Our society has forever been changed by the invention of the internet. Everything from undergraduate and graduate degrees to art and music courses can be done online. Does this type of environment also apply to something like training in Karate?
The best virtual Karate class is possible to find for your Karate Kids online if you keep some basic points in mind. The style is not as important as who the instructor will be, your goals for your child, and understanding the strengths and limitations of learning with the internet.
There are several key things to consider when deciding if online martial arts is for your Little Ninjas. If it is, then which is the best class to enroll them in? Online training comes with several advantages, but if we are really wanting to be honest, there are some limitations as well. Below is an in depth resource to help you choose the right option for your munchkins.
Table of Contents
Paid Vs Free Virtual Karate Over The Internet
Have you ever heard of the saying, “You get what you pay for”? Well, in this case the answer isn’t that simple. Here the answer is more like “Yes and No”.
Virtual Karate, Kung Fu, TaeKwonDo, etc. classes for kids are run in many ways like onsite classes. Many of the instructors are simply offering what they normally offer or something as close to it as they can in a digitally delivered format.
You are going to find them trying the same things online as they would in an onsite class in instruction and in marketing attempts. This translates to offerings, sales pitches, in class drills, and extras offered to aid in student retention.
Next I will list the different attempts many of these instructors have made in attracting new students and converting ‘tire kickers’ into paid members. I will also go over the good things you can get from each option and the pitfalls to watch out for.
Remember from the start… instructors are doing this to make money.
‘Free Karate class’ is simply martial arts industry code for ‘prospective paying student’ to most instructors.
I’m not saying don’t take advantage of free offers. On the contrary, these can be a great way to try out an instructor or class. Just keep in mind, the goal of any free class is to convert free students to paying ones in some form or fashion.
Free Recorded Classes
You can find free Karate classes all over the internet in recorded formats. This can be most easily done and accessed on YouTube. Heck, I even have a couple seasons of mine on there on my Little Ninja Parenting YouTube channel.
I put them up there for my students who missed a session and there are many, many more on my channel that are not public. There are other reasons many instructors do this. Read on to find out more.
Why Are Some Recorded Virtual Karate Classes Free?
Most instructors that offer free classes on YouTube or elsewhere on the internet are doing it for one of three main reasons.
- They are wanting to get a YouTube following to make money from the YouTube ads.
- They are advertising for their paid version of the virtual classes hosted in some other fashion.
- They are local onsite school owners advertising their in-person classes and have keyworded the video for local Google searches.
Sometimes the motivation is a combination of a couple of these. Just keep in mind that unlike Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid movies, most Karate, Jiu Jitsu, or Taekwondo instructors are not independently wealthy and are offering classes to the public in an effort to be compensated in some way.
By the way, if you would like to hear more about Mr. Miyagi’s training methods and if they actually work, read my article here to find out.
You may find some that are offering free classes just for the fun of teaching, but I would advise extreme caution with these. There is probably a reason they are not getting compensated in some way for what they are teaching. I will leave that part unsaid.
Free Live Virtual Martial Arts Classes
Here we will be dealing directly with an advertising or trial class situation. More often than not, you are not going to find ongoing free classes online that are live with a qualified instructor. Again, if you do, proceed with caution.
These types of free classes are usually limited to one or two sessions and are meant for parents to evaluate whether the class and teaching style is right for their child. These are great ways to see if the personality of the instructor fits with your child and your goals.
Many of these classes are simple online extensions of location based dojos and gyms. They are an attempt to either expand their reach and student base or a reaction to restrictions to their onsite classes for various reasons.
There is now a growing number of online based virtual martial arts classes as the general public begins to see the benefits of a completely online Karate program. There is even research that supports the health benefits of not sitting in traffic to tote our kids from one practice to another.
These live free virtual karate classes can be done in a variety of ways.
- Some of these virtual Karate classes will be one on one, private sessions.
- Many free virtual martial arts classes will be in the form of participation in group classes for one or two trial sessions.
- There are even virtual Karate birthday parties that can serve as a good trial for other kids invited to the party. (Parties are rarely free for the host family, but for the attendees it can be a good free trial option.)
