Category Archives: Kids MMA

Martial Arts Culture pt 7 – Why So Serious?

I’ll be honest, we are goof balls.

Yup, it’s true, if you are looking for the stereotype of everyone always lined up yelling, looking serious and angry and appearing to be a military drill practice in funny pyjamas… well, that’s not us.

Study after study shows that both kids and adults learn best when they are having fun. They pay attention best when they are entertained. Even when serious topics are being discussed on a platform like, the most successful and impactful presentations and speeches often involve humour.

Kids tv figured this out years ago, hosts and actors are silly, fun and highly animated.

The truth is I’ve seen / heard so many martial arts instructors complain about teaching younger groups. They don’t like it, the kids won’t stay focused, they lack attention spans, etc. Yet for us all our staff love working with the younger groups and we see amazing results with them.

But we make a point to bring people on as instructors that are fun, animated, will be silly and play with the kids at their level. The most successful young kids instructor I’ve met started out in a Mickey Mouse costume at Disney… Getting results, real results, requires fun in our opinion :)

A taking the back drill turns into a pony ride…?

Was confidence / bullying a problem last school year?

The school year is over, and unfortunately for many kids that means relief, a break from problems with other kids.

It might be easy to take this time and breath a sigh of relief for the 2-months break, but September will come all too fast for kids that have had problems with bullies and confidence at school.

With this break from the things that drag kids confidence down in school it is the perfect time to build it up.

For the next 2-months there is a opportunity for all the kids that experienced confidence and bullying issues to take 10 steps forward, without being dragged 9 steps back.

Think about it, if you had a leaky roof that was causing you problems and you knew that you had 2-months of dry weather ahead would you breath a sigh of relief and ignore the issue until the next rain, or take the opportunity to patch the roof up (which is much easier to do when it’s not raining)?

It is far easier to deal with things when they are not in a problem state then when you are dealing with everything head on at the same time.

So if your child had problems last year in school, now is the best time to get them involved in something that will help them address those issues before having to go back to them. Martial arts is one that I feel very strongly for and have seen make a world of difference for many kids, but it’s not the only option. There are so many great camps, leadership building activities and other options available to kids that there is something for everyone.

That said keep the issue in mind when looking for a solution. If the issue is social (confidence, bullying, group behaviour, etc) the solution needs to be social as well. A child with trouble interacting with peers is not going to solve that through individual activities where they do not have to interact with peers.

Types of Martial Arts for Kids pt 2

A little while back I did a post on some of the popular forms of martial arts, you can find that here:

And this time I want to expand on that a little.

As it is not just the styles that have a wide range of things, but the way people train does as well.

You could take two martial arts styles and not have a single overlapping technique between them.  Some are based around punching and kicking, others don’t use punches or kicks at all.

The same goes for training methods which can also vary greatly.

In the same way that not a single “style” of martial arts is best for everyone across the board, the same goes for training methods and school culture.

Some places will almost resemble military drill practice… and there is a reason for that.  A lot of “modern” arts where implemented as military training.  Or rather pre-military training, a way to get youth mentally and physically prepared to join the military.  This was one of the stated aims of the Dai-Nippon Butokai (Greater Japan Martial Virtue Society) until it was disbanded at the end of WW2 as a result of the allied forces conditions to disband all military organizations.

As for us, we are less drill line like and our culture is much more based in creativity and dynamic problem solving.

We don’t do forms or kata, and we try to base our teaching methods more on modern sport science and child psychology.

At the end of the day I think the program that is going to work the best for any given kid is the program they enjoy the most.  We all learn best when we are having fun, we all learn best when what we are doing is something that interests us.  As parents / adults in kids lives sometimes they need a little push to keep going, motivation in anything tends to peak and valley, often in sync with plateaus that need pushed through.

So what do we do?  We practice techniques that are age and skill appropriate… and then we play.  If we are working on takedowns we will play a game (or “drill” if you prefer) that lets the kids try and take each other down.  We will use games that are designed to teach them balance and off balancing, games that are designed to teach them to advance position. We will use games that emphasis teamwork, strategy, conditioning.

With the younger kids we will even use games designed to teach them to resist the urge to run around when they are supposed to stay in place. We will have games that are designed to not just give them techniques, but teach taking turns and co-operating.

Fitness, teamwork, sportsmanship, confidence, leadership, balance, etc.  These things always progress the fastest through dynamic experiences and “play”, not through rehearsed patterns and pre-set responses.

Have your child come “play” with us, it can make a world of difference :)


Martial Arts vs Seasonal Sports

As a martial arts school it might not come as a surprise that we prefer martial arts and other similar pursuits over team sports as a primary pursuit, but perhaps what is not as clear is the reasons.

