8 Ninja Teaching Tips For Parents

With schools and other activities closing due to the coronavirus outbreak, many parents are finding themselves filling the roles of teacher, coach, guidance counselor, and hall monitor as the kids try to continue their studies in the home learning environment.

The first few days were likely an exciting new adventure. Still, as we continue to try to balance working from home, maintaining the needs of the household, and serving as the frontline for our kids’ education, we will likely experience new stresses. Kids who sit still for their teachers or listen to their martial arts coaches may not want to exhibit the same studious behaviors for their parents. And if there are siblings involved, you may even find yourself serving as a referee as the battle ensues.

Fear not, we are here to help!

You most likely do not have the training that educators have. Kids will naturally exhibit their worst behaviors around you because they feel the safest expressing their frustrations, fears, and desires to those who love them the most.

Your homeschooling adventure does not have to be a perfect recreation of the classroom or dojo. It only has to encourage kids to love learning. Once you relieve yourself of this burden, things will be much easier.

That said, you must have the tools needed to help kids get the most out of the time spent with you as their new teacher. The instructors at 4GK Martial Arts in Patchogue go through extensive training to be able to keep students engaged and enthusiastic, while also moderating behaviors. Read on to see how you can use some of our favorite teaching tips in your own home.

Here are eight teaching skills our pediatric ninja specialists use in every class to help keep kids engaged in the learning experience:

1. Healthy Competition

Competition no doubt allows students of all levels to step up their game, and if you prompt competition for your lessons in a fun way that splits the class into teams, then it’s not only healthy – it’s FUN too! If you have multiple children, this can be as simple as seeing who can draw the most number of triangles in 30 seconds.

If you have a single child, or your kids have a broad age gap, you may have to step in as the competition. Kids love seeing adults in agony. Just think of the shows your kids watch, and when they laugh the most, usually it’s an adult getting hurt or making a mistake.

Challenge them that if they can write their sentences in five minutes or less, you will do five push-ups, but if they take more than five minutes, THEY will have to do the push-ups. The challenge is not about punishment; it is about FUN (and the extra boost of endorphins will help break the stress).

2. Choices

When your kids get to choose the activity at hand, they become more motivated to put forth more effort. Kids tend to feel as if they have little control over their lives, and this can lead to some major tantrums. As parents, we sometimes don’t trust our kids with authority because they will make less than favorable decisions. Stripes and polka dots!?! No Way!

By providing choices, we let the kids feel a sense of control over their lives. The choice is essential for their development as someday they WILL have to be the one making the decisions. It is even more critical for their mental well-being as they are trapped at home, isolated from their friends because of social distancing practices.

When setting up the lessons for the day, have the flexibility to provide your child with a choice. If you tell them spelling is next, you may get pushback. But if you ask whether they’d like to do spelling first or math first, they will feel empowered; and since both of the choices you provided were acceptable options, your stress levels will go down, as well.

3. Re-directing

We can all agree that many kids will not have the very best discipline all the time. To increase the level of discipline and effort in class, we must continuously be catching and rewarding students that are trying hard and leading by example. The simple act of setting your kids up for success is the key to maximizing good behavior in class.

Focus on what is going right rather than what is going wrong. For example, imagine you have two siblings, and one is on task, but the other is dawdling. Most of us would try to correct the dawdler. Instead, praise what you like about the focused child. “I love how focused you are, Johny! That shows me that you are a person with good discipline.” A natural reaction will be for your other child to seek similar praise by modeling the behavior you said you liked.

You can also use a similar technique for a single child. The goal is to “catch them being good.” When you see the behavior you want, even if it is for a split second, praise it. Positive recognition works even better if they don’t think you are watching. It is a slow process, but you will start rewiring their brains to exhibit those positive behaviors.

4. Trickery

Trickery is a humorous way to help build focus, engagement, and connection. The concept is to try and trick your students into ‘going’ or ‘starting’ by using words that sound like the word ‘go!’