Note: As a parent, you will always want to be just off camera to monitor what goes on in a virtual session, especially in a free class situation.
Another thing to keep in mind: In a free virtual karate class, you will more than likely be required to have your camera turned on. It is for the safety of the other children and families involved as much as for inspiring participation.
As an instructor of online Karate classes myself, I am always making sure that what is going on in the homes streamed into the class is safe for all kids logged in. Unless it is a birthday party or a testing, there should not be a host of random adults simply sitting and watching kids as they train.
Grandmas, Grandpas and other family members of course are more than welcome, but with prior notice.
Paid Recorded Classes
With the paid pre-recorded virtual option, you are now getting into more of a permanent solution for a child’s martial arts training. There are several goals for an instructor offering these to students or prospective students.
- Some offer these videos as additives to kids onsite programs.
- Others offer many of these recorded sessions as an alternative to child level onsite programs.
- There are also websites that have went all in and are offering even adult full curriculum pre-recorded classes in many styles. (example: Global Martial Arts University)
There are some that will find this option appealing due to their child’s issues with crowds, online live video conferencing, or other socio-relational concerns. The martial arts is a personal journey and these video courses can be a viable option for some.
Though these paid versions may be less expensive and free of time constraints, they will usually not be as effective as a live, interactive class with a qualified instructor. This is even more important when speaking about adults starting their martial arts training.
Online options are more suited for the smaller technique base programs for kids with little to no live training with partners required. That being said. if other options don’t fit the situation for an adult, this sort of training could be enjoyable and beneficial if taken seriously. There is always the possibility of finding local training partners that the student is comfortable with as well.
Paid Live Classes
With paid, live virtual Karate classes you have the most personalized and effective method of taking martial arts classes online. The instructors in these classes will usually be more professional and will be able to directly engage with your child.
The use of recorded classes and instruction is great as an additive to live classes, but the direct interaction that a live class can offer is light years ahead of simple videos. It helps keep the kids engaged, they can identify with instructors as real life role models, and real time assistance with techniques is invaluable.
These Karate classes can be an all in one solution for younger children whose curriculum and training lends itself perfectly to this virtual format.
One note of caution. There are those that attempt to train teens or even adults online with these classes. There are definitely portions of many martial arts that can be effectively delivered and even mastered over the internet. Let me say that from the start.
The problem comes when moving past techniques and training that in all honesty needs in person partners and instructors. The focus of this article is on children so if you would like to learn more about what age virtual martial arts classes are for, read my article here answering the question, ‘Can you learn Karate by yourself?‘
Who Teaches The Online Karate Kids Classes?
The most important element in any Karate, Judo, Kali, etc. class is the instructor. The teacher of the class not only delivers the techniques of the style. They are responsible for safety, pacing, discipline, and age appropriateness of the training methods.
Then you must consider the character of the person and if the actions and lessons they convey correspond to your goals and values. Instructors are people, and people come in many different packages, with a myriad of backgrounds.
Before allowing them access to your Little Ninja, make sure they are not simply a good teacher, but they have a similar world view as the one you are teaching to your kids.
My philosophy in teaching martial arts to kids is based on education, character, and fun. My goals for my students involve expanding the mind, the moral compass, and enticing full engagement with loads of silliness and fun.
The self defense, fitness, and technical aspects of Karate are built into the system itself.
The techniques of any martial art are free. No one owns any technique or has a copyright on any movement.
You are not actually paying for Karate techniques. You are compensating a specific instructor to deliver knowledge of the art in a way that is easily absorbed and with all the added benefits he or she can personally offer. You are paying for their time and expertise.
Make sure that you are picking the class by the instructor. This is the single most important aspect of the equation. It doesn’t matter what the location is, the name of the style, or how convincing the marketing slogans are. The experience and teaching ability of the instructor is the most important thing to consider.
Can My Kids Even Learn Martial Arts Online?
For younger kids the format of live online classes is a great option. The pre-recorded ones tend to be something they watch while eating, almost as entertainment in my experience. I have a set of parents that tell me that they watch my recordings of past classes at dinner time every night.
