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Kids will always get out, what they put in

When a parent decides to sign their child up to join a club or activity. No matter what age they are, I always say they should try a number of different activities to see what they really like in the world of sports. For example if your child is 4 years old and wants to play football, sign them up for a fun session, see what they think. Then when they show a flare for running or for kicking, let them try athletics or rugby etc. It is only by trying a number of things that sometimes children can truly find what they love most and where their talents are put to the most good use, but more importantly find somewhere they belong and feel happy. Once they find their calling, they should embrace it and give it predominately more time than other activities.

In my life as a martial artist. I have achieved things people dream of for their children, or indeed I am sure some of my very own students dream of. I have been world champion 8 times, I have so many trophies and medals my Mam dreaded the thought of having to do the dusting. But I am not saying this to be big headed or to show off. It is what I achieved. When ever people walked into my parents house in Ireland, they would always comment on the number of trophies/medals on display in our living room. People were always amazed and said things like “you clearly have a knack for that!”, “you must be naturally gifted to do so well” etc. The reality is, I am not naturally gifted in anyway. I worked very hard for what I earned.

I started martial arts as a pre teen, but prior to this I was never selected for school sports and was always guaranteed to be chosen last by my peers for any team. I kept benches warm across the country as I watched as my team mates played on the court/fields. Incredibly shy, few friends and always terrified of making mistakes in each sport, I never won anything. School sports day was my favourite day of the year, but I never once won a single thing.

Until one day I went to my first Martial arts session, a local Kenpo class. I watched the first lesson from the side, terrified someone would ask me any questions because I was so shy. One instructor Tommy however seen me on the side and at the end of the lesson said “I bet you will be back next week, I can see it in your eye that you want to join in!”, I nodded. He said “Well I will see you next week then, you will love it”. I went home on top of the world, ready to join in the following week.

I was almost sick with worry in the days leading up to the first class, I so wanted to go, but so didn’t at the same time. But somehow my friends at the time talked me into it. I joined in the class, I watched the higher ranks and was mesmerised by all they knew and how they moved in their forms. The main instructor John told me they trained there twice a week, that was all it took I was sold. The other instructor Tommy however came up to me afterwards patted me on the head and said “I knew you would love it, keep it up your gonna be good at this, I can tell from how you moved”. I beamed and floated home that evening.

From that point I trained two days a week, and practiced every day in between, even with little to practice I would do it over and over until I was totally worn out. I begged my friends to teach me more when we played outside. I just could not get enough. After a few months, everyone attended the Xmas tournament, I did not go, I was not very good and was too new to even consider it. Despite being asked to go by my friends.

As the new year came round, I heard there was actually 4 lessons a week I could attend. So I started training from Monday – Thursday. I never missed a lesson. Everything and everyone had to wait until my training was finished before I could do anything else. That was me, still training in between and eventually competing at the weekends.

I worked so incredibly hard, but it was never hard work. I just loved it all so much. I won at tournaments when I travelled the world, adventures that were bigger than me. But I loved every second, believe it or not I am not even competitive. My parents house still holds the scars of my training, from holes in the ceiling where I tried to practice with a Bo Staff (6 foot stick) to marks on the walls where I needed to stick up all my technique names to help me practice them. My siblings lost many hours of their child hoods, helping me train too! Holding my book and calling out names, to holding the pads so I could practice my kicking. (Of course I am always very grateful to them) My parents must have gone mad driving me back and forth to training, competitions and finding the money to allow me to follow my dreams and passions.

I got my black belt after only 5 years of training. But when you look at how many hours a week I trained/taught/practiced. It wasn’t fast at all. Compute that into today's society of children who only do one day a week, now it takes 15-20 years to get to black belt and that’s if they ever get there. Because to learn what is required for Black belt it takes a lot more time and patience.

So take a moment to stop and think about what your child thinks about their training. Are they happy just having a class one day a week, to see their friends, exercise and have fun. Or is your child one of those small percentage of children who really love what they do and want to achieve everything they can. It is that child who needs to train more often, to be the best you have to train like the best.

You do not see Olympic athletes in any sport, who have got where they are because they attended a lesson once a week. They are there because it became their favourite thing to do, the thing they just could not get enough of. They live and breathe their sport. Just like I live and breathe my martial arts to this day.

So if your child has tried many sports/activities over the years. And they show the love and dedication to one in particular. Stand up and embrace it. Train two – four days a week. See where it takes them, see what they can achieve. That does not mean to say that your child will choose my classes, perhaps it’s the football team they love that is their thing? I will gladly stand up and be counted as the instructor who helped them achieve their dreams, whether they are inside or outside of my classes.

Here is a rough guide to how often I would recommend someone to train. Keeping in mind that if your child is reaching the higher level of our belt system then they must be looking to continue this on for the foreseeable future or even for life, you will get out of this what you put in:

Beginners upwards:

Age Times per week Total Time per week

Under 3 years Once a week 30 mins

3-5 years Once a week 45 mins to 1 hour

5-7 years Once a week 1 hour

8-12 years Twice a week 1:30 hours

13+ Twice a week 2 hours

From Blue/Green Belt upwards however:

Age Times per week Total Time per week

8-12 years Twice a week 2-3 hours

13+ Twice a week 3+ hours

Brown/Black Belt:

Age Times per week Total Time per week

Any 3-4 Times a week 4-8+ hours


In our Kenbu Dojo’s we do not pile kids high through the doors for pure profit. We pile the smaller number of children in each group as high as they can go, so they can truly achieve their very best possible! A lot of love, time and care goes into planning my lessons, improving every student as an individual helping each and every one of the students to achieve something they may never have thought possible.

We are more an extension of your family, then a service provider.

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