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Martial Arts, Wrestling and Hand Holding

Apr 19, 2019
Dads with 4-5 year olds, martial arts for kids? Wrestling, facepalm and hand holding

I’m going to recommend that maybe you ‘not’ enroll your 3-5 year old in a martial arts program. If anything, enroll them into a gymnastics, tumbling program.


You see, let’s imagine they ‘actually do’ end up getting rough with a kid in their kindergarten class. The other child ends up grabbing your child, causing her to fall over.  Going to the ground safely, rolling, being aware of what’s on the ground and coming back to their feet is more important to their immediate safety, than that mean kindergartener.


If you do chose to enroll your little one into a martial art at such a young age, then I strongly encourage an art like quality Judo or Brazilian Jiujitsu.


Although I love the traditional Okinawa styles, I couldn’t suggest a kara-te or striking art at this young age. Not a lot of people realize that the growth plates in a young person are still developing, so striking and impact can be dangerous, while not creating immediate effects, can certainly disrupt long term injury.


An option I took for my young son was getting him involved in our school’s youth wrestling program. It was an excellent choice, and admittedly new ground for me. Anything that exposes children to ground movement, balance and safe movement… and how to get back up.


The next thing that I'm going to encourage you to do is what I call, ‘face touch’. Make a game out of open palm and back of hand face touching, and have your children do the same to you. I know this seems odd at first, but stay with me …


Do not pretend to be simulating slaps, rather place your entire hand on your child’s face  on his face quickly and open hand, open hand, back hand, back hand. Have some fun with it, but as his Dad, you understand that there is an extremely important conditioning exercise for your child taking place in this play.


The next step is to turn this into some light wrestling, start moving her body by turning her shoulders and hips, redirecting her.  This will get her comfortable with pivoting her body and maintaining balance.


Then go to the ground and just do lots of tumble and wrestling. As we know, little boys love to wrestle, not so much little girls - but some do! Have fun with it. 


Wrestle in different environments too, especially ones they are not comfortable in. Cold, snow, rain. Have them wrestle you with a blanket or jacket over their head.


The more hands-on time you have with them and the more touch-to-face you play, the lower the potential for them to experience what's called the freeze, should a dangerous situation happen present itself to them.


The reality is that a four to five year old cannot be taught self-defense, they still want to be latched onto mommy's leg. But what a dad can do during this time is to start introducing the dynamic of touch, pivot-balance and tumbling.


This is scary…. One of the scariest demonstrations I give when teaching a personal protection program for a community of parents is called the ‘hold-my-hand’ exercise. Here’s how it works:

    1. I will pick a random child out of the crowd and I'll say, “come on over buddy, stand here”.
    2. Then I’ll simply stand next to this child, bith of us facing the parents.
    3. Next, I’ll just open my hand next to theirs, most of the time they aren’t even looking at me, just looking at the crowd - or straight at mom.
    4. But in the child’s peripheral field vision, they naturally see my hand and remotely lift their hand up to hold mine. No script, no preframe … one hundred percent of the time, these strange little kids automatically lift their hands to mine without question. 


Meditate on that for a moment …


This is a tactic that people who may want to abduct a child know works well. They just walk right up to them, while they're standing there at the toy section or when mom is preoccupied looking for something in the store with her back turned, dealing with other kids, or putting groceries in the car. The criminal will passively approach a child with a hand out, anticipating the kid’s sympathetic response where they'll naturally just put their hand up.


To protect our little one from this response, start giving him a verbal command before you put your hand out. Say, "Want to hold daddy's hand?" And then put your hand out.


By forcing the response to be triggered by an audio command, you are securing them from simply responding to gesture and he won't put his hand up unless he hears your voice.


Once again, at this age they’re all about being locked to you. But this doesn’t mean your job as their dad is any less important in the role of teaching them to stay safe.


Make sure that you get them into falling and tumbling, get them into wrestling, judo or jiujitsu - but be extremely diligent on the instructors quality and credentials.  Touch-to-face, daily face touching with heaps of fast, non-forceful contact. Lastly, start using audio commands versus physical commands when doing such things as holding hands.


Let me know how this works! I'm looking forward to hearing.