Five and six-year olds are the most enthusiastic students. They love creativity and problem solving, which makes them ideal students in the Martial Arts. The problem we discovered is they are so progressive in following tasks, some teachers tend to treat them like their older peers. This is a problem because they still do not have the basic skills necessary to keep up with children ages 7 and up. The solution we found is to provide them with their own program that targets their stage of development in a manner that adapts to their social and intellectual curiosity while at the same time building skills that set them up for success. With that said a structured program introducing basic skill-based training in Martial Arts has proven to be very successful.

Here's an overview for the stages of development of children ages 5 and 6:

Physically

Generally, 5 and 6 year old children do not know how to apply their muscles so they fall often when their body is in constant motion. Also, they have a basic foundation for leg, arm, core, and abdominal development, but they still lack a lot of strength.

  • We expect them to initially struggle with multiple kicks beyond five repetitions. We also expect them to initially have sloppy technique when exercising.
  • The goals for our program are to get them to perform high repetitions of kicks without putting their foot down, and also perform static, active, and dynamic exercises for beyond ten reps with good technique.

Intellectually

5 and 6 year old kids typically have a hard time retaining beyond three commands. They also have a hard time distinguishing between their left and right.

  • We expect them to initially get confused when we ask them to do more than three things at one time. We also initially expect them to have a hard time distinguishing between their left and right when following multiple-commands.
  • The goal for our program is to get them to retain three or more commands at once, and beyond. We will also help them learn how to perform various left and right combinations.

Emotionally

Typically, 5 and 6 year olds typically focus on things that make them happy. They also have slow brakes when they are excited.

  • We expect them to initially lose focus and shut down when they are not happy. We also expect them to lose control when they are over-excited.
  • The goal for our program is to help them focus even when it's hard to do so. We will also help them control their body and their power, especially when they are excited.

Socially

5 and 6 year olds love to play with others, but are typically very competitive.

  • We expect them to initially show weak sportsmanship when they participate in a competition.
  • The goals for our program are to help them build good teamwork such as no cheating; don't get angry when they lose; and don't brag when they win.

By understanding the stages of development of 5 and 6-year olds, we were able to select 8 age-appropriate skills that make up the Little Tigers Program:

  1. FOCUS
  2. TEAMWORK
  3. CONTROL
  4. MEMORY
  5. BALANCE
  6. DISCIPLINE
  7. FITNESS
  8. COORDINATION

We cover one of the above skills per class (in order). During each class we run a warm-up; deliver a mat chat about the skill; run two or three skill-building drills; and then we have them demonstrate the skill to earn their skill-stripe. They must earn all 8 skill-stripes in order to graduate to the next belt level. Once they earn their next belt they will continue to run through all 8 skills earning their skill-stripes with more challenging curriculum as they advance to each rank.

Our Little Tiger graduates go on to train in the Kids Taekwondo Class as 9th Geup students (skipping over White Belt level). Their training as Little Tigers prepares them well for the next level. Several of our earliest Little Tigers are now 2nd Degree Black Belts and Assistant Instructors. Amazing things can happen!

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