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Karate/Judo advice please

janapur

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My son will be five in October and is interested in joining karate/judo about which I know absolutely nothing. We are very supportive of his desire because of the many excellent things we've read. However, I want to be sure that he is not too young to start.

Have any tuggers had experience with younger students of the sport and any specific programs to look into joining?

Thanks,
Jana
 

CarolF

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My son started Karate at about 8 years of age and completed his black belt (Junior Sho Dan 1st degree) at age 12. There were many 5 years old students (and younger) participating in the classes.

My son enjoyed "individual sports" rather than team sports at the time and still does. The classes were well structured, with a good balance of fun, fitness and discipline. As well as improving his co-ordination there was a need to memorise the movements which was a good learning experience also.

I would suggest watching a few classes so you get a feel for the different clubs, meet the instructors, see how they work and see if they suit you and your son.
 

pjrose

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Lots of advice

Five is generally not too young, but make sure the classes don't seem too rough and bigger kids aren't beating on the littler ones. instruction should be age appropriate with littler kids doing less complicated moves.

Keep going to different schools till you find the right "fit". About 7 years ago we took our son to at least four or five schools. One had way too much bowing and referring to "master". Another seemed like nothing but "big kids throw little kids". The instructor in a third was a high schooler with only 3-4 years of martial arts experience who did not have the maturity to work with a dozen or so small children. In still another there were lots of small kids with black belts - perhaps that seemed great to the kids and parents, but black belts aren't worth much if they're handed out that quickly.

Finally at a nearby mall I noticed a class of kids who were working but also having fun. I talked to the owner for quite awhile. I found out his background, different arts he had studied, and noted that he had a great sense of humor and seemed respectful of the kids. Both of my kids tried a free lesson and signed up, and then I tried the free lesson, and signed up for a 10 week women's self-defense course. The kids lasted around 3 years before they found other interests, and 7 years later I'm still going!

Each art has its own emphases - kicks, ancient tradition, wide stances, throws, sparring, or self defense, for example. Our school teaches Kenpo Karate, specifically Ed Parker Kenpo. Kenpo is entirely oriented toward self-defense, and is very logical - what do you do if someone attacks you in different ways, and why do you do it that way.

So....go to a lot of schools, see where the kids are working but also having fun. Are they being encouraged, or yelled at if they don't do something right? Are there enough instructors to have the kids in small groups, where individual attention is possible? Are the more advanced or older kids helping out with the younger ones? If you see sparring, are the kids wearing protective gear? Are there mats available for floor work or throwing?

Ask about the instructors' backgrounds - number of years studying the art they are teaching as well as other arts, number of years teaching. Ask where they got their black belts and from whom. This may not mean anything to you at first, but look it up online - anyone can buy a black belt and print up a fancy-looking certificate. Make sure there is a certificate of insurance up on the wall.

If you are given some kind of guarantee that your child will get a black belt in 1 or 2 years - especially if you sign a long contract - you might want to think twice. A meaningful black belt takes many years of study and maturity that most kids don't have. However, do see what incentives there are for kids - frequent tips or stripes added to the belts? patches they can earn? perhaps a special team for the ones who can earn a place - not just for learning the moves, but also for behavior?

And consider signing up yourself like I did! It's been good exercise, a great challenge, and a lot of fun as well as a lot of work.
 
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CarolF

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Kin Bushi Ryu Karate-Do

make sure the classes don't seem too rough and bigger kids aren't beating on the littler ones.............Another seemed like nothing but "big kids throw little kids"
:eek:
These comments made me realise that I've been living in a bit of a bubble :).
We obviously just got lucky, we chose the first group we visited. The group focused strongly on personal development and I would describe the classes as 90% non-contact.

Here is a small cut and paste from their website:

In December, 1990, Gary and his Instructors parted from Zen Do Kai to pursue the aspiration of sustaining a contemporary, self defence-oriented karate system with a foundation firmly based around classic martial arts beliefs of personal development.

