Josh: Welcome to the Gym Heroes podcast. I’m your host, Josh Peacock. Today’s show is brought to you by Gymdesk, the easiest gym management software you’ll ever use. Take payments, create marketing automations, track attendance, and much more. To try the software out for free, go to gymdesk.com. No credit card or painful sales call required. 

Our hero today is Phillip Payne, owner of MAPLE Martial Arts, and holder of a Master’s degree in sports coaching. In this episode, we talk about the pros and cons of linear, rotating, and spiraling curriculum structures, as well as infusing physical literacy concepts into your programs. While Phillip works primarily with martial arts, these concepts apply across sports to gymnastics, dance, baseball, and beyond. So without further ado, Phillip Payne.  

Alright, so I’m just gonna jump in and ask you: who are you? What’s your background in martial arts? As well as- we’re gonna be talking about curriculum stuff today, so what’s your background in learning, or whatever your background is, educational psychology and stuff like that?  

Phillip: So, my name is Phil Payne. I’ve been a martial arts coach since 1996, a few years now. I used to work in IT full time, but then I sort of gave that up, threw it all in to go with the martial arts in about 2008. I opened my first full-time venue in 2009, and then a second one in 2014. So we run two now, so between the two about 60 classes a week, and about 500 students, something like that. Of the 60 classes, I only teach about six, though. I don’t have time to do that and everything else as well, so… I limit my coaching to the stuff I actual enjoy teaching. Alongside that, I have been back at university, studying again. The first time around it was in computing and IT, a long time ago. I did a personal training course first of all, level 3, and then I went on to a foundation degree in coaching and performance management at a local college. And from that, that got me doing a top-up here to make it an Honors BSC at Leeds Beckett. And from there I ended up going on to do a part-time Master’s in sports coaching. And then I did nothing for a few years in terms of the academic stuff, other than working on what I wanted to implement in my club from what I’d learned in the past. But now I’m doing what they call a professional doctorate, which is similar to the PhD. I did look at a PhD, but the thought of spending six years of my life researching, to provide something for research to read, to get a job within research, that had no appeal to me whatsoever. Two or three people might read your paper. So, the professional doctorate, which is the same level doctorate as the PhD, but rather than being an academic as such, you’re a practitioner that just happens to research. So that’s the way that I thought I could have a better impact on our industry and our sector, rather than just producing it for research.  

Josh: That’s awesome. Is that a doctorate of education you’re doing?  

Phillip: It’s a doctorate of professional practice.  

Josh: Oh, okay. That must be something you have overseas. I don’t think I’ve heard of that over here.  

Phillip: It’s similar to what you’re talking about, doctorate of education. I think there’s at least three doctorate level [inaudible]. So you still get the title and everything, it’s just a bit more meaningful in terms of having impact within your industry as a practitioner. But, at the same time, you still get to research as well, but you just get to direct it a little bit more.  

Josh: That’s very cool. So I guess it’s more oriented towards the practice of it, and the expanding theories… 

Phillip: Yeah, you’re still using the theories and the research, exactly the same. It’s just like you said, you’re putting it into practice, and you’re looking at practice and analyzing practice, and seeing how the research can affect practice. Whereas a lot of the time with academic research it just gets done and then that’s the job, it’s finished. Whereas what I’m looking at doing is trying to take something called a physical literacy framework, and then looking through that as a lens to see how we can impact children’s martial arts, so that they continue not only to train with in the martial arts, but continue to take part in physical activity and sport for life, really. That’s the end result, keeping them in sport and physical activity.  

Josh: That’s a great thing to focus on. Very cool. Well, along with that, I stumbled across- I believe it’s MAPLE Martial Arts. Is that the name of your…? 

Phillip: So, you’ve heard me mention already the physical literacy. So, MAPLE is something that I came up with a couple of years ago. The actual study that I’m doing within the professional doctorate is around using physical literacy within a martial arts framework. The idea is to produce an engine of sorts, whether it’s through courses or memberships, that people can take the technical aspects of their martial art and then drop it in around the framework that we’ve got, so that it’s not only delivering the technical aspects, but it’s delivering on the physical, psychological, and social as well. And that makes more sense when you understand that MAPLE stands for Martial Arts Physical Literacy Engine.  

