Kids 1: Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5pm.
Our introductory kids class focuses on setting behavioral expectations within the training hall, developing inner stillness and attention span, and extending body consciousness through the spine and extremities. Classes are slower-paced to allow new students time to understand and practice foundational movements. Appropriate for kids ages 5- 1/2 to 11.
Kids 2 and 3: Mondays and Wednesdays at 4pm.
This class introduces combination techniques and more challenging forms, along with leaping and acrobatic techniques, the willow-leaf saber, and the rattan staff. A faster-paced, highly energetic class that demands attention and quick thinking. Students in this class are largely self-motivated and self-disciplined, and work with instructors as guides and mentors. All students must be at least yellow belt level to attend this class, unless expressly admitted by the instructor.
West Gate's kids program is centered around the development of presence, self- discipline, and enjoyment in our students. Our highest calling as teachers is in teaching children the joy of movement and the value of physical art alongside the more traditional martial arts values of tenacity and self-discipline. Our program is founded on the notion that art emerges through work and practice rather than natural talent, and that anyone can develop skill if they put in the right effort, with the right level of conscious attention.
We train all of our kids, irrespective of physical ability, to be their own teacher – to demand more of themselves, to critically assess their abilities, and to ask for help when they need it. We encourage them to work together, to figure things out for themselves, and to ask questions when they hit a dead end. At the same time, we design our classes to be exciting, upbeat, and challenging, and to give our kids the structure to push through to the next level.
Kids class begins with a brief meditation practice, which we call "stillness time." Students and teachers sit together in a circle, still their minds and bodies, and focus on their breathing. Most children struggle with sitting still at first — this is normal. Finding stillness, a kind of alert attention in the absence of active thought, is a skill, and it takes practice. Students and teachers often talk about stillness after the practice for a few minutes, either in an unstructured format or by examining a koan (a short story with an unexpected or nonsensical outcome, often used in Zen practice), or some other teaching tool for self-awareness. We ask students to bring this stillness, as often as they can, into their work in class.
We then proceed to a general warm-up for building strength, flexibility, and endurance, followed by coordination exercises or target practice for kicks, punches, and tumbling. After a break, we work on forms — choreographed, extended sets of movements that teach the body timing, power generation, and flow, while improving attention span and resolve. These are the same complex forms we teach in our adult Mizong Luohan Kung Fu class, with some of the more confusing parts omitted. Children work on forms in peer-groups, and are encouraged to help each other. In level 2 and 3 classes, forms may be followed by point-sparring practice, a tag-like game where students try to score points on each other using controlled kicks and punches while wearing protective padding.
Uniforms are available for sale at the school, and consist of a handmade traditional-style tunic ($45) and comfortable, durable pants designed for kung fu practice ($30). Typically, we encourage parents to purchase a uniform for their child prior to their first rank test.
Like many other martial arts, we utilize a ranking system based on colored belts. Belts are symbolic of the time and effort associated with skill development, and signify a gradual darkening of the material (originally an off-white, raw silk sash used as a back-support) as it accumulates sweat, grime, and the like. By the time it is black with grit and detritus, the student has mastered the fundamentals of the art, hence the notion of a "black belt," a now-universal ranking within the martial arts community that signifies amateur-level expertise in a style. Belts are shiny and dyed nowadays (and smell a lot better!), but the notion remains the same.
Children generally rank test 2-3 times per year at West Gate, and proceed from a white sash through yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, and brown. Your child is ready to rank test when they can make it through the required form or forms at the commensurate competence level for the rank without stopping or needing assistance from others. We can help you make that determination, and the decision to test is always up to you. Children may not test for black belt, and must wait until age 16 to do so. Rank testing fees are $25.
Kids programs are priced per semester, and full payment for each semester is required up-front. Regular attendance is expected. There are NO REFUNDS for non-attendance. Prices are as follows:
Fall Semester: September 1st – December 15th: $950
Spring Semester: January 15th – May 31st: $950
Summer: June 1st – August 31st: $350