A few years ago, a mother approached me asking if I could teach her 5-year-old child. I had not planned on teaching children. I responded to this parent “why not?” Some similarly aged children followed. Along the way, a few have dropped out or have moved on. Through trial and error and talking with other martial arts instructors with considerable experience in teaching children, I’ve learned a few things along the way. A terrific book by Cathy Chapaty and Tom Callos called “No Pouting In The Dojo” provided further tips. I had to chuckle when Ms. Chapaty said that she felt like she didn’t know what she was doing half the time. I certainly feel the same way. 🙂
One of the most important things that I’ve learned is the importance of fun and motivation for children, particularly in the 5 to 7-year-old age group. I have broken up the curriculum into bite size pieces so as to allow for “stripe” testing. This way, they can work on a finite amount of material necessary to earn their next stripe. Stripe testing makes it easier for the instructor to track their progress.
As can be seen in the picture above, I teach out of the Legends Community Centre in Oshawa. Filipino Martial Arts are quite informal and the kids often come to class dressed casually as in the picture. I’m not pushing the uniform part (although I should survey the parents regarding t-shirts and the like). Being in the Greater Toronto Area, I’m aware that the parents can be a bit harried after dealing with a long commute, especially on the 401. The GTA is horrible when it comes to traffic congestion. Often, the kids come to class just in the nick of time.
So, this means that the kids are not wearing belts as you would see in many martial arts schools. I struggled to find an alternative to the belt system and a way to motivate them. Then one day, I had a “eureka” moment. Why not have them wear colored bracelets that designate their rank? I emailed some of the parents, who thought that it might be a good idea.
Carl Horwood of NA Tactical Paracord Accessories stepped in and made some bracelets for the kids. When I explained to the kids the rationale behind the bracelets, they got excited. Most of them are wearing the white bracelets, at different stages depending on the material they have learned. Some of them are close to getting the yellow bracelet.
Kids bracelets by Carl Horwood.
To my great pleasure, they have come to class wearing the bracelets, although a couple has needed reminders to get them from their parents. They understand that in order to advance to the next colored bracelet, they have four “stripe testings” before being eligible to test for the next color. For instance, three of the kids have recently earned their 3rd stripe and need to test for 4th stripe. Only after they have tested for all four stripes, they are eligible to test for a yellow bracelet. I need to keep them on their toes! 🙂
Carl and I are excited by the reception of the parents and the kids regarding the bracelets. Carl makes a fantastic array of paracord accessories and the quality is absolutely top notch. If you’re looking for cool paracord bracelets, Carl is the guy you’re looking for. Here’s an example of his fantastic handiwork:
The early return is that the kids like the bracelets a lot and are willing to work hard to collect their colored bracelets!