For choosing karate lessons for kids, just like the adults choosing a class for themselves, you have to be able to observe a class. Of paramount importance is trusting the instructor. I've realized over the years from feedback from parents that the instructor definitely has an influence over the child and the way he behaves. So feeling comfortable with that is really important for parents.
What the kids will get from karate is probably quite something different from any other activity they'll do. Because doing karate they enter a different world, different disciplines, different rituals, and also a hierarchy that perhaps doesn't exist outside of the karate world so much these days. Through this hierarchy knowing that they've got seniors in the class, knowing that they have to respect those seniors, and listen to perhaps any advice that they might get given is really key, I think, for the kids going up through the ranks.
I start my kids at six. Some places have them younger. I find that under six, you know, knowing their left from their right, being able to do the technical things is lacking some times. Although occasionally I'll take an exceptional child. Over six they can start to grasp the technical aspects.
I always teach proper karate. You know, it's not a games class. And I think making karate very user friendly by making it into games is perhaps not the impression that the kids should have. They need to know that this is not play time, and it's quite serious. I'm pretty serious with my kids. I joke with them as well, but when I'm serious they know it and they behave themselves. When they're good I praise them.
So I think having this balance and having this somewhat stern environment can be good for the kids. When they take their gradings, this is not for six months that they might take a test or go up the ranks. So they learn a sort of delayed gratification, and when they pass a test they really know they've earned it. Instead of doing something little and they get a reward, they have to wait a very long time in some cases. So there's a sense of self worth when they pass their test because they know that it was an achievement. I think that's a very good thing that traditional karate classes bring.