Have you ever noticed how many children participate in martial arts these days?

Last I checked, there martial arts is one of the most popular activities for kids in Australia, and the number of participants is growing each year.

So, the question you have to ask is…

“Why are so many parents enrolling their children in Martial Arts classes?”

The reason why is because parents are recognising the amazing benefits the martial arts has to offer children, throughout the various stages of their development. 

 From the moment a child is born, they begin to progress through stages of development. These stages are broken down into four distinct categories: Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, Social (an easy way to remember these categories is to use the acronym P.I.E.S.). 

Here’s a quick description of each category:

1. Physical: Movement and motor function skills. Development of speed, strength and coordination.

2. Intellectual: Learning, reasoning, problem solving and understanding concepts.

3. Emotional: Expression of feelings and developing a self-concept.

4. Social: Getting along with and interacting with others, following rules.

The problem is that many people aren’t educated on what to expect from children at different ages.

But, if your child has an Expert Kids Instructor, then he or she will recognise when a child is at, below or above their stage of development for their age. An instructor who can do that will be able to understand exactly how to work with your child to really enhance their leaning and development for their specific age.

This works so well because it eliminates any unnecessary or unrealistic pressure put on the student. And when that type of pressure is gone, it gets rid of a lot of frustration from instructors, students and parents. 

When that frustration is gone, it allows a lot of room for growth, no matter if your child is at, below or above their age’s stage of development. 

In fact, it works so well that many times, an expert martial arts instructor can take a child who is below their stage of development, and through specific training and exercises, help them excel above and beyond what is expected for their age group!

Pretty cool, right?!

Want to find out more about your child’s specific age and stage of development?

Well you’re in luck!

Little Dragons (3 & 4 year old’s)

Little Dragons is our 3 & 4 year old pre-martial arts program.

So far on this blog I’ve mentioned a few times how important it is for instructors to understand the stages of development for younger students. 

We love teaching our Little Dragons, our 3 & 4 year old’s! The reason why is because they are a big challenge, but also they love to have fun.

I’m going to break down each category for you. This way, you’ll know exactly what to expect from your child and see how martial arts can help foster proper development for your little one. 

Here we go!


At three and four years old, kids are becoming very active physically. However, they are still early in the process of developing muscle tone.  This may lead them to struggle with tasks that older kids or adults do easily. 

For Example: A pre-schooler may only be able to hold their arms out to the side for 5 seconds before they begin to drop. 

Sitting up straight for longer than 5-10 seconds is difficult due to under developed core muscles. 

Being able to balance on one leg or run and jump without falling is limited due to the low development of leg muscles.

Because of this, many uneducated  instructors, coaches or parents might think their child/student lacks focus or is being lazy when they don’t sit up straight or fall down often. When that’s usually not the case. 

Now, what’s great is that in Martial Arts classes here at Southern Cross Martial Arts, we have a ton of great ways to help your child develop through their current stage of development.


Verbal communications skills are a major aspect of intellectual development for this age group. At this age, children still often have trouble following verbal cues only. They also struggle with processing and repeating commands with 3 or more steps. 

For example, if I was teaching a class and said “Ok everyone, I want you to move forward and show me a kick, a punch, a high block and a yell! Then run back to the back of the room and sit down,” it would be likely that most of the students wouldn’t perform the tasks properly. 

They might remember that they have to kick and punch and maybe block. But, they will probably miss the yell, and forget to run back and sit down. 

Again, someone who isn’t aware of this stage of development might get frustrated and assume that the kids aren’t listening to the instructions. But, in reality it’s much more likely that their brains just aren’t ready to process so much verbal communication at one time. Don’t forget, English is still very new to kids this age.

So, how does Martial Arts help develop communication skills in class?

We always make sure we break things down into simple, well defined, and understandable steps. And we ALWAYS get verbal confirmation that the students understand what we’re telling them. It may sound simple, but it works wonderfully every time!


At this age, children are still developing an understanding of what emotions they are feeling. So, it’s common for them to act out when they are overwhelmed by emotions. When they feel uncomfortable with an emotion, they tend to go towards whatever gives them comfort. So, they might go to their parents, or they might just freeze and stop responding to questions. 

We see this the most when a new student comes in for the first time. A lot of times, a child will be really excited for their first karate class but, it can be very intimidating when they arrive and see an adult black belt and an entire class of Karate kids. So, they start to feel nervous and the only thing they can think to do is grab on to their Mum or Dad. They may even say they don’t want to try the class anymore. 

But, with a little patience it’s easy to get the nerves to go away. What we often do is tell the brand new student that they can sit with their parent and watch class as long as they want. As soon as they feel like they want to jump into class, they can let me know and they’re welcome to join in.  Once the new student feels safe and sees how much fun the class is, they immediately want to try it and by the end of class, they can’t wait to come back. 


Because their language skills aren’t fully developed, kids at this age often communicate non-verbally. So, their social interactions involve a lot of mocking and touching. They will often imitate each other as a way to build a connection. Also, at this age they begin to learn how to play with others by sharing and taking turns at this age. 

Games are a great way to encourage social development for three and four year old’s. We have a lot of simple and fun games that we play in class. 

As you can see, with just a little bit of understanding of the Physical, Intellectual, Emotional and Social stages of development, you can gain a HUGE amount of perspective on how your child acts, thinks and interacts with the world. 

At Southern Cross Martial Arts, we always keep this in mind when designing our classes and teaching your child. That way, we can help them grow and learn to reach their full potential!

Junior Dragons (5 to 7 year old’s)

Junior Dragons is our 5 to 7 year old Kidz Karate program.

This age group is just entering into primary school, which helps them really understand structure. That structure helps their learning skyrocket! 