I know right? Kids and their weird routines.
There is also the fact that kids should not be learning the full technique base that any style has to offer. They should have truncated forms of these systems for many reasons. Because much of the more dangerous and inappropriate material can be omitted, teaching younger children lends itself to online training.
What does this mean for specific styles? As a parent it may be hard to know, so here I will give a short plusses and minuses rundown for a few of the more popular martial arts styles.
One thing to keep in mind, Karate is a term used for a specific style and many times as a synonym for martial arts in general.
So let’s look at several styles and see how they can be taught with more or less effectiveness in a virtual class setting.
Learn Karate At Home
Karate is a Japanese style of kicks and hand techniques with some takedowns. The training methods online for kids use memorized combinations, heavy kicking bag routines, and technique practice on a variety of targets.
Some can be done in the air and some is done on objects. In an online setting these could be stuffies (plush toys), pillows, paper, or pads and targets specifically designed for martial arts training. If you are interested in what these are and what the prices might be, visit my Little Ninja Shop and take a look at some of the options.
Learning Karate for younger kids is perfectly suited to virtual training. Parents can even join in when they choose to hold pads, bonk them with blockers or pool noodles, and be a general cheerleader.
I use Karate along with Judo and Kali in my online virtual classes. If you want to learn more about them visit this link to enter my Online Dojo.
Kung Fu Distance Learning
Much like Karate, the Chinese style of Kung Fu deals with movements in the air or on targets with similar training practices. It’s memorized patterns do get much more intricate and may be suited for students that can handle the acrobatic movements and more intensive memorization of patterns.
For online classes this is a good option as well. The training methods and equipment used can resemble Karate quite a bit.
A little known fact is that according to oral histories, Karate originally came from Chinese Kung Fu. As is their way, the Japanese simplified and streamlined the techniques, but the two styles are actually more similar than different.
Learn Taekwondo Online
Taekwondo is a Korean art that specializes in kicking techniques. The technique base is noticeably smaller than many other styles. The mastery of foot and leg techniques is emphasized. There are also memorized patterns that tend to be fairly simple.
What this means for young kids wanting to learn online is that much of the style is very accessible to them at their age and in a virtual environment. Learning a traditional, non sports based style of Taekwondo or even Tang Soo Do is a good option. Because of the smaller and age appropriate curriculum, it is a safe option for kids as well.
The one main concern is that the sport side of the art that makes up a significant focus for students, is not really available to online students. With mastery of mainly kicks as the goal, the sport it was primarily developed around normally is a main focus. This will be lacking in virtual classes.
I incorporate Taekwondo into my virtual Karate classes for young kids along with Karate, Judo, and Kali. To learn more visit this page dedicated to my Little Ninja Online Karate classes.
Learn Judo Online
Judo or ‘The Gentile Way” is the Japanese art of throwing, pinning, and falling techniques. There are no strikes involved and the style was designed around a grappling based sport in the late 1800s. Jigoro Kano wanted to extract the techniques from Jujutsu that could be practiced safely on a resisting partner at full speed.
This is a great style for kids online with some stipulations. The sport side will not be available in a virtual class setting. To train for this the kids will need to be partnered up regularly.
The good news is, Judo has some of the best self defense techniques for kids of any martial art. Falling is the number one way people get injured. One of Judo’s main technique categories is taking falls from all angles.
Another plus for Judo techniques: If competition is not the goal, many of the self defense oriented throws and hold down positions can be practices on stuffies or inexpensive throwing dummies. I recommend this throwing/grappling dummy found on Amazon to all my students.
Judo can be a good option for online training, but I would suggest that it be paired with styles like Karate or Taekwondo for the striking side, and Kalie or Kendo for the weapons training kids love.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Online Training
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is essentially a branch off from Judo. Some may jump to the conclusion that it is a simpler style since it is a specialization of Judo which was itself a sepcialization of Jujutsu. But that wouldn’t be the case here.
