! If you have any questions to feel free to contact me anytime.
Mr. Ron Hagelganz – Senior Instructor