His Kids' Karate program is designed especially for children from five up to twelve years of age. While the grading requirements are similar to that of the adult syllabus, the more dangerous and inappropriate techniques and knowledge have been omitted from the program.
 

gretel

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I also studied martial arts for several years. When my sons wanted to join, I was happy. I researched several schools just as pjrose suggested and found a new one where the instructor seemed perfect. One criteria I had was that I must be able to see my sons at all times (some schools teach kids behind closed doors). I had heard of inappropriate situations from friends who studied martial arts and wanted to ensure my boys were safe.

Well, my fears came to life. One day the school door was closed with no sign. I received a call in which I was informed that the instructor had been arrested for being a pedophile (charges were filed by a student from a previous school he worked). My sons had not personally experienced any inappropriate actions but it was a very scary situation. I never did find out what happened as he never returned.

Needless to say, this is not the norm for most schools but I would keep a watchful eye regardless. Other than that, the martial arts are a nice way to learn discipline, self-defense and get exercise.
 

kiyotaka

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I’m a roku-dan (6th degree black belt) judo-ka from Japan who live in NY. I haven’t practiced judo for many years but once a year in March, my wife & I go down to Gainesville to attend Univ of Fl Judo club reunion (we call it SilverSixty). We are (~ 10 of us) all in 60s but enjoy a weekend of get together. What I want to say is, no matter which sport your son chooses, it is a great opportunity to make life long friends.
 

Icc5

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Check it out

Hi Jana,
I agree with what everyone has stated. I haven't trained now in about 22 years but earned my black belt in tae Kwaon do back then. I always felt I had a great instructor for myself and I also taught as part of our requirement towards are black belt and taught many years after getting my black belt.
If it was me this is what I would do.
Go look at several area schools, talk to the instructors, have your son meet them. Watch classes for aprox. 2 weeks to see what goes on and if it would be right for your son. Find out how the school handles problems such as bad grades in school and school in general. Our students had to bring a note every other week from the school as to how the student was doing and how his/her actions were in school. The biggest problem with youg students is they want to show off in school and this can get them in trouble.
Karate should be looked at as a dicipline, a sport, a learning device.
Karate can be very expensive so in the two weeks make sure your son shows a real interest because the drop-out rate can be huge if the instructor isn't into each student.
Bart
 

Rose Pink

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gymnastics and aikido

If I had it to do all over again, I'd put my children in gymnastics at an early age over any other sport because the strength, flexibility and control learned in gymnastics carries over into all other sports. I would avoid schools that are focused mainly on competition. (Check to see if there is a trophy case or wall to see if that is the primary focus.) Small children don't need to be thrust into the competitive world. It will come soon enough.

For that reason (and others) I would choose aikido over karate. Google aikido to see the differences in approach and philosophy. Aikido dojos aren't as prevalant as the other martial arts studios and not all aikido dojos will provide what you are looking for--use the same caveats that others have already posted about karate.

I would also suggest that you, the parent, also take classes in whatever martial art your child chooses so that you will get a feel and respect for the art.

Check out your local school district and your local parks department to see if they have any classes your child would be interested in sampling. These are usually much less expensive than private schools and can give you and your son some idea of what to expect and what to pursue.
 

ocowner

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If unsure about desire, and the financial committment to begin, you may want to check if there are beginner classes at a local Y, rec council, or even community college.
 

luvsvacation22

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Wow, what great imformative responses!

I asked my nineteen year old daughter who takes karate; she read all the above responses and agrees with what was written. She practices TKD, karate, muy thai, grappling, basically mixed martial arts. She said everyone who has posted has good creditability and they know what they are talking about. At the karate studio where she attends the youngest student is three. My daughter loves karate, and agrees with the comment about gymnastics before or during karate. She is into tricking ( extreme martial arts with acrobatics) and she wishes she would have had gymnastics as a kid. It would have made it a little easier.