Josh: Cool. So, your website’s got a bunch of great articles on it. There’s too many cool articles to cover today, but today were gonna focus on some of the curriculum stuff. You wrote a great article on linear curriculums, rotating curriculums, and nested rotating curriculums. I’ve seen linear and rotating curriculums covered in martial arts, but I haven’t seen nested rotating ones covered before in an article. So that was really interesting to me.  

Phillip: When I wrote that article, there was somebody that popped up and said, ‘we’ve been doing something similar for years’. But that was probably the only comment that I had. In the UK, most people use the standard linear curriculum and that’s okay for smaller classes, but where you’ve got larger classes, or you’ve got younger children, it’s a lot harder to implement without having an army of people to help run the class. I know that in the States they’ve used rotating curriculums for quite a long time, dating back to the 80s probably, but over here it’s not so prevalent. So, a rotating curriculum was a really good idea, but we got quite a bit of pushback in the UK to it. But like anything, these things that come through the US tend to take a bit of time to circulate within the UK as well. It’s happening. There are people using the rotating curriculum now. And the idea behind the nested rotating curriculum was to… when I saw the rotating curriculum, I wasn’t keen on the way that it focused everything on these sets of techniques for three months, if you like. So the content was fixed for three months. And I thought that by the time they rotate through, you’ve got a full cycle of two years, then it’s been a long time since they’ve done the other aspects of the curriculum. Now, instructors might just throw in some extra techniques now and then, but I thought, what would be a really structured way of looking at this? So, that’s what we came up with, a nested rotating curriculum, which is basically where you’ve got your normal rotating curriculum content you’ve got for the next grading, but at the same time you rotate through the rest of the syllabus. So, not only is it good novelty-wise, in terms of keeping the kids engaged, but also, when you’re looking at spacing and having your content revisited like this on a regular basis, the recall factor has an impact on long-term retention, in terms of memory.  

Josh: A spaced learning effect.  

Phillip: Exactly that. So, that’s how I came up with it. It helped engagement, but also helped the side effect with the long-term retention of not just the techniques, because I include the physical stuff in there, just n a more fluid and faster basis, if you like.  

Josh: So, for those that aren’t familiar, how does a linear curriculum work? I know probably most people know it, but not by that name.  

Phillip: In the UK most people will know what it is, but in the US, if they’ve been using a rotating curriculum for a long time, because they’ve maybe inherited that from their past instructor, then they may not know. But over here, a linear curriculum is where you take your curriculum out for white belt and black belt, and you put it in order, and you but the hardest stuff at the end, and usually the more exciting stuff, and the easier and more accessible stuff at the beginning. You have to pass the first grade before you can move on to the second part of the curriculum. While it can work well for smaller classes, the problem you get is, if you’ve got a class that goes from white belt to black belt, then you’ve got everything in between to teach in one class. So, even if you rotate through your subject areas, for instance you do sparring on this rotation, you do [inaudible] on the other rotation, then you’ve still got, within that class, lots of different content to deliver to lots of different people. One of the plus sides with the standard linear curriculum is that if somebody’s not ready at that grade, it’s very easy for them to just to it the following time. That’s one of the strongest advantages. But it just makes it harder to teach.  

Josh: So, a rotating curriculum can- I came up through a rotating curriculum when I first started learning Taekwondo. Can you go over the rotating curriculum? Because there are people in the US that don’t use rotating curriculums, even though it’s pretty popular. How does a rotating curriculum fix some of those problems, and what are some of the drawbacks of it?  

