As promised, here is my first blog for instructors. I’m excited! This is more of an interview style blog and I really hope that it comes of value to you. Please comment and share with your Krav Maga friends and family.
Today, we’re talking about teaching kids’ Krav Maga and some of the challenges that we as instructors have. For myself, as a guy who teaches kids a couple of days a week, I can tell you that at times it can be a very challenging job. I’ve spoken with many other instructors and other experts in the field and in general there is the same consensus.
Through my research I have come to find some people that really shine as teachers of kids’ Krav Maga, and for this blog I want to introduce to you a friend of mine. His name is Refael Kashani (aka Rafi).
Rafi is the Canadian head of IKM, and the owner of The Academy of Self-Defence Inc. Originally from Israel, Rafi moved to Canada ten years ago. His love of Krav Maga is huge; he’s passionate, and one of the nicest guys you’ll meet. Rafael is an expert in teaching Krav Maga to kids; he’s been doing it for years and he’s going to share some of his tips with us here.
In chatting with Rafi, he says, “Krav Maga is for everyone. Life is full of foolish people, and we cannot educate everyone. What we can do is stay human ourselves, and this involves not doing to others what you wouldn’t want done to you. This relates to Krav Maga insofar as we learn to regulate our use of force. We learn not to continue in our defence of self once an aggressor has ceased to be a threat. But we also learn what is necessary to ensure our own safety and well-being. These skills, which we develop continuously throughout our training, are applicable to all areas of life.
I was a troublemaker as a child; my coach, Master Eli Ben Ami, took me under his wing. He molded me into the person who I am today. I grew up in Krav Maga; I learned all of the techniques and how they originated from Imi, how they developed into the modern self-defence that we have today. My coach created the programs for kids’ Krav Maga – he was the pioneer. Sadly, he didn’t finish this work, but he gave us his legacy and knowledge, and passed on to us the duty to complete his body of work. Everyone can teach kicking and punching, but not everyone can actually lead a child from the age of four to eventual expertise.”
Here are 7 challenges that instructors have when teaching child specific programs, along with some tips and advice from Rafi on how to help you overcome them. There are many others, but I decided these are the first ones to see addressed.
1. Not enough information, games, drills, knowledge for further learning:
Rafi: “We need all of the games to be related to Krav Maga or the development of self-confidence, coordination, strength, and athletics. These games need to allow us to build up to and introduce specific techniques. I have developed, over the years, a repertoire of over three-hundred games, and this is for the first level of training alone.
Regarding drills – there are no special drills for children. I try to avoid teaching knives, guns, and rifles, for example, until the students have matured. Once students have reached the age of fourteen, I consider teaching defences against knives and sticks, and as they get older, about guns and rifles. I face a lot of opposition to teaching minors these techniques; according to a number of parents, the material is too violent. I vehemently disagree, only because knife- and gun-threats are very real for children in modern schools.
The emergence of weapons-related violence in schools today is a tragedy faced by recent generations, and it would be neglect on the part of instructors not to teach adolescents how to deal with genuine dangers that they will encounter. In terms, then, of what I do teach in the way of drills, I focus on topics that the children themselves consider ‘the end of the world’. Our drills target scenarios and situations that children identify as being very embarrassing, and it’s important to note that these scenarios are not always obvious to most adults. Once children learn how easy it can be to diffuse these situations, they gain confidence; this increases their desire to continue in Krav Maga.
Most of all, it’s critical to speak to the kids in language that they understand. Do not talk to them as though they’re babies. Do not spoil them. Even if they experience a little bit of pain, get a bruise, etc., do not react dramatically. Do not behave as though these are reasons not to continue. This is not to say that an instructor should be heartless, but there are ways to show interest in a problem without exacerbating it.
Obviously, it is vital to know about the health concerns of each child. Are any students diabetic? Do any of them have chronic or acute injuries? Similarly, it’s important to know what impacts students’ mental health. Ensure that your environment does not stimulate anxiety in children.
Speaking of anxiety, in particular, it is very important to teach with patience and with repetition. Repetition does not equal boredom; it means continuing to work with techniques until students are proficient, in dynamic ways and with high expectations. Set yourself a target that the children, with hard work, will be able to fulfill.