Year Round

Martial Arts is a year round activity, just as health and fitness should be. Fitness needs to be part of day-to-day life, not a seasonal thing but part of your routine.

The other aspect of this is that in order to reach a high level of skill in anything you need consistency. It can’t be something that you do for 3-4 months of the year, especially as kids. In that time their bodies change so much that by the time the next season starts they will have taken a step backwards from where they should be.

And finally with a big lay off it is very easy to decide not to go back. Seasonal sports participation drops off pretty severely as kids get older and tends to retain mostly only the top tier of players. This makes sense, after not playing a sport for 8 months going back to a team is going mohave some anxiety that comes with it. Not to mention it is no longer part of their routine.

Individual Accomplishment

Martial Arts is a team effort, you can’t train on your own.  You can’t be selfish in training and expect to get far.  You can only get better through the help of your “team”.

But the accomplishments are individual.  When a student earns a belt it is because of their hard work, because of their knowledge and because of their skill.  It is not because they have a couple star players that carried them.  It’s not because the other team choked.  It’s because they did it, on their own.

When the goal of any sport is not really the sport itself, but the fitness, confidence, and other character traits that come from participation this is a big deal.   Every accomplishment they reach is because they did it by themselves.

Clear Goal Setting

There is a path from white to yellow belt and on.  It is very clearly laid out so that they know exactly what they need to do to reach their goals.  The only one in control of their actions to those goals is them.  It doesn’t matter it the team skips practice, or if their goalie quits the team mid season.

Every student is in charge of reaching their own goals, yes, they need their “team” to do it.  But the control over reaching those goals goes to them.

They earn their belts, they are not given to them.  They don’t choose to sign up for “orange belt”, they earn that belt.

Scheduling Freedom

I know from talking to parents one of the hardest things about team sports can be the schedules.  Missing a practice or a game means letting the team down.  You can’t go a different day to “make up” a missed game.

And if it’s not you, it’s someone else on the team missing that causes problems.

In martial arts if you have to miss a class it’s ok, we train 6-days a week and it can be made up if you like.  You don’t let the team down because they are then short their goalie because you where on holidays or had a cold.

Leadership & Starting Skill

One of the other interesting things about martial arts over team sports is you can start at any age and be fine.  Differing skill levels is part of the culture in most classes.  They more experienced students help out the newer ones, which in turn develops their leadership and understanding of the techniques and concepts to a higher level.

Starting a lot of team sports at a later age can be a tricky thing, if everyone else on the team has been playing for 5 years already joining the team as a beginner is a hard thing to do.

Part of what makes a martial arts class work is that the experienced members help the newer ones.  Leadership is a built in feature of the higher level belts.


In the end every kid is different, and every parent needs to make the decisions that they feel best suit their kid.

Sports aren’t their to teach the child to just play the sport.  They are their to teach them confidence, to teach them to keep going when they are tired, to teach them to push themselves, to teach them to work together, to teach them not to give up, etc.


Martial Arts Culture pt 5: Kids & “Fighting”

On the surface I suppose it looks like we teach kids how to fight, and indeed I’m sure that’s what some people think about the martial arts.

But we do not.

Martial Arts is not about fighting at all, it is a strategy game played with your body.

Fighting implies violence, and violence has no place in a martial arts class, especially one for children.

We teach them to control situations, to control their emotions when they are in stressful situations, to think rationally and problem solve when they are in a bad situation.

We teach them to be confident and act decisively and with intention and planning. We teach them to protect themselves AND their training partners.

But to say a martial arts school teaches fighting is like saying a debate team teaches screaming matches. Fighting has no place in a martial arts school, it is counter productive to all of our goals.

That said we do teach kids how to control a fight, how to protect themselves in that sort of situation. But we do not teach them “to fight”.

Birthdays, Birthdays and more Birthdays…

That’s been the theme of things lately… something happened and our birthday parties have gone nuts.  We started doing these a couple years back for students and didn’t really make a big deal of it.

Martial art celebration

Then suddenly we started getting non-students wanting to do parties here, usually because they had attended one for someone else.

Now a weekend without a party is a rarity, and often there are 2-3 in a weekend…

We’ve learnt a lot about what makes a great party, and we’ve delivered a lot of great parties, so here’s some things that make a party work.

Ice breakers.  These are important, not everyone is going to know each other.  Some kids are going to be shy and have trouble engaging with the group at first.  Our parties are very physical and we start each one with a big balloon battle as the kids are coming in.  By the time we get started everyone should hopefully be having fun and moving around.

