Little Dragons children in martial arts uniforms pulling faces

Teaching martial arts to children can be tough, especially when delivering sessions to young children.

I don't want to wait, give me the framework!

You may have noticed that children today have a short attention span and getting them off their electronic devices can be like trying to separate a threenager from their favourite toy. We all live in a fast paced world where results are expected instantly and focus is at a premium. If you are teaching martial arts for a living, this can be a big problem when trying to keep your Lil Dragons engaged in your sessions.

When you have prolonged downtime during your classes to setup equipment or change the activity, you can bet that they will find something to do during that pause in activity and usually, you won’t like their choice! 

Planning sessions can be taxing and tedious. Having to come up with new fun martial arts drills that are both engaging and age appropriate can be difficult. Pitching an activity at the wrong level means that it can be too easy for some while also being too hard for others. The result of both these cases usually leads to the same place ………. disengagement.

When you are putting together your martial arts lesson plans, it is difficult to keep track of what you did last session never mind 4 weeks ago. Without some form of rotation system and session framework, you will find yourself covering too much in one area and too little in another. Undisguised or too much repetition can quickly lead to boredom and eventually drop out. Whether you are putting together taekwondo lesson plans, trying to create new karate drills or just decide which skillz you want to develop next, planning is essential.

When one of your ninja tots disengages from a class, it does not matter if the parent really wants the child to train on not. As a parent you will only take your child to an activity for so long to have them stand at the side and not join in. Nobody likes to see that and as a coach it can knock your confidence. Occasionally a child will go the other way and start playing up. This can kill the pace of the class while also making you dread the days you teach those children.

A great children’s programme will become the foundation from which you build your club. Not only do you get to utilise time slots not used by your other programmes but if you do a great job, this group refers more than any other age group. It is automatic that these children will filter up to the next programme and often, their younger siblings will join automatically. For over 10 year now we have only ever had to advertise for replacement 3-4 year old children as they graduate and move up.

I don't want to wait, give me the framework!

Most martial arts instructors have very little formal training in planning age appropriate, engaging martial arts sessions for children

By the virtue of the fact that many martial artists become coaches the day they pass their black belt, not many have knowledge of coaching theory and practical application. Many think that throwing a taekwondo drills in the middle of a session is all it takes to turn a regular adults class, in to a children’s class. After years of research and experience I can tell you now, that is not the case. While including some fun martial arts drills in a structured way can help, there is more to teaching martial arts to toddlers than that.

With a little planning and the right knowledge, you can turn things around and not only make your classes engaging but also a pleasure to teach. I know this because I used to struggle this age group too. I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing and as this was the early days of children’s martial arts (especially in the UK), there wasn’t much help available. 

If your current dropout rate is around the national average for martial arts school owners in the UK, you will be losing between 6% and 8% of your entire student body per month. Just to give you an example of how important retention is; if you had only 4% drop out rather than 8%, at the end of one year you would have 68% more students left.

If you have helped out in adult classes before you will have an idea of how to coach but this will not necessarily prepare you for coaching children. In fact, even if you have experience coaching children, it does not necessarily mean you will be well prepared to coach younger children (3-6 years). You may even feel like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the early 90s movie Kindergarten Cop where the kids are running the class.

If you cannot design session plans that inspire and engage your members, your drop out is going to be significant. Every time a student drops out you lose revenue and potentially you are also losing anyone else a happy customer would have referred.

That was until I learned the 4 essential components for planning successful children’s martial arts classes. As soon as I integrated these 4 elements, my kid’s programme took off. The classes turned from frustrating to fun, and they became one of the most profitable programmes in my school. On top of that, the kids actually improved faster and stayed with the club longer.

I don't want to wait, give me the framework!

The 4 Essential Components Of Great Session Planning

While some experienced martial arts instructors will be able to run a number of sessions with no planning at all, planning your sessions in advance allows you to make sure you are ticking all the required boxes for great sessions. If you are teaching martial arts in schools, this will be a requirement.

Most martial arts instructors know the key to a successful martial arts academy is keeping your students training long term. There is zero chance of any development taking place if your students are not motivated enough to attend your classes. Providing engaging martial arts classes that increase retention will enable the students to develop rock solid skills while also making your school profitable.

The first rule i learned when I started studying coaching children was ‘CHILDREN ARE NOT MINI ADULTS’. This one rule is key when teaching martial arts to young children. If you don’t plan every session with a large helping of fun, the students will soon get bored and will ultimately drop out.

Physical Stages Of Development - 3-4 year olds

Thankfully, there is a simple way to achieve all of these things in every class you teach. With a little work ‘up front’ you can have everything in place so planning classes becomes frictionless.

The 4 essential components of great session planning are:-

1. Age appropriate content

Knowing what to teach for specific age groups is half the struggle. The session planning framework will break the physical areas of focus down in to four core components for the 3-4 year old and eight for the 5-6 / 4-6 year olds.

With this list you will know the exact areas you need to be working on with which age group. Not only will this make sure that you are putting the development of the child first, but it will also give you a list of areas to rotate between in order to inject more variation in to your classes.