Be a professional fitness trainer, such that you’ll be able to increase students’ levels of power, strength, bursting force, speed, agility, flexibility, and cardio-vascular health”.
2. Parents being a challenge:
Rafi: “Parents are a very big component in a child’s success. Parents must be involved and on the mats, or at least close-by while classes are underway. Their encouragement is very important, and I consider parents partners in the journey that we all take to bring children from one point of development to another. Just as it is with the students themselves, communication is vital; constant communication with parents will solve a myriad of problems. They are the ones who are responsible for so many of the components of success that we take for granted: transportation, payment, organization of events, provision of equipment, investment of time, and motivation. They deserve to see the results of all of this dedication and trust.
Only parents will understand parents. No parent wants to see his/her child get hurt. We try to create an environment in which we show the parents that, if a child doesn’t have the requisite skills, he/she is vulnerable in the street and will not be able to defend him- or herself. An unskilled instructor, or one with little self-esteem or self-confidence, will often allow outside interference to interrupt classes.
In a situation like this, of course, the parents will be disruptive. An instructor needs to know how to use parents for their children’s benefit. Of course, parents are going to be receiving phone-calls and SMS – that’s the world that we live in today. That being said, if you have a clear vision of where you want to take the kids, the interference will not bother you.
Let’s look at a ‘normal’ class structure that is led by an inexperienced/unskilled instructor: the class is forty-five minutes. Ten-fifteen minutes is organizing and checking names, requesting quiet, talking about the theme of the class. The warm up is twelve minutes, following all of this, and so, twenty-five minutes have already been wasted. A professional teacher, on the other hand, will lead a one-hour class. Of this time, the instructor will briefly discuss the theme of the class, lead a dynamic warm-up, and do a ‘head-count’ while the kids are running. Once he/she has started the class, this instructor will already know who is present and who is not. During the warm-up, or in the summary drill, he/she is writing notes about those who are absent. This way, the instructor can lead a productive, full hour of work.
So saying, there will be times that parents cause disruption. Occasionally, a particularly demanding drill will seem too aggressive – again, parents have a very difficult time separating emotion from reason when it comes to their children, and no matter how many times we reiterate the idea that it is better to collect a few bruises inside the dojo than outside on the street during an altercation, parents are only present to see them in training, not during school hours. In cases of extreme disruption, show that you are listening. Do not ignore the concerns of your parent-body, and make sure that you respond by pointing out the fact that the child/children in question is/are well, is/are learning, and is/are progressing. One big note about these situations: all sparring, until level two, must be done between student and instructor, not between students”.
3. Continuation & grading kids:
Rafi: “Kids have ten levels; in IKM, these are called Young Practitioner levels one to ten. Basically, according to timelines, every six months, students need to have a test. That being said, I have divided these levels into a unique point system.
For example, from Young Practitioner one to Young Practitioner two, a student needs three-hundred and sixty points. These points can be gained during four sub-levels; each sub-level contains ninety points.
The points can be achieved by participating in class, by doing something special such as winning a game, demonstrating dedication, doing assigned homework, etc. According to this system, there is, in fact, testing every two months for sub-levels. The fifth test is for the full Young Practitioner level. When this occurs, we celebrate it properly; parents are involved, there is a ceremony, and the child feels that he/she has accomplished something significant.
From Young Practitioner level five and up, students need seven-hundred and twenty points per level. The techniques become stronger, and the demands become larger. Passing these levels allows a student to participate in a unique course called an Assistant Instructor Course”.
4. How to get kids to understand context:
Rafi: “In terms of communicating key concepts to students, this is your job as an instructor. Like I said before, you must speak in a language that students will understand. I would caution instructors not to be reactionary, but to teach a proactive approach instead. For example, not every incident in school is an instance of bullying.
You must find the right time and use the right support material to explain concepts like these to children. If you, as an instructor, don’t understand the problem well, it will be very hard to teach solutions. It is difficult for adults fully to appreciate what children today experience, and how they perceive these experiences. What we can do is teach scenarios.
An instructor will never single out a particular child whom he/she knows to have experienced a particular problem; we can speak in general terms about situations that are occurring. We continue by teaching techniques that help children to overcome these issues. In the same lesson (if needed), we will teach a totally unrelated technique in order not to give any one child the impression that we are singling him/her out on the basis of information that he/she has confided in us”.
