Traditionally students below the age of seven have not been accepted for Karate training at the Woodlane Dojo. While there have been exceptions, the thinking was that younger children do not have sufficient levels of attention and concentration to train safely. However, in 2009 sensei Lee Smith was invited to tour and teach at sensei Bruce Hyland’s Dojos in Australia. During this tour Lee observed how Karate training had been successfully adapted for students as young as four years old. Some key lessons in adapting the training included:
- Shorter training sessions with more breaks.
- Introducing a ‘fun’ element into the training to maintain interest.
- No pressure to progress through formal grading.
- Recognising that the capabilities and interests of a 6 or 7 year old are different from those of an 11 or 12 year old – both of which are different from an older student.
- Providing an inital period of one month before there is any need for parents to invest in license and training gear.
Lee also observed in Australia how students who had started out as Dragons had progressed into the main stream Karate classes – some even moving on to national competition success. With the permission and blessing of sensei Bruce Hyland, Lee took action to open a dedicated Ishiunyu Dragons club in the UK at Collier Row.
Following a well attended Open Day on Sunday 20 September 2009, the first Dragons lesson was held on Tuesday 29 September. This first session saw over 20 students with more students joining over the coming weeks. At the time of writing the Dragon’s lessons continue to go from strength to strength proving the value of karate to the younger student.