Super Mario Obstacle Course
This is a fun drill for kids. We set up an obstacle course like the Super Mario Game. We placed coins (nickels) in the course and students could keep up to five of them. We also had a hammer brother, steps with flag at the end, a Roomba vacuum with a balance ball (koopa turtle) other things.
Students start out small and then have to uppercut a pad and catch a mushroom to become big. Of course, you need the music in the background! If you use a Roomba, then the dojang also gets clean.
There are tons of variations here. This is a good game to keep students excited and it also trains a number of martial arts skills.
Donkey Kong Training
This works well if you have a triangle matt (commonly used for teaching back handsprings) as well as some tops from Wavemaster bags or other cylindrical pads. Have the students complete tasks while running at you and then roll the Wavemaster tops down so that students have to jump over them without getting hit.
They should only have a narrow lane to run in, so that they have to jump over the pads, instead of just letting them go by. But you may want to have barricades that they can hide behind. See an example video and more information at:
Indiana Jones Obstacle Course
This is a type of obstacle course that goes throughout the perimeter of the school. First you set up cones as a slalom along one side of the mat. After that set up a ladder running perpendicular to the slalom course on another end of the mat. From there set up Muy Thai pads, or something that the kids can jump on perpendicular to the ladder on another end of the mat. On the last free part on the mat keep it open so you may roll a yoga ball to chase the kids to test their speed and dodging ability.
Running the Drill – Have the kids start at the slalom and proceed through the obstacle course. The course should run Slalom, ladder, Muy Thai pads, and open space.
To keep the kids interested throughout the drill tell them that they must step on the Muy Thai pads in order to keep off the “Lava”. This keeps the obstacle course fun while still testing their balance and dexterity.
Once they get done with the Muy Thai pads, have them sprint as fast as they can away from the Yoga ball that you will be rolling at them. (If you are old enough to remember the original Indiana Jones Movie, that’s what it will be replicating). Have them do this once or twice to get the gist of the game, then as they get better take Muy Thai pads away or move them out of a straight line in order to challenge them more. If they step in the “Lava” give them workouts in order to reward the winners without punishing the loser too much. Of course, it’s important to have music during this one as well.
Drill Sergeant Game
This is a good quick warm-up that you can use. Divide the students into pairs or small groups. One person is the drill sergeant, and they get to yell out any drills with a number. The other person has to do them. Give about 90 second rounds, and then switch. The short rounds make sure if someone orders 1000 pushups, the other person only ends up doing pushups for 90 seconds. Alternatively, you can have the drill sergeant also have to do whatever he orders.
Make sure that students know that they can refuse a drill if they have a medical reason to do so. This is especially important with older students or those with injuries.
Extended Snake Drill
The extended snake drill uses a team, and works well as a relay race. One person does something, then becomes the obstacle for the others until the line passes. For instance, one person kneels down in the turtle position and then the rest of the team jumps over and then kneels down. When the first person becomes last, he goes.
There are many great variations to this drill. You can have people stand and touch their toes, and then the others go either over (leapfrog) or under. You can have people lay down on their backs, and have them doing some flutter kicks, v ups, etc, while the others go through. You can have people stand and have others kick them (with hogus or without) or you can have the standing people do sport-specific moves like blocks or strikes instead of resting.
Relay Races (with twists)
Relay races are a great warm-up used in sports all over the world. Here are some twists that we use to make things exciting.
Name Teams – People will be more excited if their team has a cool name. Also, make sure the people on each team know each other’s names so they can cheer.
Animal Races – These work great for relays.
Vary Winning Criteria – The team with all the black belts might have a big advantage – until you make them run down to the other end and do their form. In our style at least, the black belt form has many more moves than the color belt forms.
‘Cheat’ – If one team keeps winning every time I will blatantly ‘cheat’ to give them an extra challenge. This could be like walking in the way so they have to run farther, knocking over their baton, etc.
Change Transfer Criteria – Instead of just tagging their partner, have one do a punch and the other block in order to transfer from one person to the other. Have a jumping high five, flying side kick over turtle/fall/roll, etc.