Phillip: So, with a rotating curriculum, what tends to happen is that everybody is working on the same content. If you take your curriculum and then you break it down into beginner, intermediate and advanced, and then you concentrate on just the beginner one. Say you’ve got four grades with that cycle, where if you do it every three or four months, you’ve got that three or four months segment where you go through that content, and then the next and the next. And then it goes back to the beginning again. Now, as each person achieves the next grade, then the grade is really, rather than it being a measure of competence like it is in the linear curriculum, it’s more a symbolization of how much content they’ve been through to. So, the idea is that if they come on segment three or segment one, it doesn’t matter. After four rotations, they’ve still been through all that curriculum, and they’re still ready to move up. The benefit being that within a class you’re able to deliver the same content to all the students. And also, it’s a lot easier if you still do formal grading. Of even if you do [inaudible], stripes, or anything like that to denote how far you are through that segment, then it still works to your advantage that you’re still testing the same aspect, the same portion of the curriculum. So it makes it a lot easier that way. Some of the drawbacks of the standard rotating curriculum, which to a certain extent you still get with the nested rotating is that, if somebody’s not ready, or they’ve had some time out because they’ve been injured or something else, and they’ve not covered enough of hat curriculum to be able to test for it, then they’re gonna have to go all the way through the curriculum and revisit an extra section twice, while missing out on one section as well. Now, I know that people basically put in place private sections and make-up sessions, to let them test separately on that section, but there’s no real easy solution that I know of to get rid of that problem, because the whole school, the whole club has moved on at that stage.  

Josh: Yeah. I think when I was training, one of the things that my instructors did, if you showed up to the grading, you would probably pass anyways. But if for some reason you didn’t have enough attendance, or you missed the grading, they would do a private grading or something like that.  

Phillip: Yeah. So it’s a bit of a bump that you can’t really get around. People have to pass that segment. I don’t know if in the UK, where we’ve got this predominantly linear system in place, that we have a lot more people that don’t pass the grading every time. Whereas, I feel that in the US there’s a lot more of the schools that… maybe the [inaudible] stops to make sure they’re ready, but generally the majority of people will move up a grade every three or four months, or whatever that rotation is.  

Josh: Yeah. There’s a Jiu-Jitsu instructor in the Midwest of the US named Bruce Hoyer, and he does the flipped class. He took the flipped classroom model and applied it to Ju-Jitsu instruction. He restructured his classes so that everyone can be working on wherever they’re at in the curriculum, regardless of who their matched with. So they do a standard warm-up and then they pair off, and each person will work through where they’re at in the curriculum. It’s just based around them having looked at the material before class, or sometimes they’ll pull it out during that portion of the class. He’s trying to bring in spaced repetition, which I think is kind of what the flipped classroom model is supposed to be predicated on. And what he’s done is – you can do this with a rotating curriculum, but what he’s done is actually make a very individualized linear curriculum that can be run with larger classes. So, you go exactly at your own pace, and when you’re ready to get tested for a strip or your next belt, you make sure you have your requirements, and you just pull an instructor aside, and you do it on the spot.  

Phillip: Is the content different for each person? How do they have the rotation, but at the same time do the individual? How does that play out in practice?  

Josh: He has a standard curriculum mapped out, and then he will tailor it for the individual person. Now he’s grown so much since then, I don’t know if he can still do that. But when I was talking to him, he could still do that.  

Phillip: So, there is some individualization there as well. That gets me onto the last part of that article, which is another concept which has been used in education before. I haven’t found out how to work that in totally yet. It’s the idea of a spiral curriculum. 

Josh: So what is a spiral curriculum?  

Phillip: A spiral curriculum is where you’ve got a specific subject area that you rotate through, and you go through that subject area periodically, and as you pass back through it, you increase the difficulty, or increase the intensity. There’s an increment within it. Say you’ve got sparring. You’ll pass through sparring, and you’ll be doing something at a beginner level, but the next time you pass through you’ll be doing something harder within that curriculum. So it’s more focused on subject. Putting this into practice, I try to think of differentiating it for the students. So when you’ve got the students in the class, if they find something easy, then you need their challenge point to be a bit higher. So you increment the difficulty of that technique. So, if you’ve been working on a turning kick, it may be that you’re working now on a high-section turning kick, or a front leg turning kick, or a spinning turning kick. So each time you rotate through it, or each time you see a student in class that needs that challenge point changing, then you make it easier or harder, but he still stays within the subject area. So that’s something I’m trying to look at implementing within the nesting rotating curriculum if I can, so that each of the members are challenged according to their competency levels within the grading structure.  

Josh: That’s really cool. So, traditional martial arts is gonna be hard for that, because you’ve got so many different areas of skill that you’re working through.  

