Karate Poison Ball (Karate Game)

If there is one karate game that my kids classes love more than any other it’s Karate Poison Ball…

This game soars like an eagle above all other games – no other comes remotely close to producing the level of exhilaration kids feel when I tell them it’s time for “Poison Ball”.

Quite often the first thing young kids will ask me as soon as they walk into class is “Are we going to play Poison Ball today, Sensei?”

My response is often, “We’ll see. If you’re good we might play it at the end of class.”

And yet this game is really nothing more than dodge ball / poison ball with a karate twist.

Here’s how it works…

Karate Poison Ball

Students spread out in the middle of the floor with you standing at one end.

Choose an assistant instructor or a senior student to stand at the other end.

Your job is to get the kids “out” by throwing the ball at them and hitting them. If the ball misses all students or is returned to the other end of the room, it’s your assistant’s turn to throw the ball.

Your students’ job is to not get hit by either moving and avoiding it, or punching the ball away.

If the ball hits any other part of their body; if a student picks up the ball to give it back to you; if a student kicks the ball; or if it hits their belt or uniform at all; or if you think that their “punch” didn’t resemble a karate technique, then they’re out!

Students who are out take a seat at the end of the room out of the way and cheer for the remaining kids.

Two more things to note:

– Use a plastic air filled ball.

– Play this game at the end of class as a reward for a job well done.

Yes, it’s ok to bribe your students at the start of class by letting them know what’s in store when their good. If they don’t behave, do 200 punches in shiko dachi instead. You’ll quickly see a shift in how your class responds.

The notion of this simple game has the power to move mountains, change behaviors for the better and send your kid’s class home happy.



Karate Games – The Listening Game

A great way to warm up your karate student’s minds and bodies is of course to issue challenges and use games, particularly with younger students.

This is one of my favorite karate games that’ll challenge both your kids and adult classes.

It’s called “The Listening Game”.

I’m not sure where it came from originally, but it’s one that I did years ago with my instructor and still use today with my classes.

Here’s how it works.

Students face a partner so that they make 2 lines across the center of the room.

There are 5 commands…

“Ichi” = students must squat down

“Ni” = students must stand up

“San” = students must turn around 360 degrees once

“Change” = students must change position with their partner

“Run” = students must either run to the side of the room behind them, or back to the middle depending on their position


You call the commands and your students must perform the corresponding action as quickly as they can. The game begins when you say, “The game has begun”. And tell them it finishes when you say “The game has ended.”

Call the commands with plenty of time between each, to give your students a chance. As soon as somebody makes a mistake, they are eliminated from the game and take a seat to the side. The last person remaining is declared the winner.

When the game begins make it easy so students can get used to the commands and actions.

Then after 30 seconds or so, increase the difficultly with the following ideas.

– call the commands with less time between each so the game becomes faster

– call multiple commands in one hit – eg. Ichi, Ni, Run

– when your students are in the squat position, call “Ichi” (the squat position command), and you’ll almost always get someone to stand up. Try the same from the stand position, by calling “Ni” and you’ll get someone to squat.

– ask your students to relax and sit down

– throw in regular commands and karate terminology to add confusion with the following examples:

“Down” instead of “ichi”

“Up” instead of “ni”

“Switch” instead of “change”

“Spin” instead of “san”


– what else can you think of?

Points to note…

1) Make the game fun. Laugh and enjoy it.

2) When someone makes a mistake, reinforce the commands so they learn by saying, “There’s no down there is only what?” and your class should answer “Ichi”.

3) When students mess up and perform a command that’s not one of the 5 commands, you can then ask them, “What’s the game called???” and “How many commands!??”

The Listening Game is supposed to be an enjoyable warm-up game for all ages, so teach it that way.

Of course if you want a bunch of more ideas for class check out my 125 Dynamite Drills  and 50 Kids Karate Games which have a ton of karate drills and exercises for keeping your classes fresh and students motivated.

Until next time…

What’s the game called?

A new meaning for "martial artist"

Last week in class I had a *light bulb* moment…

(Yes, it happens occasionally – no wise cracks thank you)

I was right in the middle of teaching one of my 4-8 year old classes when I thought of a new exercise that could help them understand and reinforce what I’d be asking of them. Now I’m probably not the first instructor to do this, but I don’t believe I’ve seen nor done it before. In fact I think that show, “Whose line is it anyway?” gave me inspiration for this one.

I asked the kids to take a partner and then told them who was going to be the “playdough” first. The other student was to be the “artist” whose job was to meld the playdough karateka into whatever stance I asked of them.

Next, I told the playdough kids that they could start off in any stance at all – it could be another karate stance, or just some random, crazy position. Then on the command “go” the artists had to move their partner’s body one limb at a time until they were in the required stance.

I then let them know when they’d done a good job or if they needed to bend a knee a little further, move the hands higher, turn their head straighter, etc.

This was a HUGE success. The kids absolutely loved it.

And of course then they switched roles and did it all over again.

Like many of the drills and exercises in 125 Dynamite Drills this was a great exercise because it really made the kids THINK then APPLY their knowledge. It’s a fun exercise to use with all ages too, not just young ones.

Having your students identify the important aspects of a particular stance and then apply it from a different perspective is a great way for them to learn.

Try it out and see how it works in your classes.

– Jason