Structure and organization are key, but it shouldn’t feel that way to the participants.  Down time is the enemy of anyone in charge of a group of excited kids.  If they have nothing to do, they find something to do and then getting the group back as a group becomes a task.  One thing should go to the next quickly and smoothly with pacing to match.  They can’t all be going 100% for a hour straight, they’ll burn out. And if anything goes on too long they will lose interest.  From the time they walk in the door to the time they get picked up, there should be something going on.  Little things matter too, for example when we do a piniata it happens before present opening, not after.  Why?  Because while the birthday kid is opening presents they have their loot to keep them occupied.

Something for everyone.  There are some kids that have a hard time with a big group, anxiety or shyness makes engaging with the group hard.  They might need to observe some parts, but some parts should be set up to get them involved.  Our big group games can be intimidating for a few, but often a one-on-one foam sword battle will get them in the ring.

Cool stuff matters.  Part of a great party is making it a special occasion for the birthday child.  Letting them do a little extra, having them battle all of their friends.  Having them cut their cake with a full sized sword.  Having them smash a piniata with a wooden sword (which they get to take home as a souvenir).  Having them demonstrate all the drills and games.  It’s their birthday, and their day to feel special and get the photo ops in.

If you want more information on our birthday parties visit this page:


Types of Martial Arts for Children

One thing that I think often confuses people that are not involved in the martial arts is how much variety there is to it. Martial arts have as much variety to them as team sports do, and different forms of martial arts can be as different as hockey and baseball.

So that said I want to break down a few of the more common forms of martial arts and what they involve.

Karate: Karate is a form of martial arts that comes out of Japan
/ Okinawa, even within “karate” there is a fair bit of variety between different branches. Modern karate generally involves forms practice (preset routines), self-defence and a type of lower contact kickboxing. It tends to be fairly regimented, and a times resembling military drill. Karate gained popularity for kids in the 80′s due largely to the “Karate Kid” movie.Karate-kids

Tae Kwon Do: This is very similar to karate, with a focus more heavy on kicks. Tae Kwon Do has it’s organs in Karate and was marketed as “Korean Karate” by a lot of schools. Tae Kwon Do has become very popular with school age kids and is an Olympic sport.200-kids-confirm-for-ccsf-taekwondo-opens-jpg-e1448888369700

Judo: Judo is a Japanese style done in a “gi” or uniform that is designed to be grabbed. The primary focus is throwing your opponent and having them land on their back. With secondary emphasis on pinning and submitting your opponent through arm locks and chokes.Judo+kids

Kung Fu: Similar to Karate and Tae Kwon Do, however of Chinese origin. Kung Fu heavily influenced the development of Karate. Kung Fu has a huge variety in it’s styles, from direct and to the point to flashy and acrobatic.san-jose-kids-kung-fu-class-suns-kung-fu-academy-31

Boxing:  Boxing is a western martial art, an olympic sport, and something most people are familiar with, however it often is not thought of as a martial art. Competitive boxing is frequently under fire for head trauma, but lower / no contact gyms have been become a major player in fitness.7.1.10ChildBoxingByLuigiNovi1

Kickboxing / Muay Thai: Similar to boxing, in competition they get a bad rep for head trauma and other injuries. Western Kickboxing was largely about combining boxing with Karate, where as Muay Thai is a sport originating in Thailand using not only punches and kicks, but knees and elbows as well.maxresdefault

Wrestling: Wrestling, (“real” wrestling, not the WWE form) is a hugely popular sport worldwide. Wrestling is one of the oldest sports in the world, is a part of the physical education program in a lot of places, and has been a part of nearly every culture in some form. Currently their are two styles of wrestling in the Olympics, Freestyle is the most practiced, especially amongst youth. The objective is to take down, or throw your opponent then pin their back to the floor.AR-140339940

Fencing: Sword fighting, another form with a long history that is a Olympic sport. Several forms of fencing exist, in the west Epee, sober and foil are used (these are the guys and gals in the white suits and mesh masks. In Japan “Kendo” uses “Shinai” (a bamboo representation of a katana) along with much heavier armour.Category-KendoForKids

AR-605062070JuJitsu: A Japanese style that emphasizes joint manipulation and chokes.  Jujitsu is more of a “traditional” style then Judo, which took the safer elements and used live training to create a sport version where techniques could be applied against full resistance.

