JKD & Children

By Luis Gutierrez

I have been in the martial arts from age four and have been teaching children from the ages of 4 through sixteen for the past 10 years, the last three which have been in JKD/Kali. Children are our number one joy in teaching and we are the only school in the area that enters tournaments under the JKD/Kali approach. (continuous sparring, children's Pankration, and weapons forms).

First of all, the parents want their children enrolled in the martial arts for many reasons which depending on the age, primarily include, discipline, building self-esteem, and self-defense. Most, if not all martial arts schools deliver on the first two. I believe the question on this post basically concerns the last one. Regardless of that, most every school around here uses weapons in their forms and/ or strikes to the eyes and throat, heel kick to the head, and foot stomps in their katas. Be they Goju, Tae Kwon Do, Kenpo, Kung Fu, etc.

Go to any tournament and witness some very powerful looking little dragons. If any of these "traditionally schooled" children where to use the techniques from those very same katas outside their academies they could really hurt someone. Also, from age six a tiny Judoka with just two years of training has a ball while wrestling at the play ground with his pals.If not careful he could easily slam another child with no break fall experience.

So with all this in mind:

1) It's the teacher that must instill "right and wrong" behavior and most importantly "what to do" if provoked into fighting. Our kids are taught to use kick boxing (Jun Fan), and basic Jiu-Jitsu (takedowns and controls), to defend themselves. Locks, chokes, HKEs, and weapons, are taught at different ages and used for demonstrations and out of energy drills only! Rule #1 is that if any child does use them they are automatically expelled from the school. This is the same rule applied to me by my Judo,Kenpo, and Wing Chun instructors many moons ago. Any "Cobra Kai" type instructor can turn any martial art into trouble for his kids and in the end himself. Teaching a modern art does not make you a threat to the child but only an up to date instructor.

2)The very young ones take years to learn proper kick boxing technique, little less manage an energy drill. Parents of young teens are more worried about gangs and a loaded weapon at school than any martial art skill ever invented.

3) You owe it to yourself and to them (parents and kids) to give them the tools necessary to survive an assault if one day God forbid it happens to them. The process is fun and teaches you a lot about your art, human nature, and teaching in general.

Hope this helps. There is much to and behind the question posted but I hope you have the faith in yourselves to realize what others are teaching and perhaps the courage to teach what is your own. Forward any specific questions to me and I'll get to them as soon as time permits.

I guess my point is that the kid who listens to Barnie songs backwards and hijacks his dad's van plastered with anti government slogans and filled with artillery to "show them all" at school is going to do that no matter what. I'm not trying to make light of the question because I believe it is a very important one but I think you should keep it in perspective. Consider that all martial arts teach hurting or inflicting pain in one form or another but its the ethics behind them that matter when teaching children. If a child is violent, he will use whatever he has at his disposal to do so. My head was cracked open at five by some seven year old and a rock. Angle one I now recall. Be it a bat, stick, knife, or spinning inverted flying whooping crane heel New Guinean emu beek kick, it does not matter. The only difference is that the last thing probably takes years to master and hopefully by then you as an instructor may have helped that child's rage.

Thanks for the time and the read guys,

Luis G.