Phillip: I wouldn’t say that it’s hard. It’s not hard to do as part of your coaching practice. when you’re in a class and you see somebody that’s finding it really easy, so they’re not really engaged, or they find it really hard, then it’s quite easy to just, on the spot, as part of your coaching practice, put something in there. It’s a bit harder to plan for it.  

Josh: If you have a taxonomy of types of exercises, and the complexity as it correlates to difficulty, in some ways, you could probably do that. But it would be… then you have the individual element of- it’s not gonna be the same level of difficulty for each…  

Phillip: You can do it as a coaching tool within your coaching development, that you teach people to differentiate, for the students that they’ve got in front of them. This is a huge part of student-centered coaching, or child-centered coaching, where you’re putting the child first, and you’re looking at what they need in terms of motivation, and what you can give them individually to meet them where they are, and to motivate them going forwards. You’ll have heard of self-determination theory.  

Josh: Yes.  

Phillip: Obviously, competence from that, autonomy, competence and relatedness, the competence part is important within the curriculum stuff that we’re talking about now. But not just that – within the class, when you’re coaching, it’s really important as well. Some students need a bit more pushing, some students need to turn it down a level, just to give them access to the feeling of competence and progress.  

Josh: So, you could use the spiraling curriculum as more of a mental model behind the scenes of how to approach coaching when you come back around to an aspect of your nested curriculum. You probably need to keep notes, when you were on that piece of curriculum, where everyone was.  

Phillip: All you need to do is get them to do it, and you’ll know straight away. And that’s about knowing your students as well. That’s why it’s always difficult to have a good understanding of each student’s ability, and knowing them personally, when you’ve got huge classes. This is why we keep kids’ classes in quiet smallish numbers. In our three to four class we have a maximum of 12 students with one lady instructor and one assistant, and maybe a volunteer as well, and then in the five to six year olds, we’ll do a maximum of 14. So, it’s just about building that relationship with them, and having an understanding of what motivates them, what they’re capable of, so that you can nudge them when you need to, and provide scaffolding when they’re struggling a little.  

Josh: So, if I wanted to create a nested curriculum, I kind of have an understanding of how rotating curriculums work. How do I approach building a nested curriculum?  

Phillip: First of all, you need to start with the technical side, because that’s the place where most instructors are gonna be comfortable. So, you can start with that. When you’re doing a rotating curriculum, or even a nested rotating curriculum, one of the important parts of it is that the segment, in terms of age groups, has got to be quite narrow, because you want a flat syllabus within that, so that you don’t want anyone [inaudible] on the last bit, or requires the last bit for you to be able to execute it. So you want quite a flat syllabus for the technical aspect. And then you can start to divide it up. Once you’ve got your list and divided it up, then you can [inaudible]. It may be that on week one you do the technique that’s for the next grading, but you also mix in a technique [inaudible]. And the following week your rotation might be the same techniques that you’ve got for your next grading, but instead of two and three, you’re ding four and five. And then you’re able to rotate them in. And you just keep them rotating around. And when it gets to the second rotation, you’ve had your 3-4 month block, and then you’ve moved on to the next block, then you might be doing technique two all the time, and you’re rotating everything else. So you can do that for the technical aspect, but you can also do it similar for the other aspects too, like the physical aspects. And if you have some key skill stuff that you like to do with the children, then you can rotate them in two, or you can keep that system totally separate from your grading, if you want, and just aware something within a class based on the talks that you’re having with the kids for a month period, or whatever you rotate through within that. So definitely look at the technical first, because that’s where everybody’s comfort zone is. And if you get your head around it on a technical level, you’ll be able to look at doing the rotations with a physical aspect too.  

Josh: Awesome. So, I wanted to also talk about some other things you’ve covered on your website. Fundamental movement skills, and you also mention fundamental movement patterns. What are the fundamental movement skills? What’s the logic behind that, and how does that work in your program?  