5. Growing your kids base:
Rafi: “Developing a strong base of young students has everything to do with your patience and your ability not to compromise. There will be a lot of ‘b.s.’ – be prepared for that. You will have a lot of parents, educators, and/or administrators who are unaccustomed, especially in Westernized countries, to the demands of real training, especially when it comes to children.
If you are able to create a small group of excellent, high-level kids, any new parent who walks in and sees the effort and patience that it takes to make these children ‘fighters’, of course, they will want to join. That being said, if you give in to the complaints and alarm that will inevitably be voiced early on, and if a parent comes in to your studio and sees diluted training, the opposite of what you’re advertising, of course, these families will not join.
Ultimately, you must focus on longevity; do not worry about those families that fail to see the training through long-term. The ones who stay with you, who really see the real value in your approach and in authentic training, are the ones who deserve your focus. They will always be the ones who support your program and the growth of your student base”.
6. Structuring classes for different ages:
Rafi: “There is no need for differentiation based on age. From the age of four to fourteen, all children train together. This arrangement creates an environment in which the older children assist you in training the younger ones. The younger ones will always look up to both you and the older students, modeling their training on the good example of their older peers. The older ones, similarly, will want to be like you. Allowing them to assist you in training will give them a real sense of satisfaction. Of course, you do not let older students take advantage of their age and size when working with younger students; training together is meant to be an educational experience for everyone involved.
We are teaching an anti-bullying system to the kids. The ones who are suffering from bullying experience it in three ways: emotionally, verbally, and physically. If we structure classes such that four-year-olds train in one team, six-year-olds in another team, eight-year-olds in a third team, etc., and we divide them by size, body-weight, and level, how will they learn to fight against someone larger or more developed? Again, we need to keep in mind that Krav Maga is eminently practical, and the training is meant to prepare participants for situations that they will face on the street. In order to do this, we must train in ways that mimic outside conditions, not swaddle us against them”.
7. Payment Structure for Kids Classes:
Rafi: “Payment structure is also key. Do not charge the parents for stuff that they don’t know about up front. This includes testing, seminars, workshops, and courses. For the cost of a year of training, include the testing, the uniform, and the equipment. If you surprise the parents with costs every few months, they will feel that you are milking them for money slowly but surely. Be up-front with parents, be open and forthright. This tip will save you lots of money in the future, so of course, you can send my commission cheque to me anytime. Seriously speaking, be decent; don’t convert your time for money and money for level.
In terms of payment, the kids’ group is the elite of the elite. Spots are limited. If a parent signs up his/her child for one month, and then fails to renew, that spot can be taken by another child. The priority is given to those families who pay for the full year. If you get fifteen or sixteen children, close your group. You can, of course, set up more than one group, but you’re aiming at coherence amongst the groups – consider them a team of professionals. Every child, in one year of training, will have a school-break in most countries that exceeds one or two months. It can be difficult to take a year’s payment from parents when the children may be ‘on vacation’ for significant periods of time.
How do we get around this? Parents pay for an entire year; they get Krav Maga clothing, and every three months, they get a four-hour seminar. You make protection gear affordable. You do not need to get Adidas shin-guards, Puma headgear, and Under Armour groin-guards. Make the gear-package reasonable and easy to purchase together. Everything – testing, equipment, and gear – must be included in the price that they pay for the year. Similarly, you do not stop teaching during vacation periods – if families chose to go away, that is up to them. You teach. You are running a professional group.
Just to make this clear: instead of charging a small up-front fee and then adding on ‘incidentals’ like equipment, testing, and gear (which will represent constant ‘hits’ to parents’ budgets), charge a reasonable yearly fee for everything up-front. You’ll find that parents appreciate the simplicity, even though the initial sum looks higher. Again, don’t undervalue yourself. What authentic Krav Maga offers students, most especially children, is too great to calculate. You are offering elite training, and this is something that parents and students will come to understand.
Build a strong base by beginning with, and retaining, those families that truly understand the value of the training. Another big note: for every student, remember KISS – keep it simple, stupid!”.
So there you have it!. Thank you very much Rafi for your dedicating your time and energy on this. I’m very grateful, and I’m sure many others will find your advice very useful.
Please comment and share if you care 🙂
Written by Kurt Colpan
Your Krav Maga Expert.com
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