We use this in class mainly for physical movement activities. For example, when starting a martial arts drill that has two or more teams competing against one another, we may count down, “Ready…Set…. GOOSE!” The kids get a laugh, it breaks the tension, and encourages them to be ready to perform, but not to over anticipate.

You might use a similar bit of trickery when encouraging your kids to see who can collect the most amount of different kinds of leaves in 2 minutes.

Side Note – thinking outside the box about conveying lessons is also a subtle form of trickery akin to sneaking onions into the meatloaf. Collecting different leaves can teach about shapes, math, biodiversity, or even cooking if they are edible leaves. Not every lesson needs to be about notes and textbooks.

5. Up the Rep

Most students become tired towards the last few reps of activity, particularly in high rep drills, or activities which include a lot of physical or mental exertion. This tip consists of a strategy for promoting mental toughness throughout each rep. So that the student becomes better at every rep.

If your child has to write a set of spelling words five times each, penmanship will likely decline, and errors will increase as the child goes through the motions. One way to use the Up The Rep concept would be to encourage the child to have the first set of words be the sloppiest and worst spelled, the next set a bit neater, and so on until the last set of words is the neatest and best.

Penmanship provides them an achievable goal beyond merely completing the assignment, and helps them learn to practice mindfully rather than just going through the motions.

6. Neurobics

The concept is to get the left and right hemispheres of the brain working together by challenging the brain to ‘think’ more during lessons. Neurobics improves cognitive performance, which is how well a student can think and remember what they learned in class.

In the martial arts environment, we will perform exercises while counting by colors, or count our repetitions with names of foods. The reason this works is twofold. First, the addition of physical movement to the activity increases blood flow to the brain, which carries additional oxygen and nutrients to improve cognition. Second, by forcing the brain to think in unique ways, neurological activity spikes, which allows the brain to take in more of those nutrients.

By reciting vocabulary words while doing jumping jacks, for example, the increased neurological activity helps make the memory more concrete. As a bonus, the endorphins released during physical activity help reinforce that learning is a positive activity.

7. Intrinsic Motivation

This concept works by giving the kids options for performance, and then they chose the hardest option because they want to. We use this in our martial arts classes with great success. This tool works best if you can tie it to a character trait that the child wants to exhibit naturally.

For example, if a child has to write an essay, you could give them three options about how long that essay will be. This option is similar to the Choices tool mentioned above. It is empowering for the kids to have some control. By then tying each level of choice to a level of awesomeness, the kids will more likely choose to perform at the highest level.

“For your ELA homework, you have to write an essay about how much you love martial arts. Now, if you want to have good writing skills, you’ll write three paragraphs. But if you want to have rockstar writing skills, you’ll write four paragraphs. And if you want to have super ninja black belt writing skills, you’ll write five paragraphs.”

Make sure that all three levels are acceptable for the assignment, and within the stage of development for your child. Don’t prompt the kindergartner to write five paragraphs, because no matter how super ninja they want to be, it is unrealistic.

8. Extrinsic Motivation

This concept is when a person puts forth more significant effort based on external rewards such as prizes, praise, making others happy, etc. It is easy to overuse this concept, so be mindful of how you apply it.

This one is the simplest. “If you do your homework, you can have ice cream.”

We’ve all bribed our kids at least once in our parenting lives. To make this tool even more productive while maintaining a healthy boundary of control, tie it together with one of the other seven ideas. Instead of “If X then Y,” try something like, “If you can get your art homework done in 15 minutes, you can have ice cream, and I’ll do five push-ups.” Or, “If you finish your science packet by 10:30 am, you will get to choose the movie tonight.”

By tying multiple ninja teaching techniques together, you can create a learning environment that is full of fun, but which also encourages kids to love learning. Remember, when all else fails, step away from the kitchen table and find a way to have fun. To a child, play is the path to knowledge, experience, and wisdom. If you can make the lessons fun and interactive, there will be less stress for everyone involved.