Examples – Here are some races we use – Run down and do a sport specific movement (kicks, fall, blocks, stand on one leg, etc), Run down and carry a baton (or pile of things), do a roll and run down, animal races, extended snake races, run down and do a form, etc. The possibilities are endless.
This game is just like Simon Says, where whoever does something when you didn’t say “Sensei Says” is out. The great thing here is that students are already conditioned to follow your voice, especially for sharp commands (like “attention!”). This will make the game interesting. Again, they are thinking about the game and not the pushups (or whatever) you gave them to do.
Add on works well for sports that require combinations. The first person does one move, and then the second does that move plus his own move. This continues until someone is unable to complete the combination, and then they are out.
If you have more than about 5 people or so, it’s best to split them into groups. Otherwise, they will be spending a lot of time watching and then on only the second round they have to do a huge combination that they haven’t built up with muscle memory. Also, consider disallowing moves that only one or two people can do, or put them in their own group. Otherwise, the first kid comes out and does a back flip and then the game is over.
This is an old game that is common in basketball. The first person picks a shot. If they make it, then the others have to make the same shot or they get a letter. If they miss, the next person gets to pick the shot. You can substitute any sport-specific movements. For instance it could be field goals, kicking or tricking combos, throwing up a pad and kicking it out of the air, even trying to do a certain move in a sparring exchange. For instance you could say you have to score with a crescent kick within one minute or you get a letter. You can also spell anything. In our trick kick class we play to spell DEMO. What you pick really depends on the amount of time you have for that class.
This drill is used where you have people run through a line of heavy bags, students wearing hogus, obstacles, etc. We usually like to have them do something like a high five or roll at the end and we also like to put music so they get excited. The more energy you can get on this drill, the better! This works really well for instance at the end of a hard practice where you just want to push the students a little more. There are endless variations as far as which techniques you do.
Group Competition Drill
We use this drill a lot when there is a big class that is having a hard time focusing. It gets their energy out and will make sure everyone on the team pays attention. Divide the class in half and have them face each other, for instance along the sides of the matt. Let each team do something, and give a point to whichever one does it better. You can make it a big deal like naming the teams and wondering out loud if one team can come back to win, things like that. Here are some good examples.
Which team has the deepest stance
Which team has the lowest 10 pushups
Which team has the highest 10 knee to chest jumps
Which team has the best chambering for low blocks
Which team has the most people still in crane stance/vsits/etc after 1 minute
Which team has the loudest kihaps
If there is a race, make sure the race finishes with every person on the team sitting correctly on a particular line. You might want to have a parent randomly count all the reps of a random person on a given team to keep everyone honest. If it’s close match, award the point to the team that is losing so it builds more suspense.
Guardian of the Gates
This drill teaches the students to block someone. You set a goal which can be marked by cones. Then have one student try to run through the goal. The other students try to block them, usually by holding large foam shields. You can vary the number of people blocking to make it harder or easier, or vary what they are allowed to do (ie, if they can grab onto the person).
If you have one gate you can time how long it takes for one person or team to make it through. If it’s teams release the next person once the first person crosses the border. If there are two teams, have some people be blockers and the other people runners. See which team can get all its people safely across first.
Highest Dive Roll/Kick/Etc
This is a simple game played with many variations in schools all around the world. Line up all the students and have them try to dive roll/jump/kick/etc over an obstacle. Whoever makes it goes on to the next round, while whoever doesn’t make it has to sit down and give high fives as the others pass.
This game will give a lot of energy. This might be the first time a kid has ever had everyone chanting his name, and parents will notice this.
Make sure to do this safely. There should be appropriate padding such as a crash pad as these moves can get pretty high. You might also want to measure this and set it as a school record.
You want most people to get through 3-4 rounds before they get out, so make the earlier rounds easier and adjust upwards with small adjustments as necessary. High fives are easy for ever preschoolers to do.
Grappling Obstacle Course
Include elements like ‘the tunnel of shrimping.’ It’s great if you have grappling dummies or can take the tops off of BOB dummies. Have students run (or roll/shrimp) between stations and have them go through positions, complete throws, etc.