2. Creating a rotation plan

This is where the rubber hits the road in terms of long term planning. After you get to grips with the 4/8 core physical areas you can start to plan out a rotation for the month, quarter or even for the whole year.

With the template we provide, all you then need to do is add your technical areas to the plan and you will know in advance what you should be working on each session. Coming up with ideas for new activities in your classes will be much easier when you have a long term plan prompting you.

3. The categorising of physical drills

There are drills suitable for children’s martial arts everywhere but you need a system to categorise them to make them useful. The problem these days is not a lack of access to these drills but a lack of a coherent way of logically classify them.

Once you internalise the MAPLE core physical areas of development you will be able to take any drill, from any source, categorise it and then just drop it in to your session plans where appropriate. This is such a time saver and will give you a structured way to build up your repository of drills in a structured and accessible way.

4. Planning effective sessions

We have already touched upon how important session planning is for great engagement. When you download this PDF you will have access to the same session plan structure that we have been using for the last 10 years.

You will not only know how our session plans are put together but also how they are derived from our rotation plan. More importantly you will understand WHY the sessions are structured in this way.

I don't want to wait, give me the framework!

The Fastest Way To Develop a structured system that creates an endless supply of engaging, age appropriate session plans

There are two ways you can develop a session planning framework like the one we use. Firstly, you can spend the best part of £40,000 pounds and 5 years of your life studying and researching at University OR you can just leverage the framework of someone else that has done the hard work for you.

Both ways can work, but the second method is by far the easiest, quickest, and cost effective. Today we are presenting you with MAPLE Session Planning Framework for FREE!

Who am i?

But before we get into the MAPLE Session Planning Framework, who and i why should you care?

My name is Phillip Payne aka Coach Phill Payne. I’m a lifelong martial artist, instructor, with black belts in several martial arts and a BSc and MSc in coaching children.

I started teaching children in this age group back in 2008. The only help I could find at the time was purchasing a Lil Dragons programme from an ex school teacher that also happened to run her own karate centre. The Lil Dragons programme was a good start but I felt it wasn’t quite right for the UK market and this is where I started constructing my own.

I currently have two full time martial arts centres where the children’s programme is the foundation upon which everything else is built. At any one time we have anything between 130 and 180 3-6 year olds training with us. Many of our original students that trained in our Dragons classes are now part of our junior coaching team. We can only do this due to a low dropout rate of between 3-3.5% per month.

I am the second one from the left with my Hurling, Rugby and Basketball coaching friends graduating from an MSc in Sports Coaching at Leeds Becket University in 2017.

Ben started training with us when he was 5 years old and now at 16 he has just moved on from the position of a junior coach to join us on a full time apprenticeship. Ben not only coaches with is but is also part of our competition team. We have many students that have been with us as Dragons students that are now either part of our competition team or work for the club as a coach.

Just imagine how efficient your club would be if it retained members long enough to bring them through from your 3-6 year old programme on to your staff training programme.

Not only would all your programmes above the 3-4 group have new students automatically feeding in to them but you would also have people joining your staff as coaches that had come through the very programme they would be teaching.

At the beginning of 2020 I shared by framework for the first time in public at a national gathering of over a hundred martial arts coaches. This was just before the Coronavirus lockdown in the UK and soon after things got a little tricky for martial arts clubs. After the we were able to get back to teaching in person classes I received the following feedback from a coach that had used the framework to plan her zoom and subsequent ‘in person’ classes:-

<<<To give you some perspective, our target for the end of this year (2020) was to hit 300 students. We were on 218 at the time and doing ok. We built steadily for 3 months, then covid hit. Fortunately, i met you the weekend before and quickly adapted your system to use on zoom. We were lucky and only lost 25 students during lock down, i think in part due to the MAPLE programme. We have been using in classes since we returned and yesterday hit the 300+ active student count. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are truly amazing at what you do>>>

I don't want to wait, give me the framework!

Introducing The MAPLE Session Planning Framework

For years I have been tweaking the framework my staff use to plan sessions if only to make them a little better year on year. Every time I read a new journal or book that gives me a better understanding of a specific area, the knowledge gets added to the framework.

When I put this 12 page guide together the only slightly negative feedback I received was that I was giving a lot away. Even though this guide is FREE, I put a lot of time and effort in researching and testing its content. I am not the type of person that puts out content that is just ‘good enough’.

The moment you join you will get access to the 12 page PDF with all the information you need to not only design your own great children’s martial arts sessions, but more importantly to understand what makes a session both engaging and age appropriate.

The PDF contains sections on:-

What is MAPLE?

The 8 MAPLE physical skills

The MAPLE subject rotation plan

An example session plan

The 4 step planning process

Create your own rotation plan

Setting session objectives

Choose appropriate activities

Designing your own sessions

With a little planning work up front using the MAPLE Session Planning Framework your sessions could soon be running like clockwork with happy and engaged children that are more than happy to refer their friends. Not only is a great process for designing sessions a huge win for the students but it also makes your busy life as an instructor much easier and less stressful.

Ultimately, everyone involved, including you, will have a better experience within the class and your martial arts school will be set for success. All you need to do is hit the button below and enter your name and email address and we will send the guide straight over.

I want engaging sessions and great retention!