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Children’s Karate F.A.Q.s

1. How much experience do you have?

Firstly about myself. I am Shihan David Zarb. I am a 5th Dan Black Belt with 47 years’ experience in the Goju discipline of Karate. Shihan is a term for Master Instructor and is reserved for those who are principal instructors of a karate school who have attained 5th Dan and above. My wife, Amelia, is a 4th Dan and for the past 24 years we have taught Karate, Tai Chi and Self Defence in schools and corporate environments as full time employment. We are members of the peak body of Karate in Australia, the Australian Karate Federation, qualified with Diploma’s in Sports Coaching and Sports Development and are both qualified Workplace Training and Assessors under the Australian Qualification Training Framework..

2. What results have you achieved for children in the past?

In my school I take children from 4 year olds upwards and have a current karate student in their 60s. Obviously there are differing requirements in student needs. I teach to the younger students basic motor and social skills. In basic motor we use karate technique to increase fitness, balance and confidence. With social skills we develop confidence, self discipline, leadership and the ability to mix confidently with all social groups in an orderly and respectful manner. We intertwine this with movement training, usually in game sense to develop skills that at a later age they can transfer into self defence applications. As the students get older and learn about the self defence applications, great care is taken to ensure the student understands the self defence nature is used appropriately.

3. How long will it take?

This depends on the student and their needs. With physical fitness, we increase their fitness in line with the guidelines for children from the National Coaching Accreditation Scheme. This is to ensure repetition movements are limited to children to prevent damage to their bodies. You should start to see a difference in your child’s physical fitness slowly over a 10 week period. Great care needs to be taken not to work a child excessively. The child will refuse involvement if physically exercised overly hard. Children’s fitness needs to be more gradually improved rather than what we expect of a fitness improvement program for adults.

For children with interaction issues, generally a term will start to empower your child to be move interactive with peers and adults.

Each child is different and we assess all children individually and tailor programs accordingly. If you have any issues, please feel free to discuss them with us.

4. How many days a week will they need to commit to?

Initially, one day per week is acceptable. If your child likes the involvement and wants to continue, after 18 months to two years of one day per week in the school term, they should increase to two to three times per week to gain improvement.

5. How hard will you push them?

Children cannot be pushed too hard. They need encouragement and enjoyment from their physical exercise. We are specialists in children and are often referred by medical practitioners to aid in helping resolve childhood development problems in fitness, co-ordination and social development. We balance the activity level with exercise restraints and maximised the social and enjoyment factor of the children.

6. Isn’t Karate a highly disciplined sport?

Non karate people have a perspective of karate of the sport being highly disciplined and fitness orientated. This is truer of what we call in the martial arts industry “Westernised Karate”. Traditional karate, as taught by the Japanese, is more attuned to the individual’s body requirements and capability. Discipline is strict whilst non-aggressive behaviour is encouraged.

Gentle persuasion is used to develop discipline and maintain discipline. The discipline we have in our school is based on developing the children’s sense of trust, loyalty, honour and being truthful. These attributes are developed using social skills development in a subtle influence, generally by introducing and reinforcing these concepts through specifically designed activities where the child is being introduced to new “norms and values” and having continuous reinforcement of these.

7. Will my child become aggressive?

No. Actually correct teaching of karate will show that aggression and violence is not acceptable or necessary. Your child is taught that karate is a fun and entertaining activity but there are self defence applications which cannot be practiced or used outside the karate school. Usually children that cannot grasp this concept do not tend to remain involved in karate for long. Their desire to be aggressive is countermanded by the discipline requirements. Children that attend karate training over a period tend to become self assured and confident that tends to reduce the aggressiveness used to cover social inadequacies. The term “karate kids have control” means that learning karate is a way of developing self control of themselves and the environment they are in. I would encourage you to come and visit our school at either Mowbray Melton or in Bacchus Marsh. We can introduce you to some of our students for an informal discussion and you can ask these children about their feelings for karate and the benefits of their involvement.

And … an article of interest ..

David Zarb, an insight into the person: An article by Melissa Odgers of Bacchus Marsh (circa 2000)

About $30 buys one of the most valuable things in a Victorian person’s life. It brings joy, excitement and peace of mind; it solves arguments and helps you get to exactly where you want to be in life. So why would anyone want to give their Melways to a complete stranger?

“It’s happened to me twice now,” tells David Zarb. “The last time I was standing in front of a big map with my wife and some others, trying to gristly figure out where we were and then where I had to be. A man came over to me and asked where I wanted to go. He took me to the ticket booth and all the way to the platform I had to be on, which was obviously out of his way.”

