Martial Arts Games have been one of the major building blocks in developing our youngest martial art students. Often when I mention this to Instructors they give me an odd look and I can tell that they think I'm pulling their leg. Some have asked me about weakening the martial art lessons or compromising standards to be more commercial.
I can understand these points of view from someone that has not seen the martial art games we use in our training sessions. I know many instructors (sad to say) use games as a filler to pad out the time for a lesson. Obviously someone doing this is guilty of the statements I have been accused of but martial art games can be used to compliment the theme of your lesson plan for the night and can dramatically improve the learning ability for young students.
Every lesson plan should have a main theme. It may be blocking, kicking, striking, single leg takedowns, sweeps … you get the idea … there should be a solid focus for each lesson. Now when you know what skill you plan to teach the students you can select some martial art games that will enhance the lesson rather than detract from it.
As an example if you are focusing on blocking tonight then you can add some games like 'The Mummies Return' or 'Block Around The Clock' so that the kids can practice their barriers on live moving attackers in a controlled way. Everyone gets involved and has a great time but they are also learning how to apply the skills you have just taught them.
The other great thing about using martial arts games in your lessons is that the kids generally think they are just a game. They do not normally look at what they are doing and see that you are teaching them to perform their martial art skills. The game works better than just doing a martial art drill. A drill is a repetitive exercise that tend to bore kids after a minute or two, but a martial art game is something fun for them to enjoy and this is really important.
It's important for two main reasons. Firstly, they are having fun but they are still learning how to apply their new skills against other students. Secondly they often have so much fun playing these martial art games in class that they will teach them to their friends at school or meet up with other students outside of class to play them in their own time.
I'm sure you know how hard it is to get a young student to practice their techniques outside the dojo. The reason is obvious, unless a student is really dedicated and driven to improve then they are not going to spend their spare time doing techniques and katas and martial art drills by themselves in the yard. But if they can get some friends together and play a new game with them, then you are onto a winner.
I'm sure you can just imagine the improvements that you would see in your students if they were spending and extra couple of hours practicing their skills in between your formal lessons. If you teach them twice a week for an hour per lesson then they are doing about 90 hours training in a year. Now if you can get them to play some martial art games with their friends a few times a week you could easily get them to do an additional 135 hours a year training. That's more training than their formal lessons.
Another great thing to teach the students is Mini Challenges. These only take a minute to teach but you can show them a mini challenge and then set them a goal to reach before the next lesson. This is a great way to get them to push themselves to the next level.
I hope that I have given you enough inspiration to test out some games in your next lesson. The important thing is to use good quality games that reinforce what you are teaching the kids. If you are looking for ideas for your next lesson plan then check out the Martial Games for Kids Blog