Phillip: So, the fundamental movement skills, movement competency is seen as one of the foundations of making sure that, as children go between sports, that they have a minimum level of movement competency, so that they’re more likely to have a go at the sports, because they’re already competent movers. It’s also been shown in some studies as well to equate to- if they’ve got better levels of competency of movement skills at the base end, they’re in sport for longer as well. That’s one of the main parts of physical literacy as well, that they’ve got this base level of movement skills that they can apply to lots of different sports. Now, depending on which models you look at, they can be split up into quite a few areas, but it covers all the basics, and some will include things like swimming, or moving on ice as well. But basically you’re looking at your running, jumping, hopping, skipping, all the basic things that you do within physical activity, whether that’s games or sports. In MAPLE we split it down into eight physical areas, things like speed, agility, strength, power. That gives us those eight to rotate in via the nesting rotating curriculum too, to make sure that everybody’s getting exposure to all the different areas. And the exposure to that comes, usually for this younger age group, through games. As the kids get older and move on to the 6-12 age group, then you can do more specific exercises with them that are seem more as traditional exercises, but at the younger years we tend to hide it all within games, really. When I first started looking at teaching this age group, I was originally looking at the little dragons model. Back in the time when you [inaudible], we just used to throw in an obstacle course every now and again, and then teach the rest of it similar to how we taught in the other classes. But over time we developed that, so that the games and things that we use have purpose, and they’re in line with the rotation system. So rather than just throwing in a random obstacle course because it’ll keep the kids entertained, everything’s more purpose-driven. Not to the children, they’re just playing games and having fun, doing some techniques. And what we tend to do as well, within the class setup, when we’re delivering the sessions, we rotate between a technical objective and a physical objective every five minutes. What it also does is giving a lot of variety and not requiring much focus from the children for long periods of time. It also makes the pace of the class really quite quick when you’re delivering it, and that makes you look more passionate and convincing when you’re delivering this session, because you’ve got to get through these… not just for the parents, for the children as well, and for the coaches. It’s more exciting. And before you know it, you’ve finished the class. It keeps the pace. And that’s important too, but it also falls in line with the ‘no laps, no lines, no lectures’. We emphasize this a lot, especially with our junior coaches. Don’t sit there talking at them for 3-4-5 minutes. A lot of the benefit they get from this activity is through the physical movement. Just sitting there for longer than 30-60 seconds is too much. So, making sure that you’re not lecturing them. You’re giving them basic instructions, and then you’re just letting them have a go. And they’ll get it wrong, but a lot of the time they’ll learn from their mistakes, and there’s an element of discovery in there, and an element of them listening to what you’re saying and then executing on that. By the time you talk to them for 2-3 minutes, they’ve switched off two and a half minutes ago. So we tend to keep it quick like that. So, no laps – try not to throw in random exercises that have no cause to be in there, really, you’ve got no purpose for them. Years ago a strength and conditioning coach told me, if you’re delivering something in a class and you don’t know why, take it out. Don’t deliver it. Put something in there that you know the purpose of, and you’re working towards an objective. And the lines thing, in martial arts – I don’t know what it’s like in the US – but in the UK we’ve definitely been prone to- I remember when I first started learning in 1990, we would have lines of 10-15 people waiting in line to kick a pad. It just kills the momentum of what the children are trying to do. And if don’t give children something specific to do, or you’re creating a structure that allows them to move towards what you want them to do, and give them something specific to work out, then they’ll find something to do, and it won’t be something that you like. They’ll be pushing each other, or playing with [inaudible], or whatever it is. Something not constructive.  

Josh: Right. I always try [inaudible]. When it was just me and 20 kids in class, and I don’t have an assistant instructor, what do you do? Well, you can have them do drills. Sometimes I’ll have them be in the line. I’d be like, you have to do jumping jacks, and five seconds later half the kids aren’t doing jumping jacks anymore.  

Phillip: You just have to structure it better. I think we have this assumption that the children won’t be able to hold pads for each other until they’re 10 years old or something, but that’s quite far from the truth. Holding a pad is just another skill that they need to learn, just as any other skill. It can be taught, and you can have them holding pads when they’re 5-6 years old. Still under supervision. You have to have good positioning so you can see what’s going on, a little bit of encouragement to the kickers, a little bit of praise for the pad holders. It can be taught, same as anything else. I think I’ve got an article on queue busters as well that’s quite useful to try and remove that element of queuing as much as possible. Now, don’t get me wrong – with the 3-4 classes we still have queuing, because they’re still learning the social aspects of taking turns. We intentionally leave that in there in certain places. But by the time they get to the 5-6, we try to do away with that. One of the times that you will get away with it is when they’re engaged in a team activity, and they’re all cheering for each other and are engaged in that activity, even when they’re not physically running. So, in a relay-type option, where someone’s running out, doing something and running back, and then the next person’s going, as long as you’ve got only three or four in the line, they’ll stay engaged, because they’re next and they’re rooting for the team. So you’ve got engagement there already. But if you can, no lines, no laps, no lectures.  