Yes, BJJ as it is known does emphasize the ground grappling aspect of Judo and neglect much of the standing grappling, but it is by no means simple. They have taken the Judo techniques and expanded the ground variations to the nth degree. This could be viewed as one of the most complex martial arts systems currently studied.
This one may be a bit harder to accomplish in an online setting. This goes doubly for children. To grasp much of BJJ, in person partners are needed for most of the training, complex maneuvers need in person instructors to help explain, and with its strong sport emphasis, much is left out in a virtual class.
There is also the problem of the style not regulating dangerous techniques for children. Children are regularly taught strangulation and joint dislocation techniques in many BJJ classes. This a problem not only in virtual settings, but in in person classes as well. Parents should research the style before allowing their child to participate to see if they are okay with the techniques taught.
In an effort not to disparage any martial art style or system unjustly, I usually only slightly mention this last point. I also talk a bit about it in my article on Jujitsu belt rankings here. See that article if you are interested in a bit more about parental concerns with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Learn Escrima or Kali Online
For sure, one of the favorite styles that I have found for younger kids is Kali or what some call Escrima. This style deals with the one thing kids love to swing around no matter the shape or size, swords.
This is a Filipino style that is actually based on bladed weapons and impact batons. Sounds very un-kid friendly at first, right?
Yet, if you have a good instructor, the fun and safe aspects are plentiful in the system and can be extracted to the delight of many a young student.
The are patterns to learn, blocking, parrying, interesting footwork, and the most important part…. SWORDS. Well, it is actually based on utilitarian things like machetes and sticks, but to a kid… SWORDS!
I teach this system in a very kid friendly way virtually in my online Karate classes. I have spent years collecting instructor levels, competitions records, and teaching all over the world. To be honest, my passion is taking out the dangerous part and delivering the fun sides to tiny, chubby cheeked little monsters.
Here is an example of one of my online classes. I only record myself and my son (Ethan has several special needs, but Karate has been a great tool for him). The kids can see me and each other in the class.
If you want to see the Kali part, it is the last third. In the beginning is Karate and Taekwondo and there is some Judo in the middle.
What Types Of Kids Learn Best In An Online Setting?
There are many different ways that online classes are delivered and many ways the kids may relate to them. There is not a real one size fits all when learning something like martial arts. With every parent there will be a slightly different goal in mind.
Some may be looking for discipline and self control, while another parent may be wanting their little girls to gain confidence. Still others may be wanting an activity for their child who is not yet comfortable in crowded settings.
Let’s look at some of the different types of situations and scenarios that parents may be considering and see how virtual Karate classes can help them find the best fit for their kids.
The Majority Of Kids Do Well In Most Environments.
Kids are resilient. They can adapt many times better than adults. They don’t come with as many preconceived notions and are much less prone to unrealistic expectations. Heck, like most kids when I was young, a stick, a few rocks, and a match box car or two would keep me busy all day.
If an instructor is experienced and knows his or her craft, online martial arts classes will be a great experience for most any child. Some will take to it more than others, but that is true with just about anything.
Shy, Distracted, Or Awkward Children Thrive In Online Settings.
Virtual Karate classes really shine for kids that have some sort of aversion to crowds, loud unfamiliar settings, or uncommon people to their normal routines. Not all kids are the same and some will not only be this way when they are children, but will grow up to be adults with at least a touch of these characteristics.
Trying to demand that shy or awkward children conform to in person class settings more tailored to outgoing and rambunctious kids is a disservice to them and their learning styles.
Let’s look at a famously shy historical figure…
One of the most famous Japanese samurai sword artists was well known as a recluse. Miyamoto Musashi’s skill was known far and wide. Many would seek him out for duels to test their skill with the sword. All either retreated or met an early end.
Being social is not a prerequisite to martial arts training. Virtual Karate classes can be a great option of any kid that is shy or easily distracted.
Girls Vs Boys Learning Karate Online
For those in the camp that boys and girls are the same both biologically and mentally, you will probably want to just skip this section. For those of us who see that there are fundamental differences in the sexes, this is some interesting stuff.
