Training the young is something many people have a hard time with..
From the time I began, in many schools, I saw young people training alongside adults. Frequently children of the instructor (s). Different schools had different standards for promotion.
I chose to begin a youth program through the Scranton Boys Club, as much a way as to remain in Isshinryu as anything. I taught them exactly as I was taught. Among other things my program was also the first program to bring young women into the Boy’s Club too .
All the instructor’s in my region thought I was crazy, often stating why don’t you do real karate. I paid no attention to them.
One day I was requested to attend the black belt examination of my instructor’s son (11) and another instructor’s daughter (12). They had among the very best tests I have ever seen, anytime. I know many objected to their receiving black belts. Both of them were also seasoned competitors by that time, with long strings of victories in form, weapons and fighting divisions.
A year later that young woman went to compete at the Isshinryu Nationals at Howard Longs tournament. She went to compete in Kobudo, There was no woman’s division and so he signed up in the men’s division. The male competitors were outraged to have a young girl in their division. Mr. Long set them straight, she competed.
And won first place at 13. Beating all the men.
It those first 5 years in Scranton, while we did compete in tournaments, they were not my focus. I did not like the way the young people got lost in the crowd of competitors.I then hit on the idea of a youth only tournament. I the ran one for three years, with great success for everyone. (Ironically I would note that among the schools competing were those who thought I was crazy for training the young.
Then I had to move to New Hampshire for work, and sadly closed that program.
Beginning anew I had the chance to address things I thought would make my program stronger.
The Derry Boys and Girls Club permitted me immediately to begin a new program. (5 years experience working with the Scranton Boys Club did help get acceptance too). I also began an adult program at the same time.
I had had no problem teaching youth (7 to 20) exactly as I had been taught. But my program was about teaching, not reaching black belt). So to slow down the pace, I included a set of other Okinawan beginning forms, ones I could be seen as skill building blocks to be used to prepare students for what I saw as ever stronger Isshinryu. (And for simplicity I kept the adult program to the same new standard).
Without going into details, the program developed young people to reach for our standards fo Dan examination over 7 to 9 years. By example my son began classes at age 7 (of course he had been around the dojo literally from day 3 of his life). His own Dan was reached as he graduated high school (no difference, the same standards as the rest).
I had come to realize what I was doing, was what adults in my home town did, when I was a kid. They gave themselves in many program for the young. Little League, Scouts, Teams of other sorts, Church choirs and youth programs. They knew that the community would be better by sharing with the young.
That is what I was doing, Using Isshinryu to lead them to better lives, not by becoming a black belt, rather helping them understand they Can learn, by their own efforts, even when those efforts are difficult.
The new student realized that one day, when they saw new beginners who could not tell their right foot from their left, and they could now do that and a whole lot more. They realized they could learn, and were surrounded by others, lower and higher rank, who were doing the same thing.
I knew most students would only stay 2 or 3 years at the average. It became the real karate lesson, that they could make the effort and learn anything if they tried. Far more important than reaching any belt.
And if they decided to move on, they knew they did so with my blessing, having told them learning how to make decisions about how they would spend their lives, was far more important.
A very few stay the course and reach Sho Dan. Each of them skilled every time.
Then reality hits, hard, they move on with their lives.
School, Military, Work, even Marriage, so many ways that mean they don’t stay around the town. And that is natural too. They have learned how to decide what is more important, you helped them learn that lesson.
And you are proud you enabled them to learn it.
Over the years a very few return and keep training, then in the adult program.
In my case 2 of them. One for 34 years or so. Another for 25 years or so.
In the case of my son, he was a good student, but also had many other activities. At one time or another they were dance, little league, soccer, flute, among other interests, The dance was 2 years before he began karate. Among the better early movement training available, the sports were for years and years, the flute from 5th grade now to lifetime.
But he was just another student in class, I never gave him private instruction, class was enough. When he graduated school he did go away to college. When home he did train, now in the adult program, His karate improved. Eventually he made Ni Dan.
Then it became time for adult decisions, He did not chose to remain in krate.
I am proud he could make that choice. Though I do wish otherwise.
But him knowing what was more important to him was more important to me.
This is only a brief overview of what I experienced.
Some day I may learn a little more.