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Pacific Association of Women Martial Artists

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of women and girls in the martial arts.

Games for Martial Arts Classes

by Nikki Smith, RN.
Head Instructor of Capital City Judo in Sacramento, CA.
Edited by Renee Smith

Games are fun! No one can argue with that, they can be silly, physically demanding or brutal! Most people like playing games, so if we martial artists use them wisely we can increase participation in activities and enable people to learn new skills while having fun, improving cognitive and physical abilities.  We can also use them as a reward system.

Any traditional game can become a martial arts game and any martial art move/technique can become a game!  You just have to be inventive!

Judo has a long history of playing games, particularly in the UK where I come from, so a number of my games are also of UK origin. I use games all the time to improve my students’ technical skills and as a way to bring a student’s attention back to me when they have become unruly. They are also an effective time-filler when I have run out of ideas for class; or if I have someone else cover my classes.

Most of my games are competitive.  I don’t see any harm in that since competition is a large part of Judo and it is a sport in the Olympics. I often fix the rules or situation in favor of the students who don’t normally win or I have games where different skills are emphasized so the same kids don’t win everything.   I “fix” the competitive aspects to mine or my students favor. A lot of my games appear simply physical but they actually have an element where the more intelligent players can do as well as the more physically gifted players. To equal out the ages I will handicap the older students to make the field more equal when they are playing against younger kids. I also make a point of not allowing the boys to run rough shod over the girls, or not picking the girls as partners. So if a girl is picked last for anything all the boys in the room have to do push-ups! If a big kid squishes a little kid then I get to squish the big kid! They all love that! It magically heals all wounds when you see your tormentor in pain! I also pick the kids I think need a little boost to select the game we’ll play that day, so they don’t feel left out of class even if they aren’t very good. So though we are competitive everyone has a chance to win sometimes. All of the games can be adapted in some way if you have differently abled kids in class.

To help decide which game to play I sometimes use our magic box (or bag since my box lid broke).  This is a way to allow students to think they have some control over the activities in class, which encourage participation. It also encourages good behavior because everyone loves to be the one to pick the card out of the box. I have a number of laminated cards with games and activities written on them that I put in a bag. When I want to reward someone or I can’t decide what to do next I’ll let someone pick a card and we have to do whatever is on the card. If I like the activity it might take up the rest of class, if I don’t we can do it for just a few minutes. I also stack the deck and make sure the things I want them to do are in the stack. I also have a number of booby prizes like squats and push-ups in there. The danger of picking one of those cards makes it even more exciting than if they were all fun things! It also helps when I have to have someone cover my classes, the kids look forward to the magic bag exercises and they think they are getting away with something if they pick from the bag the entire class time. This holds true even though the activities may be very similar to what we normally do in class.

When playing games the most important thing to remember is safety, that means the instructor is the head referee, what you say goes, no matter what. Fix the rules to fit the situation, and let the bigger kids know why you are doing that so they don’t get upset when you rig the system.  Just make sure it’s fun or else no one will want to do it!

These are some of the games we play and some of the cards in my magic box:

1. British Bulldog - One of our favorites!

  • Participants line up on one side of the mat on their hands & knees.  

  • One person kneels in the middle of the mat, facing everyone else.  They are the bulldog.

  • The person in the middle yells “Bulldog”.

  • The people on the side of the mat try to crawl across the mat past the bulldog to the other side.

  • The bulldog has to grab people as they go by & turn them onto their backs.  

  • Once turned over people become bulldogs themselves.  

  • When all players have either reached the opposite side of the mat or have been captured in the middle by the bulldogs the group resets for the next round.

  • That means the initial bulldog and everyone they grabbed will line up in the middle of the mat then yell “Bulldog” and again everyone tries to crawl across the mat.

  • The game keeps going until there is only one person left who is not a Bulldog.  They are the winner.

Benefits: This is a fun game that helps kids practice physical skills required in grappling arts. It gets them used to rough physical contact. Plus it’s hard work so it gets them sweaty. They love it!

Alternatives/Adaptations: You can have the kids just tag someone going across the mat or you can have the bulldog grab a belt tied to the back of players rather than turn them over. You can even do it standing up if you want, more like a bulldog tag. I’ve had kids with visual impairments play this game but watch out for them.

Risks: It is a rough game and injuries can occur. Little or weaker kids can be trampled over by bigger kids, plus they can bash into one another. Mat burn is also a common injury.

Safety: Always have a referee who can keep an eye out to keep things safe.  Penalize the rough kids by making them be a bulldog. Keep everyone on their hands and knees, no bear crawls. The Bulldogs in the middle act as a team trying to bring down the people crawling across but the people crawling across should not help one another.

2. Dodgeball -

This is an American game I adapted and simplified for use in the dojo.

  • The person who is “it” has the ball.

  • They throw the ball trying to hit everyone else with it.  

  • Once you are touched by the ball you are out.  

  • The last person in wins the game.

  • They then begin the next game as the “it” and can throw the ball.

