By Michelle Hodnett
Project Dojo is a nonprofit community outreach program in Pueblo, Colorado, that works with at-risk children. Through the power of martial arts, Project Dojo seeks to inspire and motivate kids within a safe environment, while continuing to teach the traditions of martial arts. This is the story of Project Dojo co-founder Michelle Hodnett’s experiences in her martial arts journey.
Blockers and targets from Century are great tools for building kid-friendly drills to develop blocking skills and timing. The most effective way to use this equipment with children is to make it a game. When a child is laughing and having fun, they are more responsive to learning.
One student from each team must sprint to the center of the mat, tag their target, and then rush back to the starting point to grab their blocker. They must try and tag the other team member before getting tagged themselves (explain to them that no head contact is allowed, and have them wear headgear or eye protection as a precaution).
After a few rounds and they get the hang of it, have students judo roll or perform a certain kick after touching the target. If they do not perform the technique correctly, they must redo it before being allowed to pick up the blocker. This teaches them the importance of correct technique even under duress.
Isometrics are a type of strength training. These exercises are done in static positions, rather than being dynamic through a range of motion (for example, lifting a weight and holding it steady rather than curling it). This drill is a basic isometric exercise of kids, with an added challenge!
Have your students throw a kick, like a roundhouse, front kick, or side kick, as high as they can (depending on the age of your students, they can be near a wall, to put one hand on it for balance). They must hold the kicking leg as still as they can, for as long as they can.
Here’s the challenge: Once students start to get really good at holding their legs steady for a long period of time, take a blocker and start gently tapping the outstretched leg. This will add a degree of difficulty, making the exercise more effective. Make sure that students understand that the extra challenge is a reward for doing so good at the drill earlier!
Blocker Time Drills:
Martial artists understand the importance of timing. One second too early or too late can cost you. This drill allows students to strike at full speed and full strength while working timing against a moving “opponent,” without risking injury as sparring would.
The striker squares off against a heavy bag (freestanding bags like the Versys 1 or Wavemaster are great for this). Their partner stands alongside the bag, holding a blocker. They should try to keep the blocker touched to the bag; however, they can slide it around the surface to block certain shots.
At first, have the blocker-holder move the blocker is a slow pattern, like high-low-high. The areas that the blocker is not touching are “open” for striking. As the striker gets better, the holder can move erratically or try to block punches. This teaches students to pick their shots.
Blockers for Obstacle Course:
Create a living obstacle course: Have students or other instructors hold a blocker in each hand and create a gauntlet for one student at a time to run through. The blocker holders remain in place, not moving their feet, but moving their arms. Students running the gauntlet must bob and weave to avoid getting hit.
The nickname for this game came from our students, who noticed a resemblance between the equipment this game uses and the popular ear-cleaning device. Use your Century Dual Blocker Kit to create a double-ended training tool. Start with establishing where is “in-bounds” for the game. One student holds the Q-tip in the middle of the playing floor. That student has 30 seconds to tag as many people as possible, while other students must avoid getting hit. Students can dodge, run, crawl, and dive to escape the Blocker.
Blocker Gladiator: Have two students, each with a blocker or double blocker, stand on the Youth Balance Beam and try and knock each other off (again, no headshots allowed!). The first one to step off the beam loses. This game works balance and timing.
Sword-and-Shield Drill: This offense/defense drill teaches basic combat skills. Have students hold a blocker in their dominant hand and a hand target in the other. The goal is to tap the other person; however, the hand target can be used to intercept strikes. This helps your students understand when to attack and when to block.
Double Coupler Blocker Extension: Use two Blocker Extensions to work on skills such as slipping, bobbing and weaving. The Blocker Extension allows instructors to be able to move more quickly.
Be creative and bold, and above all have fun!
Want more on these drills? Here's a video we made at Project Dojo, showing the set-up:
(Note: Foam weapons such as ActionFlex swords or escrima can be used in place of blockers in several of these drills.)
Michelle Hodnett is the co-founder of Project Dojo. She is a third-degree black belt with over 15 years experience as an instructor.
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