Let us know which Ninja Teaching Tool worked best for you!

What Rank is My Child When She Promotes or Ages Out of Her Program?

Our Children’s Curriculum runs differently than our Adult Curriculum. First, we divide the curriculum into age group programs: 3-4 years old, 5-6 years old, 8-10 years old, and 11-14 years old. This helps all the students learn because they are with their peers, not younger or older kids.

  • During the enrollment session, each child goes through an evaluation to see if they are mature enough to begin training at our school and at which program she should start.
  • Our programs are organized by maturity level. We use a student’s age range as a starting point for the evaluation.
  • We educate and teach Kempo through skill-based games.
  • There are three levels, beginner, intermediate, and advanced, each with three ranks for a total of nine belts.
  • Students gain a skill stripe on the second or third exposure to the skill after they pass the skill requirement for that stripe.
  • Once a student gets all the stripes, the student can test out of the belt rank.
  • The program teaches martial arts skills, not techniques found in the Adult program. See my article on Kempo Karate for Toddlers about how skills are better than techniques for younger Peewee students.

Each program has nine belt ranks that they learn in order, three beginner ranks, three intermediate ranks, and three advanced ranks. There are two issues with this structure. First, a student completes all nine ranks before being old enough to graduate to the next program. Or, a student gets older because of a birthday or growth spurt and is now ages out of the program.

Let’s tackle the first issue. The student graduates from the final belt rank in their current program. The new belt rank is the first intermediate rank of the new program. In our school, that’s Orange Belt. The first three ranks in the program are the entire curriculum of the previous program. This is how all four programs are set up. The student now learns new material because the student has demonstrated competence during the last course.

The next issue is a bit more complicated. If a student has a birthday or has a maturity growth spurt, she may be ready for another program. In this aging out situation, the Enrollment Advisor re-evaluates the student for the next program, just as if they were new students. Two things will happen. If the student passes the evaluation, she will move to the next program after her next belt rank test.

Current Rank New Program Rank
White, Yellow White
Gold, Orange, Red Yellow
Purple, Blue, Green Gold
Brown Orange

If the student doesn’t pass the evaluation for the new program, she stays in the current program. She will get a further assessment after the next test, as directed by her instructor.

We found this system works the best for all children involved. Remember, the age range is a guideline, not a rule. Children mature at different times. The maturity of the student’s emotional capability, coordination, and following-directions ability can, and often are, at different stages. We want the best fit for all our students. Trust in our system of placement.

No student is behind if they are at a different age program than their age. Our entire breath of children’s programs is our way of developing the best student martial artist. It’s not a race through the ranks. We want excellent martial arts skills, and we want these skills to build carefully and deliberately. There are no short cuts. We find that once the students hit middle school age, their previous training in our programs will catapult their technical skills in the following programs. Patience pays off.

The transition from program to program is consistent and fair for everyone involved. Our age-based classes also have a different teacher to student ratios. The younger children have a smaller ratio, while the older children have a higher ratio. This focus on each student’s ability and instructor’s attention is what makes our dojo school extraordinary.

If you have any questions, please contact your Enrollment Advisor.

Kempo Karate for Toddlers

The PeeWee group consists of toddlers (three and four years old) and young children (five and six years old). Their class is a simplified version of regular children’s classes. It runs for 35 minutes: 15 minutes of warm-ups, 15 minutes of drills, and 5 minutes of “splash” time. Splash is a word I use to mean a bump of time for sections that run overtime.

Black belt teacher helping a yellow belt child

Black belt teacher helping a yellow belt child

The short attention span of this age group makes anything longer, either useless or detrimental to their learning. For the first few months, the student may not “pay attention” to the full class. We allow the kids to develop attention on their own time since they aren’t disrupting the other students. This flexibility helps the kids focus on their class objectives. When other kids are listening to the instructor, they begin to learn too.

A Special Class for Young Children

Each session works on developing physical skills they’ll need for Kempo and school. These mini-skill development drills take the form of games. We segment individual skills out of “regular” techniques and have the children work on one skill at a time. Some of the favorite activities (or games) are jumping and rolling.

