Why should children start Karate as early as 3 years old?

Written by Kathy Olevsky on Thursday, 26 October 2017. Posted in All About Martial Arts

Building physical skills and focus at an early age


cutest winner eveThere used to be a time, when someone asked me what I thought was the perfect age for a child to start taking Karate, I would generally answer with “eight years old” as the best age.  However, we actually start teaching children in our Little Samurai class at 3 years old.  I am pretty sure, we explored teaching pre-school martial arts, because of the requests from parents of our older kids.  That was about 18 years ago.  Now I have a totally different outlook on teaching this age group. 
We have learned a few things in our years of teaching pre-school martial arts.  First of all, not all three year olds can make it through our 30 minute class.  Some of them need to wait 6 months and give it a try again.   We learned that many of the pre-school age children are ready for an organized physical activity, but it had to be a program that was curriculum based and appropriate for their level of gross motor skills and attention span.  When we were considering adding this program, I used my background in elementary education and did some further research, to make sure we were teaching the appropriate techniques for this age group.  

Over time, we tweaked the curriculum and we now have a great program that teaches pre-school age children, how to participate in a group physical activity, how to stay on task with a teacher, how to develop their physical abilities and how to strengthen their attention span.  Our method for enhancing the curriculum over the years, was to see what these children needed to transition into our bigger kid’s classes with knowledge and confidence.  This was quite a challenge.  

I can say that I have watched one particular little girl from 3 years old to 5 years old in that class and have now seen her assimilate right into the bigger kid’s classes.  She was silly and energetic when she started.  The Kiais were entirely foreign to her. Kiais are the spirit shout that we do in Karate classes in conjunction with our techniques.  She had no desire to punch or kick any of our targets.  Eventually, with the calm guiding hand of her teacher, Mrs. Cindy Fowler, she learned to do all of these things.  She was recently encouraged to participate in a tournament and won her 1st trophy.  In fact, her trophy was for the best Kiai in her division.  Since then, her Kiais are done with great confidence.  

When I watched her transition, seamlessly, into her first big kid’s class, I was truly impressed.  She was in a group of 5-8 year olds and was very confident in her techniques and focused for the entire one hour class without any problem at all.  So, she went from a 30 minute class to a one hour class without any problem at all.  She went from a small group of 4-6 kids to a group of 12 children.  She went into a class with a brand new teacher.  She proved to me that our pre-school program taught her all the skills she needed to participate in a group activity at age 5, with confidence.

I have watched other children come into that same class at age 5, with no previous classes, and it was an incredible struggle for them.  Now I know that in that pre-school martial arts class, we are teaching them the skills they need to be more confident young students, prepared to enter their elementary school years.  Maybe I watched this one student a little bit closer than others because she is my sweet Granddaughter.  In any case, I’m not only a proud Grandmother, but a proud business person.

About the Author

Kathy Olevsky

Kathy Olevsky

Kathy Olevsky, 8th Degree Black Belt, has taught Karate with her husband, Rob, since 1979.  She is an active instructor, manager and author in the martial arts.  

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