Josh: I like that. That’s cool. To the point about kids holding pads and having some sort of leadership role amongst themselves, as long as they’re at the right age- it’s really in your mind, as an instructor, I’ve found. Because many years ago I used to do the whole ‘having the kids in a line’ if I didn’t have an assistant instructor and all that. You can trust the kinds to do that, and you can just use the occasional reminder for them, where to hold the pad or whatever. They need to learn those skills anyways, but they’re perfectly capable of learning those skills, and it’s okay if one or two classes is not perfect pad holding. In the long run, it’s not gonna hurt the skill progression of the kids.  

Phillip: I think one of the problems sometimes with- the average age of participants in martial arts is coming down. It’s been coming for a long time. Now we teach three-year-olds, and that’s the minimum age where you can get them in the class and they can operate for themselves. You’d still get the odd student that comes in and they don’t feel confident enough, they maybe have attachment problems sometimes, or there’s some other issues and they don’t feel confident going into the class, but we just say ‘come back in six months and try again’. But that’s the minimum age that we tend to start from. You could probably do younger if you do parent participation, but at both our venues we’ve always had a focus around removing parents from the room. So, we have parents in a side room where we’ve got a big screen TV linked to a CCTV camera so the parents can see the children, but the children don’t interact with the parents. We want the children to start to build independence and follow instruction. At this age they’re gonna be doing things for the parents anywhere. I remember going to see my daughter swim, and I could see her through the window, and she was waving and drowning at the same time. You’re gonna get an aspect of that when you put the parent in that room. But if the kid knows that the parents are watching, then they can chat about the session when they come out afterwards. But you tend to find well-meaning parents trying to micromanage the kids sometimes, when we want an element of- when we’re giving them instructions, that they’re learning to execute on those instructions. And there’s an element of discovery within the activities too. And besides that, sometimes, because it’s an activity that parents don’t have experience with, they’re like- some of the instructors that have not taught children before, and the expectations are possibly too high sometimes. This goes back to what you were talking about before. The kids are gonna make mistakes, they’re gonna mess up, they’re not always gonna do as they’re told. They’re gonna fall on the floor. And that’s okay. A lot of the time we just need to set expectations, what to expect when the kids in there, for the parents and for the coaches as well.  

Josh: When I was teaching in a location, working for another school, we didn’t have a room like that. That solves a lot of problems. It helps the kids with independence, but it also helps the kids not to defer to their parents instead of the instructor. It helps the parents to not be coaching and barking at the kids in the middle of class, over the coach. But we didn’t have that. I couldn’t stop the parents- we would sometimes have conferences with the parents, or I’d have the program manager talk to one, but I couldn’t put them in a different room to watch. So what I did was, I always had most of class with the kids facing exactly the opposite way of the parents. The parents could see me teaching, but the kids cannot see their parents, and the parents can’t make eye contact with the kids.  

Phillip: it’s a good idea for those that don’t have a separate room that they can put the parents in. Definitely, your coaching position is always important to make sure you can see, monitor and recognize when people are doing good, and basically give praise where it’s appropriate. But definitely for ma parental intervention point of view, it’s a good idea to have them at the back. We always had it so that, traditionally, wherever you are teaching, that the students are facing you and you’re facing the door, so that the students aren’t distracted by people coming in and out, but you can see people coming in and out. So putting the parents in the back makes sense as well if they need to go in and out too.  

Josh: I just works better that way.  

Phillip: If the parents want to sit apart, [inaudible].  

Josh: I even notice with the kids being perpendicular to where the parents are sitting, that they still sometimes catch them at the side of their eyes, and they’re much more likely – even though they’re kinda facing away from the door, they’re much more likely to look at the door if it opens or something like that. So it just works better to face them 100% away.  

