Thursday, 7 August 2014

Teaching Children #2

Andrew picks a target at the correct height

ids don’t need to reach up to adults, at least when it comes to self defense.

No need to climb a magic beanstalk to reach the skull of a very tall man. Indeed, children should only hit targets level with their own shoulders, or in a pinch, as high as their own faces. To hit any higher, is to lose much of the power they are able to muster. Plus multiple strikes that aim high tend to fade away after the first or second hit.

There are two reasons for this –

1.         Physical – a child’s shoulders cannot reload fast enough. Striking too high, in effect, means that the strike is only coming from the shoulders. Straight-ahead attacks are loaded from the feet, the legs, the back, the hips…
      2.  Psychological – if a child hits above her or his height, she plays the part of the                  underdog. Just as in tales such as Jack and the Beanstalk, the adult’s stature                  remains fixed and supreme. If she disobeys, his wrath will literally rain down                  upon her. If the child chooses a target straight in front of her, child and adult                  are now equal.

In an earlier post Teaching Children I suggested creating a playful and friendly atmosphere, one in which your child has a chance to develop some confidence without being placed under a great deal of pressure. The first time I witnessed such an approach was at the Saturday morning class at the old Hatashita Judo Club in Toronto. The little people were having a terrific time rolling on the mats but – probably unknown to them - they were also building a solid Judo foundation.

Now is the time to… gently… gear up to a more aggressive response. Pushing a child too hard forces him or her up against an emotional wall. Two children once tried out my most extreme adult class. We were practising close quarter sparring with the back literally against a wall. They lasted a half an hour. Every nerve in their anatomy was jiggling; their faces were white as ghosts.

Of course, the boys never returned. Why should they have? It was an insult to them as children. Having learned something positive from that shake up of an evening,  I now provide a smoother, much kinder period of transition for children who a ready – and wish to join – a more intense adult environment.

Eric is learning a variety of strikes. Here he uses a
claw technique - with relish. Tim seems to be prepared.

TECHNIQUES – stay very basic…a punch (only to soft targets or to joints like the knees; a claw or multiple finger strike (again to soft targets like the groin – or to the eyes if and only if the eyes are within range); kicks – very low, knees, inside of the leg, stomps to the insteps

CONTINUOUS  - teach your child to strike and kick continuously. If your child’s shoulder comes to the height of your hips, she should strike and kick three levels continuously…groin, knees and ankles/insteps.

Never forget the element of fun. For instance, let your child pick her or his favourite animal (hopefully not a sloth!). Many kids I teach like tigers. I called one of my five-year-olds Fu Jow. That translates as Tiger Claw. Now he’s Tiger Claw…and he trains with the ferocity of a tiger.

He asked me: “What’s your fight name?”
“Tinkerbelle,” I responded.

That got a laugh. Of course, the other kids complained immediately about the drop in class discipline.

“No being silly!” they cried.

Along with a backfist strike to the groin,
Caitlyn gives Tim a look of rebuke.

The knees are a perfect target. Here, Riley uses
the bottom of his foot for his side kick. Sometimes,
that's safer for kids than the blade of the foot.

360 DEGREES – All angles, continuous –and ferocious attack – multiple targets…all at 360 degrees

Lastly, temper your child’s training with:

“Do you use this in school?”
“No, Sensei. We tell the teacher if someone bullies us!”

“Do you use it against your brother and sister at home?”
“No, Sensei…we’re family. We protect our brothers and sisters!”

“Do you use it on your goldfish?”
A  look of disgust creeps over their faces. “No being silly!”

Add caption


  1. This is a supportive reminder that there is a great need for balance when instructing children in order to keep them learning and growing, not pushing them away by being too demanding or aggressive. I believe the discipline of the experience is also important however, and for my own two 12 and 11 years old, they have grown in self confidence as a result of their instruction. Thank you for the post today.

  2. Thank you! I appreciate your thoughtful comment. About an hour ago, I taught a young girl the technique featured in the September 15, 2014 post, the inside snap kick. I did this carefully, using a soft, relaxed voice, adding some humour while building up her confidence. To borrow your phrase, "the discipline of the experience" fuelled her level of contact to the knee. Close to real, without pushing her into the wall.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.