Jumping develops strong legs. We also teach proper landing to prevent shin splints. The skills will give them a “leg up” when they must learn jumping kicks in the older children’s class. Rolling is just a small part of the ukemi (groundwork) regiment. Ground-work is the most challenging for adults to learn. When little children learn how to do roll properly, they don’t fear to fall.

He’s no Jet Li

The PeeWee group isn’t going to be “excellent” at Kempo. That’s not the objective of this class. Their requirements are lower than those of other students. The goal is to develop physical coordination skills and listening skills. At this young age, getting her arm to do what she wants is a challenge. Secondly, listening to the instructor and following directions is also a valuable skill.

It bears reiterating this class teaches skills disguised as games and a limited amount of techniques. They rarely work out with partners because that leads to distractions or minor injuries. This age group loves to perform movements in sync with the large group. Everyone is doing the same thing at the same time. To a child, this is fun.

Correcting a child's body position

Will they ever be great?

This question is valid in response to the class described above. What we have found over the years is, yes, the children do become excellent martial artists. These primary skills of coordination and listening skills translate well to the more advanced Children’s program.

When they promote out of the PeeWee group, what we call Little Leopards, they do not have all the necessary material for advancement. However, they learn at twice the pace of children who begin class later in life. These highly trained ex-PeeWees pick up information very quickly. They know how to practice, their basic movements are honed, and they want to practice.

It is my experience that graduated PeeWee children move quickly into the accelerated Children’s Program and the Junior Leadership Team “STORM.” They built a foundation of valuable abilities that they exploit when their minds and bodies mature.

Children and Training

You must remember these are small children in a very malleable period of their life. We want them to enjoy exercise, enjoy learning, and able to follow directions. They should feel good about what they’re doing and want to do it again. These are life skills, which will benefit them for decades.

Let them have fun. Small children aren’t physically or mentally able to defend themselves from adults. If others tell you otherwise, they’re lying.

So enroll them in the Little Leopards program today. The PeeWee classes start as young as 3 and 4 years old in addition to the 5 and 6 years old students. Each age group is in its class. We divide them by theme: Little Dragons, Little Ninjas, Tiny Tigers, and Little Pandas.

While you’re at it, Kempo makes an excellent activity for parents too. Join our class designed for Moms — stay physically active, learn self-defense, and learn what your kids are learning.

Karate master teaches more than kicks, jabs

Read the full story here and they have a video too.

Master King has hit on an ancient connection between the martial arts and life. Since the origins of Karate stem from farmers on Okinawa, his belief that they are related rings true. Here’s a quote from the article:

“Gardening, farming and karate are almost the same. You gotta get down into the earth. It’s all about job skills and earning your own way,” King Karate and Harvesting Earth Owner Jackie King said.

Training in the warrior arts teaches us about responsibility and that responsibility includes having appropriate skills to make a living and contributing to the community and one’s family. It is important to know how to provide for oneself. Farming like Karate requires patience. Also hard work has great payoffs. Here’s another great quote from Master King in the article:

“We have kids that come here and train and go out and work on farms. We teach them how to use the equipment. Some of the kids have never used a tractor,” said King.

His program speaks to the heart of martial arts like Karate or Kempo – making better adults by teaching children well. Martial arts are not just about punching and kicking, as the title says. Master King gets it.

“We think that’s part of self defense. If you have to depend on other people for basic things like food, then you’re putting your life in their hands. We need to take some of that power back,” Dora King said.

Good luck Master King.

Introducing our new Little Ninjas program

The Little Ninjas Program is a detailed curriculum that focuses on improving children’s necessary motor and listening skills. These skills will help them enter society with a more confident and enthusiastic outlook. They will become better students at school, better listeners at home, and more ambitious towards the future. We believe the time between the ages of 3 and 6 are the most critical years of a child’s development.

