Category Archives: Kids MMA

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, 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.

Age Appropriate Classes

As far as I know we are currently the only martial arts school to break kids classes into as many age groups as we do.  A lo
t of schools seem to run a kids group and an adult group.  A decent number of them split the kids into 2 groups and a smchildrenall handful go with 3 age groups.

We do 4, and would not want to go back to fewer again.
Grouping kids in big age groups like 3-6 year olds is crazy IMO, you can’t put a 3 year old who is still a year or 2 away from kindergarten and put them in the same class and teach the same way with a grade 1 student.  The younger ones will get frustrated
because it’s not age appropriate and the older ones will get bored for the same reasons.

Kids and Martial Arts go together, at pretty much any age.  But it needs to be structured in a way that is appropriate for that age group.

Our kids groups are 3-4 year olds, 5-7 year olds, 8-10 year olds and 11-14 year olds.  And within those different age groups we teac
h different curriculum.  Well, it’s the same curriculum, but it is taught in different ways and structured for the age group.  A take down for a 3-4 year old, even the same takedown, should be taught, trained and drilled very different for that 3-4 year old then a teen or adult should be doing.

One thing to remember is that most of the “big” styles where brought back by soldiers from overseas.  A lot of the training methods where designed to teach soldiers.  When we hear instructors saying they can’t teach young kids martial arts thats why, they are trying to teach them in a way that doesn’t make sense for their age.

We enjoy all of our age groups, and the progress made at all ages is amazing.


For more information on our kids programs please check this page:

Putting our money where our mouth is…

One of the coolest things I’ve gotten to do since I started teaching is hire staff to help teach the kids classes, who started off in the kids classes.

Watching people grow from student to instructor, teaching kids that are the same age group they where when they started is really a neat experience.

When I started teaching kids I had one age group… same as a lot of schools.  Since then we’ve grown to 4 age groups for kids.  Seeing how much progress the kids that started in the 3-4 year old class 4 years ago when we started it have made is amazing.  And I am excited to see the first graduate of that class grow up and go back to teaching it, even if we are a few years off from any being old enough for that roll quite yet.

Leadership is one of the key traits we want to develop in our advanced students, and seeing them become staff within our school as they enter the working world instead of working fast food or retail like most teenagers do is the best result I can hope for :)