What are the benefits of having a children’s martial arts programme?

I put a lot of the success of our clubs down to having a great children’s martial arts programme. When we first moved our small club of around 40 members to our first full time venue, we kept increasing the number of 4-6 year old classes until we had 2 a day, 6 days a week. It was only then we realised that we needed somewhere for the students graduate to that we converted half of these classes to 6-11 year old, Junior Taekwondo classes. We also realised that when we expanded the age group to include 3 year olds, the difference in development between a 3 year old and a 6 year old was too great. At this point we split the young children’s classes down in to 3-4 and 5-6 year olds.

Over the years this programme has been so successful in feeding in to our junior and family classes that we have only ever had to run paid advertising once a quarter, to keep replacing the children moving up. Once the children are embedded in your culture, they tend to stay with you for years rather than weeks or months.

If you’re wondering why I think a young children’s martial arts programme should be the foundation of your whole club, here are a dozen compelling reasons that I hope will help justify my view:-

1. It allows your club to isolate this age group and deliver martial arts classes specifically created for the participants. You know that ‘children are not mini adults’ and that delivering content that is age appropriate is imperative. Placing these children in a mixed class with older children could limit their development and make the classes more difficult to teach.

2. The parents of this age group talk to other parents and refer more new customers that any other programme. Whether it is speaking to other parents at other organised children’s activities, birthday parties or chatting outside the school gates, parents talk about the activities their children are taking part in. When the parent of a child on this programme refer other parents, you know you are getting a very well qualified lead that converts much easier than leads obtained through other marketing methods.

3. It provides you with a steady stream of new students for your other programmes. As the young students graduate from your ninja tots or little dragons programme, 99% of them will automatically try out in the next programme up. While you sometime lose one or two, most will move up successfully and join your full martial arts programme.

4. If the coaches do a great job delivering the programme, many parents will automatically enrol younger siblings as soon as they are old enough. If you are delivering a great service, you will find that the babies roaming around in your reception area will automatically become your newest students.

5. With a focus on fun, enjoyment and retention, students will often stay until they are ready to graduate and move up. Even though the children on our Dragons programme only train once a week, the buy in from the parents helps keep retention high.

Student showing the Fundamental Movement Skills for Physical Literacy

6. It introduces young students to martial arts before they pick up mainstream team sports such as football, rugby, netball etc. As many sports don’t have a pre school programme, it’s a chance to establish the benefits of martial arts training in the minds of the parents before they are old enough to join many other children’s activities. 

7. It establishes a foundation of basic martial arts skills that you can build on in subsequent programmes. It is much easier to teach children to perform more martial arts specific techniques once they have a strong physical and technical background. It’s a bonus to the children that setup correctly, a children’s martial arts programme can help them develop skills that will also carry through to other activities.

8. It creates extra income from a time slot not traditional used. Most regular classes tend to start from around 18:00 but classes for young children can start as early as 16:00. This gives you up to 2 hours to run extra sessions and maximise the use of your training facilities.

9. As well as the revenue from the training fees, you will generate additional secondary income from equipment sales, gradings, child and parent training sessions. Another side line that works to both create extra income and a steady stream of new students is martial arts theme birthday parties. TIP: if you don’t like doing these yourself, see if some of your other instructors would like to run them. You can even give them the majority of the profit as long as the club gets new starters from it. For more information on running these parties, check out Luke Burk’s Karate Party programme  

10. Coaches get the opportunity to have a big impact on the development of children during a stage of high growth. During this period they will start to development FUNdamental movement skills and character traits many of which will be with them for life. This is the ideal age to start teaching your club’s core values (obviously in a child friendly way).

11. It helps build common social skills before children start school. We take simple things such as taking turns, active listening, respecting personal space and empathy for granted, but these social skills need to be learnt just like other skills. We try to get these skills down in the 3-4 year old classes and this enables us to focus on higher level social skills like teamwork and cooperation in the 5-6 year old classes.

12. When the children move up to the next programme, it is often possible to get the parents involved in the classes too. The majority of adults in our family Taekwondo programme are the parents of the children that participated in our 3-6 year old classes. We also have parents of the children that started in this programme training in our adult Ju Jitsu classes.

I hope this short article gives you a better insight in to how a young children’s programme can help you not only a big impact on children between the age of 3-6 but also on your club too. Without the integration of our own children’s programme, our full time centres would not be in the position they are in today. Some of our previous members from this programme are now employed by us as coaches.

Next week’s article will be reviewing your options for a children’s martial arts programmes. I will be looking at the advantages / disadvantage of creating your own or buying one off the shelf.

PS If you haven’t already signed up for our “MAPLE Session Planning Framework”, you can still get it. I am not sure how long we will leave this online for free or if we will roll it in to another product. Jump on this now and download it while it is still available.

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