Girls In Online Martial Art Instructional Settings
One surprising fact about my virtual Karate classes that many are surprised to learn is the ratio of boys to girls. I have about 60% or 70% girls in my classes. This has been consistent for a long time.
Two things stand out when looking for a good reason for this.
- Girls are usually more tentative to start the martial arts.
- Girls are more insistent on controlled, safe environments once they do.
I have noticed this for decades. It has been an issue with girls in the martial arts for many instructors.
It is hard to maintain an environment in an in person setting that meets these two criteria consistently, but in an online virtual one for young girls, all the conditions are right.
The environment is their own and with just one click everything is back to their normal routine. No need to quietly and awkwardly slip out of class, collect belongings, and head home.
This also makes the barrier to beginning much less of a hurdle. They can feel as if they are in control of the environment and their level of interaction. They usually always open up and join in on everything.
But in the beginning, I tend to see only one eye and half a head of bouncing curls from some girls. Some will only make brief appearances and then head off screen to participate out of view. This becomes a thing of the past once my ‘dad jokes’ begin to bring out the giggles. Yet, some need that safety and distance to feel at ease.
Boys Taking Virtual Karate Classes
Not all boys are going to react that much differently than girls in this situation, but what I am speaking to here is the average response from most boys. I see less boys online because they are more apt to try riskier activities that entail interaction with a wide variety of unknown people and environments.
I am not making a proclamation of whether reservation or risk taking is good or bad. There is a place for both. This is just an observation from the thousands of kids I have taught around the world. A larger majority of boys tend to like loud, rough and tumble activities and environments more than most girls.
The reasons for this is beyond this article, but let it suffice here to say that there are biological and environmental causes for this. What I am doing here is letting parents of boys know that they will do great in an online setting. I have many boys that do.
As well, the majority of boys will also do great in a variety of settings. Though this is not true in every situation, it is true for a majority of boys.
What Kind Of Equipment Do Karate Kids Need For Online Training?
To be perfectly honest, Karate can be learned virtually or in person, with equipment or without. There really is only two main reasons that most instructors use equipment.
- Scenario simulation
- Disguising repetition
This is using targets, throwing/grappling dummies, pads, heavy bags etc. to both simulate striking surfaces and opponent body mechanics. These are to help replicate the ‘feel’ of applying technique to an actual attacker on one hand and preparing the body through ‘toughening’ on the other.
The main goal of any instructor is to motivate and even trick students into doing more than they intended, at an intensity higher than they planned on experiencing, and for a period of time longer than they envisioned. Time under pressure is the key to many improvements in the mind and body.
How do successful instructors do this? They disguise the needed repetition it takes to master techniques. They do it through the use of equipment, rotating routines, and emphasizing alternative aspects of the same movements.
Equipment That Can Be Effective In Virtual Martial Arts Classes
There are a host of things that can be used in an online Karate class to help teach, inspire, and even entertain. Some of these are specifically designed for martial arts training and some are adapted by good instructors from items used for completely other purposes.
Items Specifically Designed For Martial Arts Training
Here are some of the things specifically designed for Karate, Judo, Kali, etc. that you may want to invest in for your Little Ninja if they are currently learning online or it may be in their immediate future.
- Kicking bags (link to my Little Ninja Shop here)
- Targets and pads (link to my Little Ninja Shop here)
- Throwing/grappling dummies (link to the one on Amazon that I recommend)
- Padded Weapons (link to the Action Flex line in my Little Ninja Shop here)
- Floor mats (link to my recommendation for floor mats on Amazon)
Instructors use more or less of these items depending on the martial art system taken, the age of the students, and the teaching style they use. Check with your child’s instructor for what they recommend. The recommended page on my website is where I send my Little Ninja parents when they want to level up their child’s training.
Items Designed For Other Uses But Adapted For Martial Arts Training
Here I will divulge a bit of the secret sauce I have developed over the years. For online virtual Karate classes, you can simply use things around your house or easily bought on Amazon in the beginning. You may want to invest in some items later, but for a while a lot of these things work just fine.