Dorene
 

lprstn

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Both of my older kids are in tae kwon do, and I was in karate until red belt as a young adult. I find the best age to get them started for me was 3rd or 4th grade. That way they have enouph time to get to black belt before HS sets in and other activities impede their art. Oh and we chose a reputable school in which we sit and watch their lessons...
 
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laura1957

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My daughters were 4 and 9 when they started karate. They joined because friends of theirs were in the class. The senseis were both teachers in the local school district, and classes were held in the evening at a church. The parents were not only allowed to stay and watch but encouraged to stay. They both enjoyed it very much, but after about 2 years just became too busy with other activities. I still feel that it was very good for them both, and they are still friendly with most of the other kids they met through the class and are still close to the teachers.
 

pcgirl54

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Our three sons did Judo for a long time and started at the local school before joining a Dojo. Parents were always involved. Judo means gentle way. This built confidence and discipline without the extreme violence of other martial arts. All are about respect. We did this as a family.

They competed in many tournaments in may states and one of them won the AMCan Nationals.

I highly recommend it and I would not let our children join any sport where parents were banned.

I also like soccer because everyone plays.
 

PerryM

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I teach Tae kwon Do (Taekwondo - TKD) and am a member of the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) (4th degree Black Belt – “Master Instructor”). I also teach Hapkido. The WTF brought TKD to the Summer Olympics and oversees all activities there for TKD.

I can comment on TKD and Hapkido but know little of Karate or Judo. There are more TKD schools in the world than ALL other martial art disciplines combined – it is #1. I am head instructor at Park’s Martial Arts in Ballwin, MO

Every day I tell folks who “shop around” for a martial art school that there are two skill sets everyone, and certainly kids, should know:

1) Swimming
2) Martial Art or boxing

Both can save a person’s life at sometime during their life span.

I started TKD with my son, who was 8 years old then, in 1994. He too is a Master Instructor; we did it together and it has been very rewarding to both of us. He is a senior at Mizzou and just this past week started job interviews (Industrial Engineer). He has found that every recruiter has commented that they have never interviewed someone who has shown such determination to achieve a goal – something that they find VERY desirable.

My son has all the credentials needed to open his own chain of TKD schools sanctioned by the WTF – he could easily make a very nice income, and career, from TKD if he wanted.

Here are my suggestions:

1) Visit a number of martial arts school and find one that you like – sign up for introductory courses – DO NOT SIGN up for long term contracts yet

2) Think of doing this as a family activity – 1/3 of all our students belong to a family unit at our schools

3) Investigate the affiliations of the school – do they belong to the WTF, etc

4) The owner of the school should have at least a 7th degree Black Belt so he can promote Masters (4th degree) and have a thriving set of schools

5) Forget price – unless you price shop for your doctors I’d place martial arts in a class where you want the best and not the cheapest. There is a big difference

At our schools kids 5 – 12 have their own special classes which bar older students unless the student is part of a family unit. A typical 5 PM class has me teaching 35 kids with 2 moms or dads in the class too.

I continue TKD as a kind of hobby to relieve stress from my other activities. You will meet folks from every walk of life and form fantastic new friends.

Good luck and hope this helps.
 
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jlwquilter

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Just want to echo what has been said. Check out studios until you find one that fits. My now 9 year old daughter started 1 1/2 years ago. She would have started earlier but the first school I checked out did not impress me at all so I kept looking. The new school that opened a year later was perfect. She loves it and I love her doing it.

I agree with Perry - swimming and some kind of defense skill is crucial for kids to know. If nothing else, it builds an aura around them that says "Don't mess with me".

