This past weekend my wife’s family had a reunion…
There were loads of aunts and uncles and more excited kids than you could poke a stick at… it was insane.
While talking to “Uncle Bob” he was telling me about his granddaughter, Mackenzie who is now 8 years old.
“You remember Mac is doing martial arts?”, he asked me.
“Yes”, I said.
“Well, she’s been doing it for 4 years now and is doing great, although we are a little concerned about her learning weapons”, he remarked.
“Well Grandma and I dropped her off and stayed to watch the other day. She’s learning how to use that stick with the blade on the end… I don’t know what it’s called?, he said.
“Is it a short stick with a curved blade?”, I asked, “like a sickle?”
“Yes!”, exclaimed Uncle Bob, “I couldn’t believe it. It made us feel very uncomfortable, particularly when the instructor was being so graphic in his description of how it was to be used.”
“What did he say?”, I asked.
“Well he said you make your first strike down and cut into the shoulder and rip the blade through the body. You then make your second strike across the belly as you twist and pull out the guts, disembowling your opponent.”
“Hmmmm”, I pondered.
“And that was just part of the class! It was like this throughout! We were so concerned about they way he was teaching, we wanted to pull her out of the class”, said Bob anxiously, “So after the class we spoke to the instructor and voiced our concerns. And as a result the school is looking at changing the way they teach…”
I can certainly understand where Uncle Bob is coming from and at the same time realize that parents and grand parents who aren’t always present at class, can be a little concerned when they hear an instructor say something like what Mac’s instructor said.
Here’s some things to consider about this story…
- As a professional instructor teaching martial arts to adults and kids, the instructor failed to differentiate his teaching methods to accommodate the different age groups. You can’t effectively teach the same way to a 40 year old, to a 14 year old, to a 4 year old. All have different reasons for doing martial arts and have different degrees of understanding of concepts, body mechanics, mental and emotional maturity levels, etc. For best results, you must change the way you teach for each group.
- I can see how the instructor (from a purist’s combative point of view) appreciated the technique and application, but explaining it with such graphic imagery to young minds can be too much for them to handle. Kids are very impressionable and images like this can stay with them for years. It can leave them fearful and uncomfortable, and if they feel too uncomfortable they’ll quit. For best results, you must choose your words carefully for each group.
- In my experience, most kids simply don’t have the mental maturity to be wielding a weapon. If they’re having trouble focusing a punch, then they have no right to be swinging a sword! For this reason I personally don’t teach weapons to kids until they’re at least 10 years old, and can display the maturity to handle a weapon. It’s a safety issue!
- Finally, muscle strength and coordination is usually more developed by age 10. Quite often sticks and other weapons (short or long) are too heavy for kids at 8 years of age and younger. Again it’s a safety issue.
So next time you teach, whether its kids or adults be sure that you’re teaching at their level of understanding. You’ll increase the enjoyment for your students and the skills will follow. Failing to do so can leave you frustrated, your younger students fearful, and their families concerned. And that is a recipe for disaster…