- For weapons training bananas, cucumbers, rolled up paper bags, rolled up newspaper, etc. – anything silly is fun.
- For a cheap but paid option for padded weapons check my recommended training kits page here for some great options.
- Some items listed are pool noodles and toy foam swords
- For striking targets, stuffed animal toys, pillows, or even simple pieces of paper work great if the instructor knows how to use them.
- Again for the grappling side of things, a large pillow or stuffie (plush toy) works great
There are a ton of things that you can use even though you really only need an instructor and a child to teach and learn Karate online. These things are really useful though to disguise repetition and simulate opponents if used properly.
There Is Belt Testing Virtually?
Each instructor will have their own style and association requirements to deal with in the realm of belt testing. Color belt testing is a definite possibility, but you may be hard pressed to find a reputable program that tests for black belts online.
How Does That Work?
Some instructors will not be comfortable with online belt testing and some will. It is more applicable for sure in younger children where the techniques are normally required only in demonstration and not so much in application against resisting opponents.
For my virtual Karate testing for the younger kids that populate my classes, I do the same things they would do in person. The parent simply has to pitch in to hold boards, targets, and whack a time or two with a blocker or noodle.
Check with your prospective kids instructor to see if the possibility to test is something he or she offers in their online classes. With advancement in technology and real time streaming of classes, testing is very doable virtually for younger kids with willing parents helping out.
In my case, I don’t even charge fees for online testing. The students simply get the boards and belts from my Little Ninja Shop and sign up for a testing time. I try to make everything as easy and affordable as possible.
Can Kids Get A Black Belt Online?
This again may be hard to find. There are those that advertise reaching the black belt level online, but this is stepping into the realm of questionable authenticity even for children. By the time a child and especially an adult has reached even the levels close to black belt, an in person instructor should probably have been found.
This is not to disparage programs that offer what their style requires in a distance format. Believe me, you would be surprised at the instructors that earn their rank in many systems by taking seminars a couple times per year and testing just after the event. Some of them become quite proficient at the style due to their daily practice and self discipline.
The problem here is this will be an exception to the rule. And what I normally find is that it is called a rule for good reason. Most of us are the rule, not the exception.
How Does Connecting To A Virtual Karate Class Work?
There are several different options when looking at how to take virtual classes.
- There are pre-recorded videos that are downloaded or streamed.
- There are YouTube channels that offer many free classes that are easily streamed.
- Then there is the best option: Live Virtual Karate classes use a few streaming sources.
- Zoom is the service I use and is used by the majority of School systems for virtual learning.
- Some instructors with smaller class sizes use Skype.
- Other services are used as well that were traditionally tutoring sites that have converted to offering different levels of online instruction.
Check with the instructor that will be teaching your class to find out which platform they prefer.
A word of warning about options like Facebook live. Some of these types of social media delivery services are easily viewed by a host of unknown people. When our kids are involved, be careful where you allow them to be viewed.
How Will I Know If My Child Will Do Well In Online Martial Arts Training?
I would suggest contacting the instructor of your choice and have your Little Ninja try out a free session or two. This way you can see how the instructor interacts in real time with the students, what will be taught, and more than likely you will be able to ask questions at the end.
I offer this to all first time students in a 15 minute trial, one on one Online Karate class. Parents are there and can ask questions, cutting out the delay in emailing and other messaging.
If you are interested in letting your Little Ninja try out an online Karate class and consider becoming part of my merry band of tiny ninjas, just drop me an email using the information on my contact page here.
The Karate Kids Online Takeaway…
Welp, there you have it: a comprehensive guide to virtual Karate classes for kids online. Hopefully, this has answered more questions than it has raised.
If you find that you still have questions, I will be more than happy to answer them even if you are still considering where, or if, your Little Ninja will take online classes. Just contact me through my contact page.
I get literally hundreds of emails per month about the marital arts. Many of the questions I turn into articles. So I invite you to check out some of mine and my wife’s other postings here on this site.
I hope you find that virtual training is worth giving a shot. You may end up wondering why everyone hasn’t been doing it this way all along!