Friday, May 18, 2007

Teaching Sparring to Kids

After a good class, but a frustrating sparring session for some of the children Wednesday, I began to wonder about the best way to teach sparring to children.

Then I suddenly realized there was a forum for questions about martial arts--Karate Forums! I love this site.

This is the question I posted. You can find it and a few thoughtful comments at Karate Forums, Instructor Central. And if any of you has any ideas about teaching sparring, please let me know.

My Post

Anyone have any ideas on how best to help children learn to spar?

Last night in our "all belts" class--which has a mix of belt levels and both adults and children--we sparred. My son, who's a green belt (and has just returned to TKD after a hiatus of 2 years), said "I don't like sparring. I don't learn anything."

A girl in the changing room complained, too. "I hate sparring. I don't think I'm good at it."

I find that children don't really seem to understand sparring. They just flail away, and don't even look at the target. If they spar with other children their size, it's chaos. If they spar with adults, they're outmatched (usually, just because of size and experience).

If I spar with a child, I end up not getting a good workout. I'll spar for just a while, then I do some teaching ("Here, try this combination") Since I'm a black belt, I teach sometimes, so I'd appreciate any ideas about how to make sparring a good learning experience for all involved.


Patrick O'Keefe said...

Thanks for the kind words. :)

Patrick (KF)

Duncan Richardson said...

Hi there. I found your post on teaching sparring to children. The one thing we've learned in our academy is that ALL students (kids & adults), must have several good experiences with sparring, before they decide it's fun, and challenging.

If a student has several good experiences, then if they have a negative one, it won't be a big deal. We always TRY and pair students up strategically so they will have a chance to build up self confidence. Heck, I'll even huddle up higher ranking students, and tell them that we're going to make sparring fun and exciting for their white belt partners. Then I pair the white belts with the higher ranks.

I enjoyed your other posts.


Duncan Richardson

Kenneth Gibbons LLC said...

I always found sparing to be difficult. Nerve raking. The blog is great on this topic.


Alexandra said...

I think that teaching children martial arts is great for physical and mental enhancement. It will teach them self-defense skills as well as strengthen their self-esteem.

Alexandra said...

Also there are many repeat offenders (child molesters) who keep getting out of prison and sadly finds another child to victimize.

Anonymous said...

Hi there!

Great blog.

I hope I can help. I have three kids involved in TKD and I hope that all three one day are able to enjoy TKD as they grow and learn.

Sparring is important because it adds 3 dimensions to TKD. It encourages speed, balance, spirit, timing, and if properly framed, sparring encourages respect.

Therefore, sparring is critical to TKD.

Here is how I teach sparring - I teach with both partners fully geared, but only one partner actually attacking. The other partner is either moving slowly or stationary. Initial sparring is about distance control and overcoming the twin fears of hitting and getting hit. I usually hold onto the stationary partner like a shield and switch his/her stances between open and closed stances. Then I switch partners and the first partner becomes the target.

You can make things more fun by having trained sparring partners tape small balloons to their gear and the beginner sparring partners try to pop the balloons with targeted kicks.

Good luck!

Tae Kwon Do in Illinois said...

Really great blog keep it up.