In this little article I would like to talk about teaching young Judoka (ages 5-8) and things you might want to consider when teaching in your club. Remember the 5 year old that has just walked into your dojo today has the potential to become the next World or Olympic Champion and as their coach you can give them a head start!
Key age for developing motor skills
Learn visually - watch videos and demonstrations
Show a wide range - keep it general
Short attention span
Develop Motor Skills (the precise movement of a muscle with the intent to perform a specific movement) - Research suggests that when growing up children benefit from specific training methods at certain ages. 5-8 years is a great time to lay the foundation for the future by developing their general motor skills! In Japan they encourage kids to participate in many sports at this age through their school structure, allowing kids the opportunity to develop many key motor skills (hand eye co-ordination, spacial awareness etc.).
This motor skill development can be built on in the club environment too. Within their normal Judo sessions and warm up by including basic gymnastic exercises, ball games and reactional activities.
Visual Learning (learning through seeing) - Children in this age range will learn best visually, so do not get to bogged down explaining things in great depth. Make the demonstrations as accurate as possible and don’t be afraid to ask someone else to demonstrate if necessary! Encourage them to watch Judo videos and guide them on what to watch, used responsibly with parental guidance Youtube is a great resource and its free! Watching current high level fighters will not only benefit their learning but provide fantastic role models and help create aspirations for the future.
Show a wide range - keep it general - Don’t be afraid to show them as much Judo as you can over these development years. Most of us follow a grading syllabus but don’t let it dictate everything you teach, cover as wide a range of techniques as you can. No child is the same so one technique might work for Johnny but will not work for Freddie, by experiencing a wider range in their early years they have a better chance of finding their “favourite” technique that suits them to develop in later years.
Short attention spans - It’s not rocket science, children at this age children do not have the longest of concentration spans. Keep it short and sweet! I have also taken the decision to ban all energy drinks on my classes, children do not need them it just jacks them up and ultimately makes your job harder!
Lastly and most importantly, keep it fun!!!