Now, you may remember from my last post that children develop in four distinct categories: Physically, Intellectually, Emotionally, and Socially. 

I’m going to break down each category for you. This way, you’ll know exactly what to expect from your child and see how martial arts can help foster proper development for your little one.

Here we go!


During this developmental stage, children have a good foundation of muscular development in their upper body, lower body and core muscles. Their balance also improves. They should fall down much less while running or jumping but, they may still stumble occasionally with challenging activities. 

Even though this age group’s muscular ability has increased, their strength, endurance and fine motor skills are still relatively low.  It’s common for this age group to struggle with performing more than 10 repetitions of an exercise. Also, accuracy and precision during exercise is still a challenge. 

At Southern Cross Martial Arts, one way I like to help our Junior Dragons begin to build up their endurance, precision and balance is through a drill called, “4 Parts of the Kick.” 

Most Karate kicks have four parts. We call them Up, Out, Back and Down. If you are unfamiliar with karate kicks, here’s a general idea of how it works. 

Up:  Picking your leg off the ground to get ready to kick.

Out:  Extending your leg into the kicking position.

Back:  Bringing your leg back to the “Up” position, to prepare to set your foot on the ground. 

Down:  Setting your foot back on the ground with control. 

This drill can be tough for Junior Dragons. It takes PRECISION, LEG STRENGTH and a BALANCE. So, we break it down into stages to help them develop at their own pace. 

PRECISION: Students perform the kick while sitting on the ground. This isolates the kicking leg. That way they can put all of their focus into performing the 4 parts of the kick with precision without having to focus on stability, balance and lower body endurance. 

LEG STRENGTH: After students show precision on the ground, I’ll have them perform the 4 parts of the kick while standing against a wall or with an instructor holding their arm to keep their balance. This helps them develop muscular endurance in their standing leg without having to worry about falling over.

BALANCE: Once the student can show me the four parts of the kick with control and precision, then they are ready to develop balance by completing the kick unassisted!


60%-80% of a child’s vocabulary should be developed during this stage. So, at this age, you can have longer more detailed conversations with children. But, as a parent, teacher or instructor, it’s important to remember that comprehension and retention is still developing at this age. 

So, making sure to communicate ideas and instructions in a simplified context that makes sense to a 5, 6 and 7 year old is an important tool to keep both you and the child from becoming frustrated. 

A great way to communicate with this age group is by using something I call, “Is. Is not.”  It’s simple. When describing something, instead of being overly complicated, simply help them understand what it IS and what it IS NOT. Then confirm with them to make sure they got it! This helps them define commands, instructions and ideas in their minds. 

For Example: Here’s a common exercise we’ll have our Junior Dragons students do in class: “Step forward with your left leg and punch.”  Now, if we told a group of students to do that, they might get it right. Although, many of them might hear the instruction but fail to retain it. 

So instead, we’ll have a conversation with the students. Like this….

Instructor: “We’re going to step forward with our left leg and punch. Got it?”

Students: “Yes, sensei!”

Instructor: “Which leg steps forward?”

Students: “Left leg, sensei!”

Instructor: “Good! Are we kicking or punching?”

Students: “Punching, sensei!”

Instructor: “That’s right!”

Spending just a few extra seconds to confirm the students know what IS and what IS NOT expected of them makes a world of difference! 


Confidence and motivation area huge part of the emotional development of our five to seven year old Junior Dragons. What’s great is that at this age, kids build confidence and motivation by making their parents, teachers, instructors or any other role model proud. So, they spend a lot of time trying to impress us!

Most of the time, this makes teaching this age group a breeze but, there are some behaviours that develop by this desire to impress, that can be misinterpreted as acting out of bounds or having a lack of discipline. 

For example, we like to ask students questions at the beginning of class. A lot of times I’ll have student’s raise their hands to answer a question. But, it’s pretty common that I’ll pick one child to answer a question and another student will shout out the answer before the first child has the chance to answer. 

At first, it may seem like the child who shouted out the answer isn’t focused or lacks discipline. But, more often than not, they are just trying to build a connection with us (their instructors) and impress us with how much they know. 

Now, that doesn’t excuse their behaviour but, as instructors it helps us understand the intention of the student and redirect their desire to impress me in a more positive way.  


Children at this stage of development love the spotlight, love to be the best, and love to win. So, they do something that helps them do these things: THEY CHEAT!

But, their cheating isn’t an attempt to break the rules. They just do it because they have such a great desire to be the best.  As a parent, teacher or instructor, it’s important to teach good sportsmanship at this age. 

At Southern Cross Martial Arts, we love to have races in class. One simple race we do in class is to have everyone complete 10 punches as fast as they can. Whoever punches the fastest wins but, kids at this age group will often skip a few punches in order to finish first.

So, when this happens, the easiest way to correct it is to adjust the goal. Instead of having kids compete to see who punches the FASTEST, we tell them that I’m going to see who does all ten punches the BEST. Shifting the focus is the easiest way to reduce cheating with this age bracket. 

Unfortunately, when you play games there are winners AND losers. Because of their strong desire to always win, it often makes kids in this class sore losers and boastful winners. It is therefore important to develop the beginning stages of compassion during competitive games.

If a child is boastful, I’ll have them consider how it would feel if they lost and someone was boastful to them. If a child is frustrated because they lost, we’ll have them think about how they would want everyone to be happy for them if they won.  These feelings can be reinforced by having kids cheer for winners and encourage losers by telling them they did a good job.  

Want to know more? Have you child try out our classes for a couple of weeks and see how we do it.

SPECIAL OFFER: TWO Weeks Unlimited Kids  Program + FREE Uniform for Just $39.99  (valued at $75)