Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Fighting school

Today I asked B if he wanted to take dancing, swimming, karate, or music. His answer was karate.

So, does anyone with knowledge have a recommendation either on how to choose a school or how to choose a style? Karate? Gong fu (Kung fu)? Aikido? Taekwondo? Hapkido? Etc.?


pjd said...

Not much advice on how to select a style. For little kids, much of the basic technique is the same.

I'm a big believer in karate as a valuable activity for kids. I have been advised by people who should know, however, (and my own experience confirms) that kids under 10 years old don't really get much out of it. They can't master the techniques, so they mostly jump around a lot.

Definitely go and watch a couple of classes with B at the places you're considering. Take a look at the other kids in the class. A lot of karate instruction involves pairing up and practicing techniques, and if your kid always gets paired up with a total doofus or kid with ADHD, you'll end up frustrated. Plus, watching a few classes will set his expectations properly. Some little kids may think that they'll start off learning flying side kicks and Jackie Chan moves when in fact they stand around a lot doing basic punches and kicks and stances.

Karate is a very self-centered sport. By that I mean that you progress best if you are self-motivated and highly aware of your own body and kinetics. Kids that are total space cases may have trouble progressing, but kids that are very self aware can really enjoy it.

As far as instructors... you want teachers that are good with kids, that keep the classes active and moving, that maintain discipline during class. (By that I don't mean the "oos sensei!" like in Karate Kid but rather the class generally stays focused on the lesson and doesn't devolve into a band of monkeys on crack).

Finally, if you think B will be with it for a long time, you want the school to have progression paths that include leadership development, typically in the form of having the better kids act as teaching assistants and having the older kids (late teens) actually teaching some of the little-kid classes from time to time.

I doubt this has been very helpful. The key at this level is to feel comfortable with the school. At this age it's first and foremost a fun activity.

Mamaebeth said...

i would go to several places to observe and do a few trial classes. i think more important than style is the teacher; good with kids would be a must.

also, for his age, i would avoid a place that starts sparing before about 10. i took karate for a few years when i was young. i quit karate because i didn't like the sparing part (and i was a girl so the only people i could spar was the teacher or his daughter.)

i still remember a good bit of it even now. i took karate for a few months at the Y last year before they ended the classes (best white belt ever). it was really the ideal excercise because parts of it were aerobic, you worked on balance, flexability and strength. i think it can help kids develop an awareness of the body and help with self-discipline.

McKoala said...

Soccer boy did it for six months or so when he was six and really enjoyed it. PJD is right, though, in that he didn't learn an awful lot! He's doing gymnastics now, which he likes even better.

Robin S. said...

Blondie tried karate when she was five or six. I think she lasted less than two months - if I'm remembering correctly. I don't know much about it - so I'd listen to Pete and mamaebeth, as McK mentioned.

Robin S. said...

P.S. Do you EVER read your email, sweetie?

writtenwyrdd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
writtenwyrdd said...

I haven't had kids to put in these classes, but as someone who's had tai chi, akido, tae kwon do and a smidge of judo my brother showed me, I'd have to say that for a small kid, you might want to try tai chi or aikido. The falls and rolls in aikido ended up with me having a torn shoulder because I was older and graceless as a cartwheeling cow; but a kid would probably like that part a lot--it's not too different from gym class, a lot of it. Plus they do a lot of energy work and such. Tai chi is a lot of slow movement in long form, although you can do other flavors,but it might be hard for a small child to stick with it. Tae kwon do was a blast, and is mostly kicks and punches, no throws to speak of. Judo is all about throwing people around and using their momentum.

Good luck picking among the various offerings! A lot depends on the dojo, the teachers and how your child fits, as others say.