Three Curriculum Questions for Martial Arts Instructors

martial arts curriculum

NOTE: There is a link to the curriculum at the bottom of the page.

1. What is easier to learn? A hook kick or a sidekick? I say the hook kick.

Which do you teach first? I’ve always taught sidekick first. Why? Because it’s always been taught that way.

In truth, when you are teaching hook kick, most students are actually doing a low hook kick. Why? It’s a more natural movement.

2. What is easier to learn? A spinning hook kick or a spinning back kick? I say the spinning hook kick.

Which do you teach first? I’ve always taught spinning back kick. Why? Because it’s always been taught that way. The reality is that most kids can do a spinning hook kick on their first day in class.

3. As white belts in your school, do students have to first learn the basic tradition blocks and stances before they move into more applicable strikes and kicks? Why?

Traditional anything is more complex (not more advanced) than most any strike or kick. The application of traditional material is also harder to grasp for the new student.

Do the traditional arts have value? Yes! Absolutely. It’s just a bit of a hard sale to retain a new student when he is hit with this kind of complexity right out of the gate.

For the past few years I have been working on a curriculum that makes teaching and learning martial arts easy.

Rather than spreading practice time over dozens, if not hundreds of techniques, we focus on a much smaller amount of techniques so we can spend more time on each.

The idea is that if you spend 45-minutes practicing a half-dozen techniques in various applications your students will feel much more progress than if you spend that class teaching or reviewing a 24-move kata.

We call a month a Module. Each month the focus of the module changes:

Three Modules  = One Term

Term One

1. Kickboxing

2. Weapons / Ground

3. Martial Arts

Term Two

1. Kickboxing

2. Weapons / Ground

3. Martial Arts

Term Three

1. Kickboxing

2. Weapons / Ground

3. Martial Arts

Term Four

1. Kickboxing

2. Weapons / Ground

3. Martial Arts


Children’s Curriculum-Transition

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The success of the children’s curriculum is totally dependent on how well you manage the transition of introducing the program. 

Changes dictated from the master instructor to the students are often met with resistance, confusion, and in the case of parents, resentment and unhappiness. 

Parents want success for their children. When the instructor suddenly changes the requirements for rank or advancement, some parents will feel their child has “wasted time” learning the previous material. 

Start the transition by presenting it to the leadership team. The introduction of new material to the leadership team will be exciting and appreciated. Not only will the leadership team enjoy the process, but the instructor will have an opportunity to work out how he or she wants to present the material.

The new curriculum first begins with the white belt students. Since they know the least amount of material, it will not be a “change” to them. The material will simply follow them up the ranks.

For the current under-ranks, begin to introduce elements of the new program, but they should not be made requirements until the instructor is confident that the school is comfortable with the material. 

Portions of the old material can then be phased out and replaced with the new material over the course of the next few exams. 

The general rule of thumb is the shorter a period of time the student has been in the school, the more receptive he is to change. 

Conversely, the upper-ranking students are used to a certain methodology and the fact they are still students indicates they enjoy it. The upper ranks are in the school because they like the way things are; they are most sensitive to change. 

Often the best strategy is to recruit them, much like the leadership team, into the process. 

Although it can be expected that the upper ranks may have emotionally driven responses at first, given time and a well-managed transition, everyone will begin to enjoy the benefits of what is being taught, especially how it is being taught.

Children’s Curriculum – Introduction

Children’s Curriculum – Introduction

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When the teacher asks the children, “What is the biggest room in the world?”  the well-trained students will respond, “the room for improvement.” 

The MATA Children’s Curriculum was born out of the idea that there is room for improvement in what and how we teach the martial arts to children. 

In many cases this approach works. In many other cases, it does not. The outcome is far too many children miss out on the benefits derived from the long-term study of the martial arts. They drop out of classes because they grow bored with the program or some reason akin to it.  

The actual numbers are not known, but it is a fair estimate that ninety percent of the children who enroll in martial arts classes fail to continue their study to the rank of first-degree black belt. 

The martial arts instructor often blames this problem on the children for their lack of discipline and perseverance, but the truth is, self-discipline and perseverance are exactly what we’re supposed to be teaching them. These goals we can’t accomplish unless our students stick around long enough to learn the lessons.

The MATA Children’s Curriculum was designed to be fun for children as well as to enrich their lives with its powerful benefits. 

As we were developing the curriculum we asked ourselves, “What do children in today’s world really need and how can the martial arts fulfill those needs?” 

The MATA Children’s Curriculum is simplistic yet diverse in its approach to a number of innovative concepts that nurture, entertain and motivate children. 

We also designed it to be easy to teach. It is strong enough to stand on its own or it can be integrated into any children’s system.

For the teacher, the curriculum serves as a foundation upon which to teach and build basic skills. It did not originate from any one style nor does it owe a debt to any particular individual.

It is not any specific style; it is simply “martial art.” It is a tool to help schools increase student retention with a fun, effective, and above all else, educational approach. 

It contains lessons in intensity, manners, anger management, non-violent conflict resolution, anatomy and physiology, history, goal setting, public speaking, teaching, and team building. 

MATA calls this approach to balancing education and technique an “education-based curriculum.” Remember this phrase, as it will be a key selling point for your children’s courses. 

An education-based curriculum is one that rests on a foundation of education above tradition, technique, countries of origin, above all else. What we place as the number-one priority on the list (and hope you will, too) is the quality of education for children participating in your programs.

The MATA Children’s Curriculum grew from a need to improve upon what and how we teach children the martial arts today. After all, it is today’s young students who will carry the martial arts and its potential for self-improvement, empowerment and personal transformation into the future.

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