Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Teaching Martial Arts to Children 4-6 years old

Here is a collection tips and advice for teaching Martial Arts to children 4-6 years old. Such as teaching little dragons, teaching little ninjas, teaching tiny tigers, etc...

Tip #1 - It's Not Chocolate
Remind them before every class to go to the restroom first. If you see something brown or dark colored on the floor don't pick it up with your bare hands!

Tip #2  - Colored Tape
I recommend putting small strips of colored electric tape on the mat in the places where you want your 4-6 year olds to line up or stand. This will make your lineup process 100% faster, gives them a place to stand so they keep still, and serves as reference point or markers for games and drills
Tip #3 - Age Specific Classes
I strongly recommend putting 4-6 year olds in their own class because they obviously require completely different teaching methods. If your methods are efficient you will be giving equal attention to everyone, but if a student isn't getting enough attention they will get bored, become disruptive, and/or quit.. If you place a 4-6 year old in a class with older children or... *cringe* ... with adults, you will be working harder to get much less results. Your class will not meet the needs of either the age group and you will continue to wonder why your program/school isn't growing.

 Tip #4 - Imagination
4-6 Year olds are still discovering the concept that they are not the center of the universe, so avoid games that involve too much teamwork. Many games that have more complicated concepts or directions will simply be out of the realm of possibility for them, limiting you to more simple games. However, kids in this age group love using their imagination, so take a simple game and make it fun or different by allowing them to use their imagination. Examples would be telling them they are ninjas during dodgeball, or they are kicking monsters, etc..

Tip #5 - Time Out
Have a Time Out Box and use it! If I have someone sit in the time out box, you should always ask them to restate why they are sitting out and what they need to do next time.
Tip #6- Discipline
You have to be silly at times, but always remain consistent with discipline. They will test you every class, and if you cave in 1 time its a major setback. How many times have you seen a parent in the lobby with a child saying," No jimmy, put it down, I mean it, I said put it down, come here jimmy, stop running from me jimmy, do you want time out jimmy, sit still, do you want me to take you home, I mean it, now sit here." It is my personal rule to never to tell a child to do something more than twice. If they do not follow directions after the 2nd time, they are sitting out on the side in the time out box. That is my policy and it works because it has always been and always will be. They know this. They learn to be "first time listeners" because if they don't do something the first time, they will be corrected, and if they don't do it again, they will be sitting out for a while. 

Tip #7- Emotionless Corrections
Never EVER get angry when you correct a child, and try to be almost completely emotionless and matter of fact about it. They don't take it personal when you do this and they understand its not me being mean, its simply just what happens when they don't listen. Its like when they put their hand in fire, it burns but they aren't upset with the fire. I believe this solves many issues with pouting and temper tantrums, which by the way you should completely ignore. If a tantrum distracts the class or continues longer than a few moments I escort the child into the lobby and have them sit with mom and dad and watch the rest of class. If this happens more than once we re-evaluate whether this program is for their child or not.

Tip #8 - Constant Change
Change activities every 3-5 minutes because 4-6 year old attention spans cannot handle anything more. If you are going to talk, keep it under 1-2 minutes max.

Tip #9 Short Term Rewards
I award my 4-6 year old with a sticker at the end of every class if they didn't have to sit in time out more than once that day. Its a great short term reward system. Many 4-6 year olds are not capable of understanding a goal such as a new belt in several months. We have to teach them this. Why do you think Kindergartners have a behavior system of colored cards that gets reset each day or week?

Tip #10 - Always Change It Up!
You shouldn't be doing the same boring games, and the same drills again and again. They will lose interest, and you will lose interest too. Check out some of the drills we offer:

Jeremy Molley is the owner of For more free drills, videos, and tips become a facebook fan. Also check out for hundreds of video drills including Martial Arts Warmups for children.


  1. I wanted to thank you for your list. It helps focus instructors of young children on what is important. This is especially true if the instructor doesn't have children, and doesn't always understand where kids that age are coming from. We have a great 4-6 year old program at our school, and our instructor uses her imagination and a lot of creativity to keep the classes fun, but disciplined.

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  3. I have a 6 year old in my adult class and he is amazing. He actually taught an adult his nest form. It's very rare that you see this however, so I stick to all that you have presented here and it works well for me so thanks; but there is always that one child whose focus is above and beyond.