Martial arts classes aren’t just for adults. Indeed, millions of children are being signed up for martial arts training, thanks to the many health and developmental benefits that await them if they start at a young age.

That said, teaching a kid is not the same as teaching an adult, and so it is an advantage to know the differences between training children and adults. This way you can have a clear plan and know how to prepare and approach each group. The particular ones to take note of are:

  • Cognitive
  • Capacity for exercise
  • Discipline
  • Sparring
  • Motivation

On a cognitive level for example, kids’ concentration span is quite short, therefore you need to cut a class in shorter fragments. The perception of time is also very different, for adults to be tested every 6 months is OK, but for a kid in their mind, that is a long time. You have to be able to adjust your curriculum on different levels, not just on the level of teaching but also for special days like testing days.

During class, kids and adults show emotions differently. With kids, it’s wonderful because they are honest and will express their emotions regardless. They will let you know directly, on the spot, how much they like an exercise or how much they don’t like it. With experience, and by assessing the interaction between the teacher and the children, you can effectively work on this and adjust a class on the spot. With adults it’s actually a bit more difficult, as during class it is hard to tell if they like it or not. If they didn’t enjoy the class, you may only find out after you get an email or message a couple of days later letting you know.

Read our article: How to Teach Martial Arts to Kids

When it comes to actually demonstrating and teaching the martial arts, it’s more of a challenge to teach a class to kids then it is to adults. Adults almost always choose to be there because they want to learn something, whereas a kid often doesn’t always have the choice to be there. An adult usually has a set goal they want to achieve, whereas a kid typically just wants to have fun, with martial arts skill being a comparative corollary. Therefore the kids’ class needs to be enthusiastically entertaining and very dynamic.

When practicing martial arts, students must intimately understand the concept of the techniques they learn, as well as the culture and philosophy of their arts. However, kids under 12 years old will not really have the cognitive capabilities to understand it yet. The best thing to do is to keep practicing the moves. Through this they will feel, and when they start to feel it they will then start trusting in the techniques. When they are 13 years and older you can slowly start adding concepts and theory. Keep in mind that you don’t over-explain certain theories, as it usually takes away the dynamics of a class.

You also have to take into consideration the shorter attention span, and how it affects how long a class for children should be. A kids’ class should be no more than 60 minutes, and indeed classes for the below-12 age group should only be 45 minutes, whereas an adult class can go up to 120 minutes, which leaves some time to explain theory to them.

One of the biggest rewards you can have as an instructor is witnessing the child grow up and being a part of their incredible transformation, as well as how these children will look up to you as a Master of Martial Arts. That child will almost see you as family and in many cases this creates a strong bond which grows even stronger over time. Receiving feedback from parents about how much of a positive impact the classes have been on their kids is also great feeling.

For adults, the awards are different as most adults are passing by and stay on average two to three years. In truth there are not many adults that stay on. However, the fun part is to be able to train yourself as well as them. And as for those that stay, you’ll watch them grow like you’ve never seen before.

Sifu Benno Wai

Head Coach of UCT International

Wing Chun Sifu, BJJ Black Belt