Martial arts classes are often misjudged as harsh, violent, and unsafe, particularly for young learners. That couldn’t be further from the truth! With the right training, equipment, and the proper environment, martial arts can be a great way for kids of all ages to learn discipline and get fit, in a safe and fulfilling manner.
It’s the trainer’s and gym owner’s duty to make sure the classes are a safe space for children, with a special focus on strength training as well as policing. Make sure children know that MMA is a self-defense system at best, and ensure they stay away from bullying or misusing their skills against others.
But as with any sport, keeping children motivated to stick to a disciplined manner of training can be tough. Learn how to get children excited about MMA and stick through with it to gain confidence, strength, and a sense of control over their health.
Apart from staying fit and healthy, MMA training provides several physical benefits. These include muscle strengthening, higher endurance and flexibility, better balance, and a healthier heart. As a consequence, injuries sustained outside of MMA coaching heal much faster on a healthy body.
Exercises like martial arts also help build stamina. Children will thank their trainers once they’re able to hike up a hill while their friends struggle to climb it.
Martial arts training is more than just a physical exercise; it also provides mental and social discipline as well. Youth MMA classes bring a batch of newcomers together and provides a space to create irreplaceable friendships and connections.
Additionally, setting goals watching/encouraging other students creates a sense of community and respect for others, including opponents or children they train with. One of the best ways to encourage children to show up for coaching is to partner them up for some exercises to make them feel needed, accountable, and important to each other.
Practicing MMA also helps kids break their shells and build a kind of confidence that can otherwise be stunted in a classroom that doesn’t stimulate them creatively. The ability to perform, exercise, and have an impact on a group of people outside of school work will prove invaluable to your students as they move through life.
If your child is used to winning or only grants respect to those who win, MMA coaching might be a good way to get them to see the other side of healthy competition. People who lose in matches or arguments aren’t necessarily weak, and their circumstances are almost always different. Finding solace and newfound respectability for that position is a must for young children.
MMA reminds children how much they and everyone else around them is training, and that effort doesn’t go down the drain just because of one friendly match lost. It’s also imperative to teach them MMA history and emphasize how it is not meant to be a violent tool or as a show of power, but a self-defense system that keeps them active.
With MMA being a largely physical sport, people tend to forget the invaluable psychological benefits it has on the mind, especially the young. Not only does training teach young kids how to set a routine and stick to it, they also learn how to respect others, control their emotions, and be patient.
MMA is also a social sport and encourages children to train with others. Before they know it, students have a social life outside of school hours -- they can make new friends, and learn how to perform in front of different people.
Stepping into unknown territory of any kind, especially a physical sport like martial arts, is often overwhelming. This fear is heightened for younger kids. One of the best ways a trainer or MMA gym can make their younger students feel at ease is to divide course plans according to age groups.
This helps children feel comfortable with those their age and realize that everyone is learning together.
Depending on age groups, different moves and techniques will be taught based on their maturity level and their ability to deal with emotions.
Occasionally, you’ll have more competitive children who need to be reminded that they should celebrate their efforts, not just their victories. To support this, gyms, trainers, and parents of all young kids learning MMA must choose their words and language carefully.
Reward effort and discipline over progress -- whether it’s points in some kind of tiered reward system or open recognition in class. You want to show that, ultimately, regular practice is also an aspect of martial arts training worth mastering.
Rewards can also give your child more of an incentive to improve their technique, as well as train harder. Additionally, keep in mind that rewards need not be presents or lavish displays of celebration and that words of encouragement go a long way.
Not every session can be intensive for children who are being trained four to six times a week, and their bodies need to be kept healthy to recover from any possible injuries. Coaches ensure that their younger students don’t over-exert themselves to a point where they may need to take a longer break from the sport and training itself.
Relaxed classes may focus on patience and discipline training along with the emotional state of mind MMA practitioners have to be in, while focused classes might shed light on muscle strengthening and technique.
If your decor, equipment, and teaching style are bland, dull, and too strict, you can bet that your younger students won’t be showing up to class after the first month. Instead, make training into a game: For instance, give rewards for attempts to advance, or provide incentives to students who actively help others learn.
Many suggest having a scoreboard to mark their progress, but that encourages a competitive streak in many young kids, one that you may want to avoid. Make your mats colorful and come up with unique and easy-to-remember names for moves and skills. If teaching something complicated in a routine, break it into silly dance moves to help the children remember it. Your younger students will thank you!
Children should not be expected to do intensive strength training for MMA, and the kind of equipment around them needs to reflect that. The most important pieces of equipment you need in your gym for kids are gloves and shin guards, along with appropriate clothing that allows movement. Headgear and protective mats on the floor are a plus and help the parents of your students feel more secure leaving them in your hands.
Learning from our mistakes only gets harder as we grow older, and for children, they’re privileged to say otherwise. When pointed out and taught correctly, children embrace learning from their mistakes instead of shying away from criticism.
Doling out feedback gently, while being appreciative of their effort, is key in making sure they listen to what they need to improve on. If a child is shy and reserved, offer to drill with them till they get it right, or talk to them about what they think they did right about the technique.
Most importantly, foster a space in your classes that is appreciative of confusion, mistakes, and doubts. Often, children don’t come forward with doubts because they fear being made fun of. If you already establish your coaching sessions to be a place where no mockery is acceptable and support for each other is a must, almost all children will come to you for pointers and tips on how to improve their form and technique.
It’s a general misconception that MMA is unsafe for all, regardless of age. If trained properly, it’s an incredibly safe sport that’s fun and engaging for younger and adult students alike. Tell the parents of your students that MMA is, in fact, an art that encourages the growth of self-discipline, patience, and respect for their bodies and those of others.
While MMA does train students for self-defense, it doesn’t encourage them to start or get into a fight for any reason other than personal safety. Make it clear to your students that what you’re training them in is a lifestyle, a skill not to be misused, and not a tool to control or hurt other people.
Youth MMA classes, whether focused on one martial art or several, will be an incredible addition to your gym -- providing value and virtue to your work in the community. If you need help organizing those classes, and keeping your gym in fine shape on its own, we at Wodify can help you out with our innovative gym management software.