Phillip: If the kid looks like they’re not focusing, and they’re barking at the kid… and half the time, it’s like, he’s four years old.  

Josh: Some of these parents – oh my God… And they didn’t stay either. She asked my program manager while I was teaching, she was like, ‘can they diagnose him with autism?’ I was like, no. No. we’re not clinicians.  

Phillip: I’ve got an excellent tip for children that- once you’ve been teaching kids a long time, you’ll know when you get some children in that may or may not be on the spectrum, or have other complications. But the way that we tend to deal with it is – and I try to teach this to the instructors – all you have to do is, when you suspect that the child is showing symptoms in class that you recognize through your experience, all you do is say to the parent, ‘I’ve noticed that little Johnny has been struggling with this’, and then just describe the symptoms. And then just say, ‘how are they doing at school and other activities?’ and then, just like in a sales call, you just shut your mouth and wait for the parents to speak. Probably 90% of the time they’ll say, ‘we’ve recognized this’, or, ‘we’ve had him tested for this’, or, ‘school have mentioned this before’. But you just be quiet. 90% of the time they’ll help you with that.  

Josh: Absolutely.  

Phillip: Without you having to diagnose them.  

Josh: Yeah, I can’t do that.  

Phillip: I’m doing this professional doctorate, and I still wouldn’t dream of…  

Josh: And then, after the class- because I didn’t even know about this until she had left, and then she- after the class, she’s like, ‘he can’t pay attention’… he was a little bit flighty, but he was doing fine. It wasn’t abnormal. She’s like, ‘oh he’s not paying attention. Where do you think he’s gonna be in four weeks?’ I was like, I don’t know. He’s four years old. I don’t know. I can’t fix him in four weeks. He’s four years old. Chill out.  

Phillip: Different expectations sometimes. But at the same time as well, if it’s a child that’s been with you for a little bit as well, you can always reflect back to how they were when they first came in. Even if it’s only been three months, there’s usually been an improvement within those three months. Even if some of that has just come from that person being able to relate to the people in the class, including the coach, being used to the environment, you’ll get some positive change in that three-month period anyway. So, reminding them of what the child was like when they first came in is a good place to start, without you having to go ‘we’ll fix them in four weeks time’.  

Josh: She wanted a timeline. I was like, I can’t give you a timeline. In six weeks or so he’s definitely gonna be better than when he came in, but it’s not… I think they came for maybe a month, and then the just dropped out.  

Phillip: What you tend to find is, depending on where you are on the spectrum of developing the child point of view at this side, and the ultra-competitive clubs that you get on the other side, what you tend to find is that wherever you are on that spectrum, as people will come through the door, you will attract people that are attracted to the way that you do things, your clubs values, mission and vision, and you’ll push away that aren’t. So that first three months usually [inaudible] you lose, and it won’t be a bad thing. You’re not the right club for them. I’m all for retention, and while I still obviously do marketing because I need to, I really lean on having good retention. It makes me a little bit lazy with the marketing, but at the same time I know that I’m attracting the people that are in a line. It’s not the good people, the bad people, or any other people. It’s the people that are in a line with what we’re trying to achieve.  

Josh: Absolutely. So, the functional movement patterns. We’ve talked about the skills, what are some of the functional movement patterns? Is that something you do with the older kids? Is that where that comes in?  