No, it wasn’t at Spencer or Flinders Street, it was at Sinjuku station in Japan, which according to David has about six kilometres of platforms. “It changed my whole perspective,” says David. “I’ve given people my Melways since then. Things like that just don’t happen in Australia.”

David was on his third trip to Japan in 15 years, training for Karate. He was never one for playing footy or cricket like most other Aussie kids, “for the simple reason, in team sports you either get blamed or hero status.” David started Karate at the age of 16 and earned his black belt just before his 21st birthday.

His first trip to Japan was about 15 years ago as a second Dan, meaning he had been graded or tested twice after receiving his black belt. He travelled with his teacher and found that he was almost reliant on his companions. “It was amazing,” he said, “I was totally out of my depth.” David and his friends trained every day for three weeks while staying near Tokyo.

After being a driving instructor with the RACV for 16 years, David felt like a change and resigned. “It felt like a whole weight was lifted off my shoulders. It was amazing, exhilarating.” The ‘Art of Defence Australia’, a martial arts organisation was established eight years ago, with David as the director and wife Amelia, secretary. As David recalls, they “did it the hard way” and after taking some marketing advice, “started to kick some goals.” Since then, the number of classes and students have steadily grown. David and Amelia, also a black belt, have classes in Karate, Tai Chi, and Self Defence in Bacchus Marsh, Melton, Carlton and Macedon, amongst other places.

“Being a Virgo, I’m supposed to be very fussy or something, a perfectionist,” says David sceptically, but he says he still enjoys Karate because he hasn’t yet perfected it, although he doesn’t think he ever will. Here is a person that really does enjoy his job because he enjoys interacting with people, something that he considers to be an important requirement of job satisfaction.

In his Self Defence classes, David finds nothing more satisfying than when he sees really placid people actually gain enough confidence to protect themselves. He tells of one woman he once taught who he describes as being “about 55, four feet two and about 120 kilos”. Who was being abused by her husband. One day he tried to harm her, but she had enough self confidence to stand up for herself and that was the last she saw of him. “I thought, you beauty,” smiles David.

It’s a “big buzz,” says David “to see someone really raw make their way to black belt in Karate.” So far he has seen about 25 or 30 of his pupils make it that far, with about 20 of them still training, including Amelia, her 10 year old daughter Gabriella and David’s 17 year old son Peter, who is also National All Styles (NAS) champion.

On his most recent trip to Japan, he was accompanied by Amelia and her two daughters Gabriella and Daniella, and Peter. All were influenced quite profoundly by the people and their culture, especially Peter who was, as David puts it “blown away”. To David, the Japanese people feel like an extended family, as he tells of when Daniella fell ill. Their Sensei took her to the doctor and chemist to get her prescription and wouldn’t accept anything for doing so. “You can walk from one end of a train station to the other, or down a crowded street without being bumped or jostled once,” he says “it’s like you bumping into a member of your family at home. You wouldn’t do it.”

Contrary to what a lot of people think, David says that his teachers aren’t at all mean and nasty as seen in some martial arts movies. Sensei Ohtsuka, one of David’s Japanese teachers, has “an amazing technique of applying humour to a class,” something which David has incorporated into his own method of teaching. “The perfect class is when one or two hours only feels like five minutes.”

Eight year old Kirstin has only one thing to say about David, “Cool!” Another student, 38 year old Donna however thinks he is “absolutely fabulous. It’s very rare to find someone that can keep adults and children occupied at the same time.”
David believes that it is because whether they are adults or kids, they are all persons and those people are all his friends.

“Once they sort out the pecking order, I have no problems with behaviour either. Doing 500 push-ups for talking and another 500 for groaning isn’t discipline,” believes David, “punishment like that isn’t a proactive learning facet. If you want to do Karate, you’ve got to do Karate. Discipline is when the 20 kids in front of you understand the rules and stick to them without any troubles.”

Despite travelling around to various towns for his classes, being to Japan three times, Bali twice, Taiwan and New Zealand, David still feels like there is no place like home and he knows he’s close when he drives through the big overhanging oak trees that form Bacchus Marsh’s spectacular Avenue of Honour. “I actually feel like I’m coming home,” he says, “not just to my house. It’s the only place that’s ever given me that feeling.”

So the next time you’re helplessly lost, ask someone with a Melways for directions. You never know, they might have just got back from Japan.