Our program will enhance positive development in a fun and motivating way. The Little Ninjas program will also prepare your child for our Juniors Program. The skills taught are composed of physical and mental benefits. The following are the skills with the benefits of participating in the Little Ninja class.

  • Skill 1 – Focus
  • Skill 2 – Teamwork
  • Skill 3 – Control
  • Skill 4 – Balance
  • Skill 5 – Memory
  • Skill 6 – Discipline
  • Skill 7 – Fitness
  • Skill 8 – Coordination

In our Little Ninjas classes, we make learning fun and educational. Our goal is to help your child be the best they can be at everything they put their minds. Our motto is “Little Ninjas today, leaders tomorrow.”


The eight Little Ninjas skill requirements are composed of physical and mental benefits.

Focus – This skill will help your child’s aim, listening skills, and reaction skills. They will excel faster in any physical activity. Your child will also become a better listener and a more focused student in school.

Teamwork – Teamwork is necessary for any young child to develop. The more confident your child is willing to work with others, the more he or she will accomplish. Your child will build character, which will help your child make new friends and become a better leader in life.

Control – Having control means making the right decisions. Whether your child is handling a pet or handling a problem, he or she will learn to make the right decisions. Control builds confidence.

Balance – This skill is crucial to develop at an early age. Your child is beginning to participate in many physical activities that are challenging, like riding a two-wheel bicycle. Your child will develop great balance and a better posture.

Memory – Developing a good memory is an exercise for your child’s brain. The sooner your child exercises, the smarter he or she will become. Our drills are always helping your child think and make intelligent decisions.

Discipline – Our instructors use the Little Ninja drills to help create the vision that discipline is fun and rewarding. Your child will take pride in doing the right thing. Your child will also follow directions better.

Fitness – Children need to understand the importance of being healthy and physically fit. If your child does not burn off excess energy exercising, how will he or she burn off all of that energy?

Coordination – Your child will learn left from right. They will become better physical participants in sports and activities. The better coordination your child has, the fewer injuries your child will sustain.

In our Little Ninjas classes, we make learning fun and educational. Our goal is to help your preschooler be the best they can at everything they do.

How Your Child Will Advance Through the Program

After every first skill lesson, the instructor will place a sticker within the Little Ninjas Achievement Record Card. On the completion of the second skill lesson, your child will be awarded a skill stripe for developing that skill. Each skill stripe is a different color. Your child must earn all eight colored skill stripes to qualify to advance to the next level. Each ninja with all eight skills stripes will perform at the Little Ninjas Belt Promotion are every nine weeks.

The Little Ninjas Belt Promotion allows your child to show the instructors and parents how developed each skill has become. A panel of judges will be evaluating each ninja to monitor his or her progress.

After the performance, an awards ceremony rewards the ninjas with their new rank. Their rank advancement gives your child a new challenge for each skill. Your child again begins to collect the colored skills stripes as they set their goal for the next belt performance. This visible progress keeps the program exciting and challenging. Your child will learn how to set goals and achieve them accomplishing their new ranks.

The following is a list of each skill with the color of the skill stripe

  1. Focus = Red
  2. Teamwork = Blue
  3. Control = Green
  4. Balance = Yellow
  5. Memory = Orange
  6. Discipline = White
  7. Fitness = Black
  8. Coordination = Purple

Little Ninjas instructors monitor your child’s progress by his or her skills stripes. Make sure your child is consistent with his or her attendance so that he or she earns each skill stripe before the Little Ninjas Promotion. To avoid excess time at each rank and prevent boredom, follow the curriculum calendar.

If your child has difficulty with a specific skill, the instructor may ask you to work with him or her at home to improve the skills. Homework assignments allow your child to be the best that he or she can be. Our goal is to develop the eight skills in the Little Ninjas Program thoroughly. With your help, your child will learn and grow with commitment and dedication to excellence in everything that he or she does.

Enroll your 3- to 6-year-old at our school today. The first ten receive a free uniform.