Aikido: Aikido was the combination of a branch of Jujitsu with strong philosophical and religious beliefs surrounding pacifism and Chi / Ki energy.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: Based  in Judo, BJJ focuses more on the ground work aspect of the martial arts.  With less emphasis on throws and more on submissions. BJJ gained popularity in the 90′s the Gracie family dominated in No-Holds-Barred fights to promote their family style.  This culminated in the creation of the UFC.  BJJ has become a increasingly popular sport outside of full contact fights as well.Kids-BJJ-Tournament-4.18-41

Mixed Martial Arts: This is where our bias is going to kick in, as this is what we teach… Anyways, MMA has been around in some form as long as we have history to look at.  “Pankration” was the name used in Ancient Greece where it was an Olympic sport.  Modern MMA developed in parallel in multiple places (largely Brazil and Japan) as frustration with how many other forms where drifting away from practicality and becoming unable to deal with a full range of situations.  MMA basically means it combines aspects of all sorts of styles, to create something more inclusive.  Instead of training exclusively in striking training is done in striking & grappling.Screen Shot 2017-01-30 at 2.03.25 PM

So which style should your child do?  Well, as I said, I’m biased, but here’s my answer:

In most cases MMA.  Different kids will have different needs and things they hope to get out of training, and the same thing is not best for everyone.

But, MMA, despite it’s reputation as a professional sport is one of the safer options (especially when they have quality equipment; we recommend MMA Gear Addict), and one that I think offers the most benefits in terms of building confidence in children.

In a striking art (karate / TaeKwonDo / etc) kids will learn to strike.  Perhaps some basic releases from grabs and things, but the majority of what they do is going to be around hitting another person.  If pinned they won’t have the tools to deal with that, and if getting hit their trained response will be to hit back.  In MMA they are taught to escape pins, and if someone is hitting them how to take that person down and control them.

MMA also has some safety benefits as well for kids.  Looking at grappling styles, Judo and wrestling both reward takedowns that hit the ground hard.  For us this doesn’t matter, a safer takedown that leaves good control is more valuable then a hard one that doesn’t.  Judo and wrestling both emphasis putting people on their back.  And in fact landing on your back is the safest way to fall, it is trained in both.  Except in practice the safest way to fall costs points or even the match, so rather then land safe participants often try to land in ways that keep them off their back which can result in injuries.

We also have the benefit of a larger set of curriculum, keeping people learning new things for a very, very long time.  With this comes a lot more freedom for personalization.

The huge range of things also allows a lot more safety persuasions to be put in place at carrying levels and ages.  Kids in our school do not hit the head, they don’t push to the head, they don’t kick to the head, it just doesn’t happen.  Removing head shots in a sport like boxing or Tae Kwon Do is a lot harder as it is a large chunk of the style.

Hope that helps :)

Iceland knows how to stop teen substance abuse but the rest of the world isn’t listening

It’s really basic stuff, but easy to forget. Teens need a place to belong, and something to belong too. And there is a period in there where it’s sometimes hard to fine. If they don’t find it in a productive and healthy place, it’s easy to find in a unhealthy place.

Kids hit a age where they feel they should be more independent then they are able too, where there is a gap in between being a “kid” and being able to work and gain independence. I think the best thing that can be done at this age is to keep them involved in something outside of school and to help them find a way to feel they bring value to something.

June 2016 Graduation

Yesterday was a graduation day, and they are always a day that we enjoy.

The way we handle our belt graduations is that the testing is all done in class leading up to the graduation as the curriculum is learnt. Graduation day is more a chance to put everything together and show off progress through some matches.

All the kids, from age 3 and up do matches, and it’s really neat to watch the progress throughout the day as the kids get older. Especially with the kids that started in one class and have moved up a ager group or two since then.

We’re going to try and put together a little highlight video in the next few days, so keep an eye out for that on our youtube channel, and congratulations to all who participated :)

Curriculum Structure

In the last couple posts I’ve been talking about what is important to us in our school. We touched on age appropriate classes and safety. To continue that theme this time I want to talk about curriculum.


In any school the curriculum is the product, it’s the main focus of what we do. For that reason we believe it should be well structured and everyone should know exactly what they need to work on and are expected to know at each step of the way.

For this reason we developed a system where each student has full access to the curriculum requirements they are expected to learn at their current level. This is visible to them every day when they sign into class, along with their full attendance records (which are also assigned a A to F letter grade based on frequency… if your attendance is getting a low grade, chances are you’re falling behind on curriculum as well and we need to work together to make things up)

In addition everyone can access this information from home, showing exactly what techniques they are expected to know for their next belt along with video tutorials for those techniques.

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 8.22.52 PM

This is our own software powering this, unfortunately we couldn’t find anything like this in the market already, but our name says “Innovative” so we had to live up to it and develop the software powering this ourselves. Something we will be releasing to other schools in the future :)

Bottom line is we are a school, and as such we feel that all martial arts schools owe it to their students to have a well defined curriculum showing them exactly what is expected of them and when.

This all ties in with goal-setting and transparency.  You can’t set goals without set requirements and seeing day-to-day progress towards completion of those requirements.