Ninja Game (Vampires and Zombies Mode)
The Ninja Game is something that we do that is similar to flag tag. Basically each student takes a flag and puts it in the back of their belt. Then if someone takes it, they are out. This is made to help students develop the awareness and footwork to avoid people getting behind them. There are several cool variations to this drill.
Vampires Mode means that if you take someone’s life, you can add it to your own. So in this case if you take someone’s flag, now you will have two. The game ends when one person has all the lives. This mode encourages attacking and discourages waiting.
Zombies Mode means that once your flag is taken, you can crawl around (or walk slowly, or use only long stance, etc) and try to get other people’s flag. Whatever the case, they should have some significant disadvantage. Once they steal someone else’s life, they become regular humans again.
It’s great to play with zombies and vampires. This game also works well in combination with other drills, particularly Kill Box. You can also add this into sparring, grappling, or any other drills.
For this drill you get a large foam pad, and try to disrupt your opponent from doing his sport-specific movements. For instance, the opponent might be doing a form, kicking a bag, etc, and this just makes that harder. Use various levels of power, depending on the size of the people involved.
Many Karate schools do ‘tension kicks’ as a key part of their curriculum. This involves standing and slowly kicking in and out. You can go in and out in one count, or out on one and in on the second count. The idea is to flex your muscles and hold the kick in place with good technique.
This is much easier when holding on to a wall or something else solid. Let students hold onto things at first, and then try without as they get better.
Park Obstacle Course
Sometimes it’s great to go training outside or sometimes you might not have access to a full facility. That’s no problem. Parks and playgrounds contain so many potential drills. Here are a few examples.
Proper Standing Drill
This drill is critical for students to work on, especially for those who aren’t skilled at grappling. One student starts on the ground and the other one stands up holds a blaster pad. The person on the ground tries to stand up while the person on top tries to hit them with the pad and knock them back down. It is really hard if you do two on one.
For the proper standing technique, see the end of the video of KAT grappling drill G
Paddle sparring is a drill we use a lot with our competitors, especially when a tournament is imminent and we don’t want to risk contact.
One partner holds the pads, and the other kicks. The partner holding gets to pick which kicks to ask for. This drill is all about the holder. If the holder is bad, the drill won’t help. Holders should move around, should fake with their body, should give a variety of kicks and should give the kicks in bursts.
We like to do 90 second rounds, which start with 30 seconds of regular speed followed by 15 seconds of ‘bursts’ or combos. The 30 and 15 second sub-rounds continue twice, and then the partners switch.
Animal races are great for kids to work a variety of different muscle groups and anatomical motions. They can be done as a relay or as individuals. With little kids, you can also have them make the noises.
Crab Walks – Go backwards touching only the hands and feet.
Bear Crawls – Crawl forwards, using only the hands and feet.
Penguin Waddles – Keep the knees touching and shuffle forwards.
Stork Hops – Hop forwards on only one leg.
Bunny hops – Jump with both feet together.
Shrimping – Go on the back and do the grappling movement. This one will be pretty hard for small children to get very far, so consider doing this one for half distance.
Salamander crawls (army crawls) – Go forwards crawling on the forearms. If possible, it’s great to have some obstacles to go under.
Tiger Runs – Like bear crawls but the left foot and hand move together and then the right foot and hand move together.
Frog Jumps – Have them bend their knees and make small hops forwards. Don’t use this one for older students or those with knee problems.
Duck Walks – Like frog jumps but one foot steps at a time. Again, do this only sparingly in kids and not at all in older students or those with knee problems.
Bird Flaps – Similar to frog jumps, but jump really high and flap your arms.
Human – For the last one you can let them run like a human!
For this one have both students do a stance and try to knock each other over. For instance, for long stance the students can face each other. Both keep the same foot in the front. They have to try to get the other person to fall without falling themselves. It is easy for one student to sacrifice and have both students lose, but they should try to avoid this. For back stance, have the students try to pull each other forwards.