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ASP & Children

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Children between the ages of 8 and 13 (middle childhood to beginning teens) are considered good candidates for A.S.P. Above 13 they may join adult classes, while below 8 it is best to let them be children. Physical education researchers (Duncan 1951; Breckenridge and Vincent, 1960; Bucher and Reade, 1964) feel that the needs and characteristics of children below 8 can pose restrictions on a physical education program. At this period of fun and fantasy, children are full of energy, but easily fatigued, they have a short span of attention; while eager to learn, they are also restless. Young children are anxious to do well, but they are very sensitive to the feelings of peers and adults. Because their large muscles are better developed than the small ones, they require motor activities which need little instruction and involve their large muscles.

Children 8-13 are extremely active and capable of sustaining prolonged interest. They like physical activity and rough and tumble play and can tolerate it for longer periods of time. Their interest in competitive games grows and this is the right time to impress on them rules of good sportsmanship and increased responsibilities. They can develop self-reliance and finer motor skills. This is the time to build self-concept and self-confidence, by showing the children that they can achieve. The development of proper social and play relationships with peers can be reached, while physical conditioning and coordination are being developed.

All this can be achieved in a safe environment, where a child can have fun and learn at the same time. There are two areas where the instructor must exercise caution. The one is too much fun, because then fun turns from an asset into a liability and drives children to a hyperactive state, where they do not listen to instruction, become a danger to their mates by horseplay, and are very hard to settle down. Fun MUST be tempered with no-nonsense discipline. The other area has, unfortunately, to do with parents. All too many try to project onto their children their frustrated athletic aspirations and thus prevent them from behaving like children and having fun. Such parents become demanding and pushy. Frequently, they are the reason why their children develop inferiority complexes, poor sportsmanship, and lose the ability to have fun. One or more talks with them may cure the problem, if not, it is best to ask them to take their children elsewhere, because their behavior is not only obnoxious, but also very disruptive. Keeping in mind the above, children's programs should not be much different from those of the adults, except for the rate at which new techniques are introduced, the elimination of dangerous ones, and the increased patience required on the part of the instructor.

Primary Self-Defense for Children

The ability of children to learn varies enormously, not only from child to child because of natural ability, but also from age to age bracket of only one or two years difference.

The A.S.P. system allows children of thirteen with good coordination to join adult co-ed classes. We feel that it is best not to hold classes for children younger than seven. A grouping in three age groups works satisfactorily 7-8 year olds 9-11 and 12-13.

Because the ability to concentrate of young children is not great, it is advisable to limit teaching time to 1/2 hr for the youngest group, 3/4 hr. for the next group and depending on the collective ability, of the last group, up to one hour, no more.

Keep the interest of each group alive by devoting two periods of 5 minutes each to games. A.S.P. Grappling lends itself admirably to this effect. Show the children hold-downs and ways to break them. Pair up the children fairly in terms of weight and age and have each one in turn hold their partner down, while the latter tries to break it. Then, get them to switch roles. Get them to change partners regularly.

Another way to add fun to the class is to practice forward rolls jumping over one, two or more children crouched on all four. Still another game consists in having one child hold a training broom or kicking target extended, at level with his groin and have the class roll-kick it, slowly at first then harder and faster. Almost all A.S.P. techniques can be usefully complemented by a roll, usually a forward roll, at their conclusion. The slapping dodge is still another "game." All these "games" add to the fun of learning, while teaching the children very valuable defensive skills.  The teacher should always explain the practical use of these games.

Rolling out of the reach of an attacker. Kicking the groin of a bigger attacker, getting out of a grip of an attacker on the ground, etc. The number and variety of such "games" is only limited by the imagination of the instructor. He could choose parts from basic techniques in devising them. For instance, he could pair up children and ask one to try to grab the other s lapel, while his partner avoids the grip by using the bent elbow deflection and pivot. Or try to reach for his partner s belt while the latter sweeps the reaching arm, pivots and grasps the attacking wrist from above avoiding thus the reaching attack (Deflect and Pivot). When the teacher feels that the attention of the group is flagging he should switch to games.

Teaching children requires a great deal of patience and keen observation. Sincere praise and constant encouragement should be used judiciously. Corrections should be positive rather than negative "Bend your knees more" rather than "You don t bend your knees enough". Initially, avoid correcting details, stick to major points and become more demanding only as the child makes real progress. Correct sparingly, only when absolutely essential and intersperse your corrections with praise. Go slow, observing your students learning rate and do not equate slow learners with poor learners. Often, the latter are better students and retain better what they learn.

More advanced students should be paired off with less advanced ones to help them in their techniques. Large groups of children may be paired off or work as a large group following commands. We have been able to handle effectively classes of up to sixty children in that manner.

Since achievement encourages progress and lack of achievement saps morale, do not insist on techniques that a child finds difficult. Go to something else he can handle and return to that difficulty another day. While this occurrence is unlikely with the progression of the A.S.P. system, it can occasionally happen. The important thing is never to let a feeling of inadequacy develop in the mind of a child.

Always, tell your class that anyone who does not want to do a technique, because he is afraid of getting hurt or that it is too difficult, does not have to. All children s parents must give them written permission, to participate in self-protection classes and sign an appropriate waiver.

Some Psychological Guidelines

Children should NEVER try on, or show their techniques to relatives and friends. For many reasons.

First of all, there is a good probability that the relative is going to try, let s say, a grip on the child. He will hold tight, either to see whether the child has mastered an effective technique, or to prove how tough he is. Naturally, and this is true particularly at the beginning stages, the child will not be inclined to use a complete technique because he does not want to hurt his relative. For instance, he will not kick his "attacker" on the shinbone. If he fails using half a technique against a full attack, he will start doubting seriously about his ability to defend himself. Also, a sure way to get hurt in "friendly" practices of self-defensive techniques is to resist unduly; then force becomes necessary to inflict pain to make the technique work.

Proficiency comes with time, effort, and experience. Beginners are not quite apt to use their techniques effectively. One of the great obstacles in teaching children self-defense comes from an unexpected quarter: their own parents. This is true particularly for boys. It is highly advisable for the instructor to have an interview with the child s parents, particularly the father, to find out what their motivation is and if their motivation coincides with that of the child. If it does, fine. If it does not, do not accept the student. Take a student only if his and his parents motivation is strictly self-defense and not winning fights. In the latter case nothing good will come of it. We have many examples to show that bullies do not last very long in A.S.P. and one of the things students must learn, is not to be provoked into a fight they don t want.

When they must fight, however, they should fight all out to win. Teacher and parents should of one accord impress upon the child that they do not want him to get into fights and that what he will learn should be used only for defensive purposes. Training in combative arts in general develops self-confidence and this, in turn, works often as a shield against attacks, because fear tends to invite them. At the same time, unnecessary violence and the need to "prove" oneself are largely eliminated. Again, each one of your students should bring with him motivation to learn. A good teacher can increase existing motivation but cannot generate any, if it is totally absent. Long experience has confirmed this, not only for children, but also for adults.

A show of readiness to protect oneself has always an effect on the attacker, particularly if he does not expect any resistance on the part of his potential victim. Using one open hand, forearm at eye level and the other by the side palm up hand open, or closed in a fist, or a knuckle fist, standing rock-steady and looking the potential assailant straight through at eye level may discourage many would be attackers. Silence and a determined look are often better than words. Just show that you are ready to fight, if necessary. At this stage wild shouting and theatrics are quite unnecessary.

Basic A.S.P. is perfectly suitable for children and except for slower teaching, patience and constant encouragement, does not need any special adaptation.

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