Recently I had a conversation about the role of games in teaching Martial Arts to children. When we send our kids to learn Martial Arts we expect them to receive proper instructions and we want them to progress, so watching them play a dodge ball for the last ten minutes of the class seems like a waste of time. Right?
Sometimes the best lessons may be hidden in the game, or a game may be used to cement the knowledge acquired previously in class or sometimes just to relieve the frustration and bring the proper balance.
Most of the kids in the United States have only 30 minutes of gym per week until 4th grade. This is not nearly enough for them to release their energy in order to feel calm and happy.
Of course, we could replace the game time with sparring, but that wouldn’t bring the desired result. Don’t get me wrong. Sparring is an important element in Martial Arts, but too much of it, especially in an early stage of learning will make the child hate it and ultimately quit.
We need a proper mix of warm-up, strength exercise, technique, grappling, sparring, and games. If something is not fun kids will think of it as a chore, not something they would like to continue for the rest of their life.
According to Michael Evans here’s why Children’s Martial Arts Class should end with the game.
Playing games end class on a high note, sending kids home smiling, and their brains awash in happy chemicals such as dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin.
This chemical cocktail helps keep them wanting to come back, but more importantly, it helps counteract the effects of the stress hormone, cortisol, which is produced during the more intense learning sections of a class.
Cortisol can prevent the neurological development necessary for memory formation, so by counteracting its influences, we ensure a better result from the lesson in the long term.
Kids learn through play, and since we teach skill-based lessons, we need to give kids a chance to play with the skills, to experiment with, integrate, and own the skill.
When we play games, we don’t just select random activities, we select games that subtly reinforce what we have taught that day.
So, we might select a dodgeball variant to reinforce agility, or a balloon hockey game to better assess their teamwork, or a race to help reinforce their ability to demonstrate perseverance.
By giving kids the opportunity to figure out for themselves how to use the lessons, they gain a better intellectual attachment to what we taught, thereby ensuring a better result from the lesson in the long run.”
We all would love to see our children becoming awesome Martial Artists, but if we don’t allow them time to grow at their own pace, they will never get there.
Trust your instructors!
They have your child’s best interest at heart.