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Sticks and Cones Make Strong Bones: Ideas of Drills for Kids

enroll students Dec 12, 2019

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.

 

When you work with children, parents want to know you care about safety. Specifically with children in martial arts, there are three things parents look for when they first walk in:

  1. A First Aid Kit. It is always advisable to have a first-aid kit on hand, preferably somewhere in plain view. It goes a long way in reassuring parents. And if you teach or have kids, you probably already know the seemingly instant healing effect a Band-Aid can have on minor injuries.
  2. Posted Rules. Parents want to know what the expectations for their own children are, and for the other children in the class. Posting rules says a lot about your environment. Make sure the rules are hung in an easy-to-see place.

And, the focus of this article…

  1. Child-Safe Equipment. Using safety sticks, blocks, and cones shows a level of professionalism that parents are looking for. Most parents these days are not looking for you to teach their children as tiny adults (fair, since children are not tiny adults). They are looking for someone who will teach their children as children, building strong foundations that will help them later in life.

 

Equipment designed for children is brightly colored, easy to use and easy to clean. There are endless imaginative configurations and options with adjustable interchangeable equipment.

From a Tiny Tiger's class (6-year-olds). 

Drills using this gear will help improve students’ overall agility, balance, and coordination. Over the years we’ve used them successfully with all age categories. We have had great success bringing this type of equipment into satellite sites located in public schools for after-school programs, demonstrations, and seminars. Here are some pieces of equipment that are popular in our school, and what we do with them.

 

Slip Bar

 

 

 

 

 

             

You will need:

Blocks, Clamps, Safety sticks, and a pair of mitts.

Set a stick vertically in each of the blocks you’ll be using, and use the clamps to set other sticks horizontally (the clamp allows you to change the height of the horizontal sticks as needed). We use this as an adjustable slip bar for boxing month. Have the class practice bobbing and weaving in between the horizontal bars. You can also hold a pair of mitts to give them the feeling of dodging around a real person (depending on the age and skill of your kids, you can also throw very slow! very soft! punches at them to let them slip).

 

Jump Bars

You will need:

9 Cones, 4 safety sticks

Use the holes in eight of the cones to hold up the sticks, forming low, horizontal barriers. The final cone marks the starting space that students must line up behind. Have students line up at the starting cone and jump over the sticks, both feet at a time. Depending on which art you teach, you can likely find a way to link the skills developed in this drill into kicking drills.

 

Vertical Jump Bars

You will need:

6 Cones, 3 safety sticks

Position each stick between two cones in the same way as before. Place your three safety sticks with cones on the ends, and line up vertically so that all the cones and sticks form a single line. Have jump, both feet at the same time, side-to-side over the sticks, working their way forward. More advanced students can try leaping front kicks back and forth over the bars.

 

Over-Under-Over Bars

You will need:

6 Cones, 3 safety sticks

Place three safety sticks at varying heights. The first one should be low enough that the students can jump over it. The second one should be high enough that your students can crawl under it, and the third should be low enough for them to jump over again.

This drill is great for all martial arts, but especially for grappling arts since it teaches kids how to quickly switch level.  

 

Jump Bars to Balance Beam

You will need:

4 Cones, 2 safety sticks, and a Youth Balance Beam

Place two safety stick-cone combos set up across a low beam. Different heights will provide different difficulties. Have students jump over sticks and land on beam. If you’re worried that the Beam is too challenging a target to land on, you can have them land on a Youth Plyo Box instead. Landing on the Beam will provide more practice on balance; however, the primary purpose of this exercise is to make sure they are jumping high enough, and for that, either landing surface will work.

 

Partner Push-Ups

You will need:

1 safety stick per pair of students.

Have your students pair up, and take a push-up position facing each other. There should be about two feet of space between them.

Place sticks in front of one student in each pair. The student with the stick does a push-up, then slides the stick to the second partner. That student then does a push-up, and slides the stick back.

This can be done as a timed drill, or you can make it a contest to see which set of partners can get their stick back and forth the most times!

Note: The item the students use does not need to be a stick. A glove, target, or other small item will work equally well, so long as the object is relatively small and moves easily along the floor.

 

Kick Over Sticks 

You will need

5 Blocks, 5 safety sticks OR Century Multi-Jumper

Using the blocks and sticks, or the multi-jumper, arrange different levels of obstacles for kids to kick over. The nice thing about this exercise is that it will give your kids instant feedback on the height of their kicks without needing an instructor. And even if the kick is too low and the child strikes the stick, the impact is unlikely to injure them.

 

Cone Lanes

        

You will need:

Multiple cones

If you have a variety of cones, it helps keep young kids in order! At our school, we use large cones to mark starting points for the students and small cones to mark the lanes. This helps prevent (or at least reduce) the number of accidentally-on-purpose collisions by rambunctious students.

Each lane has a specific drill associated with it. Students rotate through the lines doing a soldier crawl, kicks, bunny hop, crab walk, frog jump, bear crawl, and finish with a bridge or standing backbend race.

 

This is a selection of drills we use in our school; however, once you start using obstacle course items in your youth classes, I think you’ll find the only limit to what you can do is your imagination!

 

Want more on these drills? Here's a video we made at Project Dojo, showing the set-up:

       

 

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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