There are those who believe that children should not be taught a “violent” activity like Filipino Martial Arts. Moreover, I’ve encountered those who believe FMAs are not appropriate for children because it involves swinging a stick or two. Ahem.

While there are risks inherent in swinging sticks, there are age appropriate ways to teach Filipino Martial Arts to the Padawan. 🙂 What I teach adults is different than what I teach children. While children are learning to read and write, they are also engaging in physical literacy and how to move their bodies. Hence, I adjust the material to take this into account.

Here are 7 ways I teach Filipino Martial Arts material to children:

(1) Angles of attack: FirstI teach the 12 angles of attack.   Also, I emphasize footwork and proper chambering. One example is in the below video where I discuss the transition between angle 1 and 2.

Initially, I will focus more on them knowing the proper order in which the angles are executed. The footwork and the correct chambering will come. Also, I will often incorporate the 12 angles into the “Simon Says” game at the end of class. I’ll randomly call out an angle. They have to listen and execute the called out angle correctly.

Soon, I will have them do the non-dominant hand version of this. Using the other hand is the beginning of my master plan to teach these young ‘uns world domination! 🙂

If you are not able to view the video, click here.

(2) Sinawali drills: Most of my 6 and 7-year-old students know single, double, heaven, and reverse sinawali (known as earth sinawali by others).  Furthermore, there are some variations of the sinawali drills that can be practiced to develop eye-hand coordination. Moreover, I’ll have them do the stick and empty hand version of these drills. They are getting the hang of executing footwork while doing the sinawali drills. The aim is to coordinate the entire body as a cohesive whole. Sinawali drills are a challenge, and it will take time for most kids.

If you are not able to view the video, click here.

(3) Disarms: Kids love the idea of “taking” my stick away. Therefore, we have been incorporating disarms in class. Disarming is a great chance for them to learn about manipulation of the cane, leverage, relaxation, proper posture, and correct footwork. That’s a lot for a child to absorb and that’s part of building up their physical literacy. But damn it, they love taking the stick away from Master Brian! May the Force be with them. 🙂

(4) Footwork: As many of us know, footwork is a critical part of Filipino Martial Arts. I’ve taught them the one step footwork, two step footwork, and the X pattern footwork. The Padawan have found it relatively easy to execute the one step footwork (illustrated in the below video) and the X pattern footwork.

However, the two-step footwork has proven to be a challenge to date. The students need to work on the technical aspects of it. It’s going to take time. But they are putting in the effort, and that’s what matters!

If you are not able to view the video, click here.

(5) Basic Punches and Kicks:  Basic punches such as the jab, straight punch, hook, and the uppercut are easy to teach. Ditto for knees and front kicks. Are they technically perfect? No, remember, they are learning physical literacy at this stage. However, I’ve had to make some minor changes to terminology to avoid confusion for them. For example, they have an easier time remembering the “front punch” instead of “lead hand jab.” 

(6) Basic stick handling/flipping exercises: The purpose is to increase their stick handling ability and for the stick to become extensions of their arms. At first, I had them hold the stick on one end, flip it in the air so that they can catch the other end. Whoops, that was too much. So I scaled back to just simply holding the middle of the stick, letting it go and catching it repeatedly. They did well the first time they tried this. The Force is strong with them. 🙂

(7) Games: Yes, I have heard other martial arts instructors decry the use of games. These are kids for crying out loud. If you incorporate martial material, this is a great way for them to learn the material in a fun way and markedly improve their retention. Moreover, studies have shown that children benefit greatly from play.

I’m not a fan of unrelenting rote drilling. Make no mistake; there is a place for rote drilling. If you make 6-year-old children do the 12 angles of attack twenty times, they are going to get bored. However, including the 12 angles of attack in “Simon Says,” increases their enthusiasm. 

Zombie Tag! Left arm across the body and cover the right eye. Tag only with the left hand. Kids love it!

Last night, I had the kids play a variation of the “zombie tag” game.  If a child was tagged, they had to do jumping jacks. The next time, it might be push ups, or getting into a horse stance or practicing kicks. The possibilities are endless. The key is incorporating something from martial arts.


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