What to Expect: A Typical Day in a Formal Kung Fu Class for Kids


To master Kung Fu, you must first master yourself. The ancient and noble martial art is more than what you see in the dojo when two masters duke it out for supremacy or on the odd TV show harps about a fabled secret move like the “Fists of Fury” or a “Crane Kick” finisher. Kung Fu is about the constant improvement of one’s physical and internal training (i.e., meditation) through hard work and practice. It brings mindfulness and stress relief to its practitioners and can help them with impulse control and assertiveness. As with most skills, early instruction yields more impactful results, and young students of Kung Fu enjoy participating in classes and gaining valuable physical, mental and spiritual skills in the process of self-mastery. Here’s what a typical day looks like in formal kung fu classes for kids.

School’s out. Young Michael is dropped off at the community fitness centre by his parents for an hour of Kung Fu instruction. He quickly changes into his uniform and joins the rest of his classmates in his age bracket (7-12 years) doing warmups and stretches. A teen leads them in jumping jacks, burpees, knee and hamstring stretches, shoulder rotations, broad jumps, and light on-the-spot jogging. These emphasise mobility and loosen the group up for the rest of the lessons. The Kung Fu instructor has just finished up with the 3-6-year-olds and makes her way to Michael’s warmed-up group. After preliminary greetings, small talk about the lesson’s activities and some good-natured ribbing, the group works through basic techniques and drills, with the instructor taking her charges through different stances, punches, kicks and blocks. Practice and repetition of these moves build muscle memory and encourage muscle growth. They also act as great cardiovascular exercise. Michael may not grasp the finer aspects of this, but he notices that the warmups do not leave him as winded as before, and he can hold a particularly troubling stance for longer than he could last time. 

Next, the group works through the kata of the day. A kata is a form involving choreographed movements meant to simulate combat scenarios. The instructor walks around correcting forms where necessary. As this kata has been taught before, the instructor asks a volunteer to demonstrate it to the class. 

Sabrina, Michael’s classmate, makes it through half of the kata’s demonstration before stumbling slightly, but she recovers her footing and powers through the rest of the sequence successfully. Kung Fu has taught her that mistakes are natural and not something to obsess over but can instead be taken in stride. After kata practice, the instructor breaks the group up for partner exercises, where classmates practise blows and blocks together or lightly spar. Partners are key in pointing out flaws in each other’s movements and they also simulate real-world situations thus improving reaction time and reflexes. Some strength and coordination exercises in the form of bodyweight exercises or the use of wooden dummies may also be included, but these are eschewed on this particular day in favour of a few light sparring matches with the class as an audience.  

The instructor keeps the sparring light and fun and corrects the students’ mistakes while the students learn from each other and gain confidence from standing in front of the entire class and sparring with an audience. The breathing and meditation exercises come next. These are done to promote mindfulness and relaxation. Inner peace is a strong foundation, and the kids use this clarity to self-reflect and control their impulses while also becoming individuals in touch with their true thoughts. Michael is asked to lead the class in some cooldown exercises involving light stretching to prevent muscle soreness the next day. 

The instructor commends everyone on a job well done and lets them know what to expect for the next class. She also informs them to keep practising at home, as the Kung Fu tournament is coming up in a few months and will be open for all who want to participate. The class concludes with Michael tired but happy, having learned a few new blocks and gaining confidence from taking his class through a cooldown exercise. He is eager to get home and show his parents how high he can kick and practise for the upcoming tournament.

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