“From a parents perspective we had our son in a karate class when young ( age 4 or 5 I think) and it was chaotic and seemed more about letting the young ones kick and run around. There was no real discipline taught. When he was older he joined your class. It was night and day. An older student has the focus, mindset and maturity to understand what they are being taught. It is more than physical action or reaction it is about the control, and discipline. The dojo's creed says it all.” ~ L.S.
Shorin-ji ryu Karate
Principles of all three of these arts are combined into each class to give the student a well-rounded knowledge of the martial arts.
Training in this dojo is conducted in the traditional manner, with focus on "kata" (patterns of movements) and one-on-one practise.
“... maturity at eight years old is important, both physically and mentally. I have been playing competitive sports since the day I could walk and run without tripping over my own feet. I have also coached, trained and officiated many kids of ALL ages. At 8 to 10 years old, the average child is developing speed, coordination and power in sports whether its baseball, hockey or martial arts. Around this time there is a marked increase in physical ability and kids start to understand there own capabilities through sport. They usually are introduced for the first time to real competition, where games or matches start to hold meaning, and the competitive mentality is nurtured. Thus the martial arts practitioner at this age understands the "work vs reward" success that lies in competitive sport. ie "If I practice hard and I give it my best effort, I will be rewarded for my efforts." The reward can be a cool trophy, a medal, or a coloured belt.” ~ A.C.
“When a child is 8 they are able to comprehend the understanding behind the action, and the deep history that our practice is rooted in. With younger children there is less patience for this understanding that is integral to building a strong foundation in karate. ” ~E.F.
I am often asked: “why don’t I take students younger than 8-years old?”
I am well aware that there are many karate clubs that DO take kids as young as 3-years old, but I think that this is a “buyer beware” situation. Kids at that young an age are really good at mimicking … but what are they learning?
I have had first-hand experience with a couple of other martial arts schools that take really young children. They would tell the parents that the children will be distracted if the parents hang around and watch. They recommend that they go get a coffee or run some errands and come back at the end of class.
With the parents gone, the kids are left to run around; play tag; kick and punch the walls; kick a ball around … I even saw one club that gave pool noodles to all the boys and had them chase the girls. Then, at the end of the class, as parents are starting to come back, the instructor (usually a junior black belt/assistant instructor) would line the kids up and get them to mimic him, as the instructor, doing some blocks or kicks. The parents stand at the window and “ooh and ahh” because “don’t they all look so cute in their uniforms!”
Martial arts, in its traditional sense, is not a “sport”; it is a defensive fighting art. Kids at a young age cannot understand that.
They see it as playing Superheroes and Ninja Turtles, which can be
Foley's Family Karate
excellent for their imaginations, but if your child still throws temper tantrums I wonder if you really want them to learn how to kick you better?
To study traditional martial arts a degree of understanding, of mental maturity, is required. Students need to understand what they are doing in the training. They have to understand that when applied in real-life these techniques can be used to inflict harm. And they must understand that despite learning these kinds of techniques, they must remain in control of what they do and refrain from doing harm - unless they believe that their life is in danger.
Other martial arts philosophies like Respect and Compassion and Gratitude (the core virtues at the heart of our Organization) are taught to students from the first day in the dojo. It requires some reasoning ability - some mental maturity - to understand these concepts as well.
The concept of a 12-year old Black Belt is a contradiction to traditional martial arts. Once again, it comes down to mental maturity. Physically, a 12-year old could be quite good at many of the martial arts moves and techniques, but their bodies are still growing and I doubt there are many that can harness or generate the power inherent in the movements. Importantly, mentally a 12-year old is still a kid. Our Organization will not allow anyone to test for a Black Belt until a minimum age of 18-years old.
In my school, it can take between 8-10 years of training to prepare a student for taking the Black Belt test. Some “sport karate” schools will advance students quickly, but often work through a number of extra levels of belts as well - white to white with yellow stripe, to white with black stripe, yellow to yellow with white stripe, etc., with the goal of getting more money from each student for each level that they test for. Our students, typically, test once per year, through the ranks below Brown Belt, and then a little longer between the 3 Brown Belt ranks. That gives the student the 8-10 years of training to reach Black Belt - doing the math backward from the required age of 18 to test for Black Belt this helps establish the youngest age for accepting a student in my school.
The other thing that I like to point out to parents is this; I am a martial arts instructor. I enjoy teaching martial arts. I am not running these classes to be a ‘babysitting service’. We are teaching for the entire length of the class - classes are 60-90 minutes long. My students must have the attention span to stay focused on what we are doing for that duration. I have found that around age 8 most kids have the attention span needed to begin classes.
Here are some things that my students and parents of the students have told me:
Respect and compassion for others
Helps you strive to be the best you can be. In life, overcoming adversity is what makes us strong. In the martial arts dojo, the adversary that you face is yourself!
Makes you an "artist of life" - gives you a positive attitude, helps make you a "winner" in life
“Karate training helps with focus, and discipline but it takes a certain amount to start it. Children under 8 don't always have the focus or attention span to commit to martial arts training. The training requires focus, attention to detail, sitting still, and can be tricky. At 8 kids have been in school for a few years and are used to sitting and listening to instructions and absorbing information. They also have been exposed to sports and can handle the movements and the complexities of katas.
Maturity is also a factor. Kids need to be able to understand the seriousness of martial arts training. It has a time and a place and a purpose.” ~ W.S.
martial arts dojos
“We immediately appreciated your classes and how it was different from typical kid programs focused on mindless repetition. From my experience … Classes geared to young students are designed to keep kids busy, not give them a lifelong start in the martial arts. This is more of teen/adult class meant for students who want to study l ong term.
Parents should know it’s ok to explore and it’s ok to switch. By the time their child reaches 8, parents should know if their child is serious about martial arts and even get them involved in choosing a dojo or another style. There are so many styles all totally different– judo, taekwondo, kungfu, kempo – this list goes on. I did judo when I was a kid, but I like Shōrinji-ryū karate so much more.
Age does not determine success in martial arts. In fact starting too early will likely lead to burn out. http://www.wirraltaekwondo.com/what-age-should-a-child-start-martial-arts.
From the beginning it’s clear you are helping students towards eventually earning their black belt. And what parent doesn’t want to see their child get their black belt? Starting at 8 or even 10 sets them up with perfect timing to reach this goal.
Your classes require a higher level of self-control and attention that only older children have. We do not use pads, but rely on students to control their bodies, know strike distances and handle simple weapons (and even take a punch once in a while). You also give a background and history that give students a deeper appreciation for what we’re learning. Students are also expected to be self-motivated.
Martial arts does not instill discipline in students; students need to bring discipline to the martial arts. Young kids can learn to fight almost too easily. But it’s the other half of the equation – walking away from a fight – that only older kids can understand. The techniques you teach us can really hurt people and it’s important to trust that we as your students won’t just go out and do that. (Our dojo creed says it all.)
While some kids start activities like violin and gymnastics and soccer as early as three, other activities like guitar and martial arts are better suited to older kids. Why? These early start activities are usually adapted to smaller bodies and younger minds with quarter-sized violins, smaller fields and simpler rules. Martial arts like ours, however, are not so easily adapted to young children, not without making it boring and repetitive.” ~V.V.