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Focus Pad Training For Kids

How young is too young for combative training?

That’s a common question I get from concerned parents looking for a solution to their child’s declining fitness because of their sedentary lifestyle or their hyper-activity because they’re not “burning off” their pent up energy.  Or as in the case of a friend of mine, her son was just crazy about all-things-martial-arts-related and she wanted to encourage his passion.

My standard response in most cases is…  Focus Pad Training.

I never intended this blog to be an “everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-focus-pads” resource.  It just seems to have turned out that way lately.

If you couldn’t care less about smacking the pads around, don’t worry, I’ll be focusing future posts on a wide variety of conditioning, self-defense and confrontation management concepts as well.  HONEST! 😉

That being said, I consider the focus pads to be an excellent activity for people of ANY age.  In fact, I am in the process of “re-inventing” my Toughen Up Training Guides to capitalize on the benefits and diversity of my focus pad workouts and seminars.

3 1/2 year old Curtis & his uncle Henry

Focus pad training is a great starting point for a young person new to combative training.  It provides a solid skill and conditioning base that will allow him or her to transition seamlessly into other activities like heavy bag training, Thai pads, kicking shields, boxing glove drills etc.

The “playful nature” of focus pad drills is perfect for young athletes.  The “secret ingredient” to success is FUN.  In a time when the average kid doesn’t get nearly enough activity, you need to find something they enjoy or forget about them sticking with it.  If they don’t like it, they’ll lose interest FAST.

I compare the convenience and “fun factor” of focus pads to bringing a baseball and glove out to your back yard or the park.  Rather than tossing a ball around with your boy or girl, get’m a pair of bag gloves and a couple focus pads and you have a fun and vigorous game that you can play together and get healthy while doing it.  They won’t even realize that they are getting “exercise.”  (I won’t even mention that they are also learning self-defense skills that may come into play at some point in their life.  Oops, I guess I just did, didn’t I?)

I’m not a fan of young (pre-pubescent) kids doing a lot of heavy bag training. Although I haven’t come across any specific studies or research about it, I have read a lot about the risk of repetitive, high-intensity exercise as having the potential of damaging the “growth plates” of a growing child’s bones.  I’m not say that a young kid can’t hit a heavy bag.  You just have to limit the amount of it.

Because the focus pads aren’t as solid and resistant as a heavy bag, the potential “wear and tear” on your child’s body is reduced making it, in my opinion, a healthier activity for them.

And if you wonder how young a child can be before he or she is ready for focus pad training, take a look at this video clip I found on YouTube of a 9 year-old boy training on the pads.As the father of three boys myself, I believe that you can start your child off even earlier than that.

If you’re looking for a fun and healthy activity that you can do with your child, give focus pads a try and let me know how you make out!

About Randy LaHaie

I’m the founder of “Protective Strategies,” a training and consulting company providing self-defense and combative fitness solutions to law enforcement, high-risk professionals and private citizens since 1994. I am a retired police officer, court-declared expert in use-of-force and critical incident performance, and a life-long student of self-defense and combative fitness. “My Thing” is to help people incorporate functional and minimalist workout strategies to improve their health, fitness and personal safety.

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  • I haven’t read all of your posts, but I like the ones I have. Thank you for adding the picture of my nephew and I. My nephew and I had so much fun playing with the focus mitts.

  • Marc

    Great Post!

    What sort of hand protection would recommend for a 7 year old boy punching focus pads?



    • Hi Marc, Thanks for your question. I’d recommend that your boy use boxing gloves for focus pad works. Good luck finding a pair his size, but if you can… the additional padding in a boxing glove will absorb more impact energy than a pair of bag gloves would. I have seen “junior” sized boxing gloves in sporting good stores. That might be a good ouption for you. Good luck.

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