Phillip: In terms of these physical activities, we have basic ways of doing- some of the basic movement patterns that we’re talking about, we can do them with the 5-6. For instance, if you do normal press-ups, and you just have the normal way of doing press-ups, you’ll get a lot of kind flapping their body about and stuff. But what we tend to do, we’ve got little abbreviated ways of delivering the different exercises. So, for instance, for the children – don’t tell anybody, I borrowed this from an old Thai Boxing instructor that used to teach me years ago – start the press-ups off lying on your front with your hands under your chin. You press off the floor, you come back down, you put your hand back onto your chin. So there’s no cheating on the movement. Every time you’ve got to lift your body off the floor, and it gets down to this position again. So we use that for press-ups, and we’ve got other movements. Like, with a squat, when we looked at the way the teenagers that we’ve had for a while were doing the squats, it was awful technique-wise, just awful movement patterns. So, what we get them to do is, we put two of the pads on the floor, or we use the hanging bags that are just laid down at the side. And we get the kids to touch their bum on the pads, and then stand back up. So, just something as basic as that, just a small adaptation, can provide an anchor point for them to look at. And you just bake it within the exercise, and they just build good form over time. These movement patterns, they’re sometimes called functional movements, or primal movements. Your basic squatting, hip hinging, pressing, pulling – all the basic exercises that you go through as part of a complete PT exercise, but not necessarily with equipment. So when it comes to equipment, we still use some equipment for strength-based stuff, even with the younger kids, but it’s not only overtly ‘you’re gonna stand there and do 10 of these’. We still put it within a game if we can. We use leather medicine balls, so if the kids drop them on their feet, there’s no harm done. We get them doing basic throws and stuff like that for power-type movements too, which is cool. As long as they’re not throwing it at each other.  

Josh: One thing we used to do with the push-up problem with really young kids is, we called them line push-ups. They would have to start with everything – chest, chin – on the ground, and then they had to- they kept the [inaudible] on the ground – and this is for really young kids, really, they’re still trying to develop their strength here – they push themselves all the way up in the air and roar, almost like and upward dog position, but your causing them to use their shoulder and arm strength to press themselves up at that point. I guess if you have a really week six or seven-year old, that’s good too, but with them what I would do is get them started in planks first, and then get them stable, and then be like, ‘hold the plank position, now try to do a push-up’. And of course, you still get the kids that do the ragdoll thing with their heads.  

Phillip: What we did for the younger children as well, I was looking around for some strength-based stuff – it sounds funny saying it – some strength-based exercises for three to four-year-olds, and I did find some that were reasonable, but the best people to look at for this stuff is the gymnastics. So, with the gymnastics they train the kids from a young age because it’s an early adaptation sport, and they perform at a high level earlier on. But at the same time as well, they have these core holds, basically different body positions that they do, for the children. So, we included them. So, when we’ve got the strength, speed, power and so on, that’s for the five to six-year-olds and above, that there’s eight of them, whereas with the three to four-year-olds, we don’t do power, speed and stuff like that, there’s four. One of them is strength, because research suggests that there’s never an age where developing strength is not a good thing, that it’s not age-appropriate. Not talking about lifting weights and stuff, but… so, the basic body shapes that we took from gymnastics, they were really useful. And I think we added a couple [inaudible] to make them up to eight, but they’re really useful for the younger kids. Even for the five to six-year-olds, just to build- like you said, you start them off in the plank position, but these positions that they can hold just to build that core strength is always gonna be useful. Because everything is built on that.  

Josh: Absolutely, that’s awesome. I don’t really have any more questions to ask. Where can people find you?  

Phillip: Facebook… I’m on Twitter, but I tend to keep that for my academic stuff. I don’t post a lot on there, but I communicate with other people in academia. But definitely the website, which is maplemartialarts.com. If you sign up to the newsletter there as well, I send that out on a semi-regular basis, depending on what I’ve got going on, as well as the two full-time venues and this professional doctorate. I’m still coaching a bit myself, I mentor some other coaches, I work with governing bodies, and I’ve got three children, two of them below four, so that tends to take up a chunk of my time. Definitely the Facebook page. I’ve got a Facebook group on there that you’ll be able to find if you google MAPLE Martial Arts, or if you Facebook search. But maplemartialarts.com is probably the best place. And I’ve got loads of articles on there, probably about 25. I’m trying to produce one every two weeks. Sometimes it’ll be more on the business side, but more often than not I’ll be based on retaining students and delivering a product and service that’s in line with their needs and wants.  

Josh: Awesome. Well, thank you for coming on, I hope we can do this again sometime. I love talking about this.  

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Published by Josh Peacock

Josh is a lifelong martial arts fanatic, taekwondo 4th dan, BJJ player, writer, and marketer. In addition to helping martial arts school owners market their gyms more effectively, he also holds an M.Ed. in teaching & learning and has a passion for improving martial arts instruction.

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