Successful Elements of a Youth Martial arts Program

Are you looking to enroll your children in a local martial arts school? If you haven’t yet visited your local martial arts club, this article will break down the main elements of what to look for in a good school and class structure.

Classes also vary in length ranging from short 30 minute classes for young kids to 1 hour classes or longer for older kids and teenagers. The following example is based on a one-hour class and if you can see most of these elements it is a good sign that the program is worth investing into.

Formal Indication of Beginning of class

The majority of martial arts schools adhere to some kind of formal etiquette at the beginning and end of each class. This practice can be attributed to traditional Asian culture where bowing and a formal announcement are often used to begin and end any type of structured activity. Depending on the style of school you could see a very formal routine multiple bows and a verbal recital to a more laid-back approach of an informal hand clap or a distinct “Class is starting” voice command.

Warm-up and Dynamic Stretching

Before any type of physical activity it is recommended that a warm-up is preformed to better prepare the body for more demanding or explosive movements. It is often a good idea to end the activity with some dynamic stretching (sometimes called a warm-down). This can serve two purposes to lessen the risk of pulls/injuries and incorporate fundamental movements of the particular style into a stretching type movement to build synapses.

Drills of Fundamental Movements

The practice of basic techniques near the ending of warm-up or incorporated into the warm up is quite common and essential for skill development. For example, skipping for striking based arts or rolls/hip movements for ground fighting based arts. Whether it be the kicking the bag or shrimping up and down the floor with the focus being on multiple repetitions of the main techniques required for each respective art.

Technique Instruction based on a Main theme

A sequence of movements/techniques is usually taught in a main theme to help the practitioner to understand how skills fit together and integrate into sets of probable situations in combat. There are many different aspects of combat to focus on, and each set of instruction should have a central focus. For example if the first technique taught was focused on kicks, it would likely be counterproductive to then teach a technique based on a topic that wasn’t connected to kicking such as a throwing technique.

Quick break to Refocus and Hydrate

Depending on the length and intensity of each class, practitioners are often given the chance of a short “water break.” This serves two purposes, to relax and refocus from the frequent conditioning drills and to interact with other peers/discuss ideas and thus connect forming bonds for partner exercises described in the next section.

Interactive Partner drills and Sparring

These types of exercises are usually the most fun parts of a martial arts class because the practitioners get to practice their techniques with an opponent to see how they are used and to drill appropriate reactions to different types of techniques. Partner drills can be turn based or open sparring, although the latter is better used with more seasoned participants to ensure safety. This usually depends on the creativity of the instructor and the overall level of the class.

Team Building and Educational Content

A lot of schools neglect this fundamental aspect of instruction in martial arts and that is to pass on the knowledge and wisdom that accompanies the physical techniques. A discussion of how the mental wisdom of the arts especially during the formative years of youth can have a huge impact on development. A good way to instill values is to gather and talk about how the arts can make the overwhelming changes youths are experiencing especially in the present technology rich environment. Below is an essay that one of my younger students wrote to illustrate what he has learned during his journey.

“Martial Arts has been the most influential part of my life. In the beginning, just like with most extracurricular activities, I was forced by my parents to go try out. Still to this day, I am grateful for what opportunities that have provided me. With time, I have gained a great interest in Martial Arts, Muay Thai, and Philosophy. Martial Arts is not just about physical toning, it’s also about mental practice. With this program, I have attained a lot more mental knowledge than I have with my fight sense. I am not stating that this program is not teaching you proper technique and self-defence, but I am stating that my mental status and awareness highly increased after just implementing the word system in my life. I involve in these activities to make myself better as a person. In my belief, being a man of character and intelligence is more important than being a fit person.

Muay Thai has taught me many lessons. Firstly, one main lesson it has taught me is persistence. Muay Thai workouts are extremely difficult, to the point where you literally out of breath. However, when you adapt to these gruelling, long, and exhausting workouts, everything else becomes easier. Throughout the past years, every workout has been getting gradually more difficult, targeting different body parts and increasing intensity. The longer you train, the better you become, there is no end; you cannot master, or perfect a workout. Secondly, Muay Thai has taught me self-defence and physical self-enhancement. Muay Thai has greatly affected and changed the way I see the world. I am no longer anxious by any physical and mental challenge I face. Everything, I mean everything has become easier. Everything from chores, sports, and any general activity like standing, has become less challenging over the years.As previously stated, learning and getting into Martial Arts can greatly improve your quality of life. If you have doubts, look at me! Every aspect of my life has greatly improved. If I were to put a rating, it would be a 100/10! “

Elysium Muay Thai Academy Student,
Pranshu Patel

In summary the content in this essay is the perfect example of why I labor endlessly to improve my craft and become a better instructor. It is my sincerest hopes this article provides some benefit to the reader to help find an academy that not only creates well skilled combatants but also leaders into society.

Head Instructor,

Will Wong