“How important is age?"
In a nutshell, age is extremely important. A child who cannot handle being in kindergarten, or pre-school, will not be able to concentrate in a martial arts class. Before five years of age, any child who can focus in a martial arts class is exceptional.
We have successfully trained a few children who were, or are, four years of age. I don’t want to turn away the next Bruce Lee or Mozart, when he or she comes along, but there are a few factors to consider when a child is very young.
1. Can he or she let go of a parent’s hand, and work independently, in a classroom setting? This is very important, unless you can find a martial arts teacher that will teach parent and child, together, in the same classroom.
2. What are your true goals? When a parent has a lot of patience, it is much easier to accomplish realistic goals of focusing in a classroom, improved motor skills, and enhanced athletic abilities. However, instant success and precision performance are not likely. In many cases, young karate students tend to “shine" around seven years of age or older, so why put your child under pressure?
3. How much of a distraction is a young child going to be in a karate class? If your child is used to being the center of attention, this won’t work in a martial arts class. Time is shared with other students, and the objective is to learn everything in the daily lesson plan. This cannot be accomplished if a child is screaming for attention.
Within our Karate studio, in North Providence, we have a no pressure screening process for young children, as a measure, to see if joining our kids Karate classes will be a good relationship for the parents, child, and the Karate studio. This is why we have a free 30-day trial membership, with no obligations on either side.
As a parent, you want your child to get the optimum martial arts experience every time they train. This can only happen if the martial arts school establishes clear guidelines for conduct and if all the children participating are “team players. "
Otherwise, parents do not get their money’s worth and children waste time in a Karate class, while the child who gets the most attention is a discipline problem.
Within a child’s mind, being responsible for his or her actions is a matter of developing awareness, and everything is a new experience. As adults, we know that this knowledge comes with age, but each individual child grows at a different rate. Children are not “little adults, " and we cannot place adult expectations upon them.
If you put children into extremely high-pressure situations, they will not continue to enjoy the activity. Whether it is martial arts, academic school, or little league baseball, it is healthy for parents and children to have goals, but we all have to learn to accept life’s little setbacks without worry.
Paul Jerard is a co-owner and the director of Yoga teacher training at: Aura Wellness Center, in North Providence, RI. He has been a certified Master Yoga teacher since 1995. He is a master instructor of martial arts, with multiple Black Belts, four martial arts teaching credentials, and was recently inducted into the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame. He teaches Yoga, martial arts, and fitness to children, adults, and seniors in the greater Providence area. Recently he wrote: Is Running a Yoga Business Right for You? For Yoga students, who may be considering a new career as a Yoga teacher. http://www.yoga-teacher-training.org/index.html