As an FYI, the Sensei is a whopping 20 years old. I was shocked to find that out as he presents himself so well he seems much older. He has a great blend of class control, understanding that the kids are indeed kids, and is very supportive of every child and VERY safety conscious. I couldn't be happier with him as an instructor.
 

pjrose

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Our three sons did Judo for a long time and started at the local school before joining a Dojo. Parents were always involved. Judo means gentle way. This built confidence and discipline without the extreme violence of other martial arts. All are about respect. We did this as a family.
I agree with what everyone else has said. One comment re PCGirl's post above: whether you see violence is going to depend on the school and instructors. You should not see violence in a children's martial arts class. I can't speak here for other arts or schools, but in our adult classes, the higher up we get, the LESS violent we are, because we have more control and can do the moves without full contact. (If I were attacked on the street, that'd be a different story :eek:) When I first started, I was kind of scared of the big guys with advanced belts - I soon learned that they were actually the gentlest, and I'd far rather work with them than the beginners. My Kenpo instructor also has a black belt in judo, and occasionally we spend a class on a judo technique or two - it's amazing how what seems like a little move is so effective.
 
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PerryM

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In October we will be testing our youngest student for his 1st degree black belt – he just turned 6 years old; started when he just turned 4.

It’s a wonder to see this little guy in action – he instructs other kids and even grownups and has done so for 6 months now – it’s part of his training.

Of course this is a special kid – he reads at an 8th grade level, has a totally photographic memory, speaks a number of languages, and has colleges already knocking on the door. He will jump from kindergarten to 5th grade, or even higher, next year.

His parents wisely realized that he would always be the youngest, smallest kid in the classroom and they wanted to give him something to help him in those situations – self confidence that he doesn’t have to take any guff from anyone.

On the opposite side I teach many kids with ADD, and all of its variations, Asperger’s syndrome, and Terret's syndrome. Those kids flourish in an environment of strict discipline.

Many adult professionals – lawyers, lots of doctors, shrinks, airline pilots – all get a thrill out of kicking the hell out of a target.

Martial Arts offers just about everyone something that will improve their lives.
 
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PerryM

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I agree with what everyone else has said. One comment re PCGirl's post above: whether you see violence is going to depend on the school and instructors. You should not see violence in a children's martial arts class. I can't speak here for other arts or schools, but in our adult classes, the higher up we get, the LESS violent we are, because we have more control and can do the moves without full contact. (If I were attacked on the street, that'd be a different story :eek:) When I first started, I was kind of scared of the big guys with advanced belts - I soon learned that they were actually the gentlest, and I'd far rather work with them than the beginners. My Kenpo instructor also has a black belt in judo, and occasionally we spend a class on a judo technique or two - it's amazing how what seems like a little move is so effective.
This is a great point – at our schools we go out of our way to have our students “Think first, kick-butt second”.

We have monthly “Bully Classes” where we role play and allow our kid students to be the bully, bystander, and the target of the bully. We always instruct them that if they use their martial skills they have failed outthinking the bully. We make it a game and have the kids come up with scenarios where the poor bully is outfoxed and outwitted again – we hand out great prizes to the winners.

Our Grand Master routinely turns down kids who are trying to learn how to hurt someone – he’s pretty good at spotting these kids which are typically the bully of a school trying to upgrade his skills.
 
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Rose Pink

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....When I first started, I was kind of scared of the big guys with advanced belts - I soon learned that they were actually the gentlest, and I'd far rather work with them than the beginners. My Kenpo instructor also has a black belt in judo, and occasionally we spend a class on a judo technique or two - it's amazing how what seems like a little move is so effective.
Same here. I have watched in awe as men have become more gentle, more civilized the better they get at aikido. And I've also seen big men stopped in their tracks by a move so small, one hardly notices it. Of course, you don't see much of that in the movies because it doesn't make good cinema (by that I mean big bucks for the film makers).
 

janapur

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WOW! I am speechless, out of character for me, and overwhelmed by such positive and detailed response. Thank you to all. I'll let you know what we've selected to see if we chose well.

Jana
 

pcgirl54

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Perry
You should hold a class for Tuggers. Great input from you.
 
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