Benefits: This is a fun high energy game that is simple to play so it is good for all ages and abilities. Everyone loves to play and it gets everyone running around the room at speed so it can be used as a warm up or as a reward at the end of class.

Alternatives/Adaptations: It’s hard for the little kids to throw the ball so I let them work in teams or have their siblings or a parent come on and help them. You can invite parents or family members to throw the ball at the kids just for fun, everyone loves that.  

Risks: If you hit the kids just right as they are running they spin in the air so it’s great therapy for the parents! But the kids can land funny, be smashed in the face or hit walls etc., so keep an eye on the roughness in the game & adjust according to the group playing.

Safety: Use a large soft ball; preferably a yoga ball or something similar, nothing too bouncy, heavy or hard, like a soccer ball. In that way, you can’t hit people too hard and the lights or windows in the room won’t be broken. When you play this on a mat in an enclosed area you can be really aggressive with the ball throwing, but be careful on hard or slippery surfaces!  

3. Fainting Goats Dodgeball -

Similar rules to our regular Dodgeball but with a twist.

  • The person who is “it” has the ball.

  • They throw the ball trying to hit everyone else with it.  

  • Once you are touched by the ball you are out, even if you catch the ball.  

  • The only way to stay in the game is to sprawl to your belly when the ball is thrown at you, if you are flat when you are hit by the ball it doesn’t count!

  • You cannot stay on your belly.  You have to get up & run after about 3 seconds.

  • The ball thrower can’t hang out waiting for people to get up, everyone has to keep moving!

  • Rule breakers or dangerous players are out by referee decision.

  • The last person in wins the game

Benefits: This is visually very fun, it really looks like a herd of fainting goats, so the audience loves it. Everyone still gets to run around but we added the fainting to encourage sprawling or practice dropping to the ground as you have to in grappling arts.

Alternatives/Adaptations: We have the rulethat your belly has to be on the ground to avoid being out to make it similar to going for a pin, but you can change the rules anyway you like. The fun thing about the belly down is that if they get hit in the butt while it is sticking up they are out, and it is funny! But you could say that people have to sit down or be on their knees etc.  

Risks: It is fast passed and the kids do run around a lot so collisions can happen, plus as they are dropping to the ground they can fall on one another.  Also they get hit in the face with the ball occasionally, they get used to it but the first time it happens the little ones can be upset.

Safety: Use a large soft ball like a large exercise ball. Monitor the play so the players are not being too rough, especially if you have little kids. I have kids 4-14 playing together and only occasionally have tears, no one has actually been injured.

4. Keep the Kettle Boiling -

This is really a drill but seems like a game. It is similar to King of the Hill but I really don’t like the name, it’s sexist. I guess you could call it Monarch of the Hill!

  • Line everyone up along one side of the mat.

  • Pull people out to the middle of the mat (the number depends on the size of your mat, I usually do 2-3).

  • The people lined up come out one by one to fight the person in the middle.

  • As soon as a person is thrown they go off and join the line on the edge of the mat.  The winner stays out.

  • The person on the end of the line runs out to fight the winner of the previous match.

  • Play continues for a period of time.  The winner is the person who lasts the most matches if you want a winner.

Benefits: A high energy way of practicing skills for your art and a way to have kids practice sparring in a less scary situation. It’s good for Judo because it promotes a “grab and go” mentality, the first person to go for a throw usually wins.

Alternatives/Adaptations: You can make the activity anything you like, mat work, throws, striking sparring, anything somewhat combative.

Risks: It is sparring so there are the usual risks with that activity.

Safety: Don’t have too many people out sparring at a time; it’s too difficult to keep an eye on things. Make sure the bigger or more experienced kids adapt their play to the abilities of their opponents to avoid injuries.

5. Tug-of-War:  You need a rope or belts tied together for this game

  • Two teams line up facing one another.

  • You hand them either end of a rope.

  • They each to try to pull the rope till the middle line passes a certain point.

  • The winners are the ones who pull it across the line first.

Benefits: This game is about team work and communication as much as it is about strength and technique. I like to switch the teams up a bit occasionally, putting families of siblings together or having boys against girls especially if I know the girls are bigger & will win. It’s good for kids to see the genders differently than they are represented in the general community. It’s another reason why I have kids of all genders do the Wonder Woman pose - (arms crossed against the chest) - when they are preparing to practice falls.  It’s good for boys to have to pretend to be a female super hero occasionally & not just girls being male heroes!

Alternatives/Adaptations: You can adapt the rules any way you like, changing the way they grip the rope or how they pull.

Risks: If you use a rope they can get a rope burn if not careful, plus occasionally the kids will pull one another over and into another kid.

Safety:  Don’t let them tie the rope onto themselves nor wrap it around a body part! Be careful the little kids aren’t trampled by the bigger kids.

6. Scottish Tug-of-war: I saw this game at the Highland Games Fair in Dixon, CA.  I have no idea what the real name is!

  • You need a rope and 2 small steps that are about 1ft square and a few inches off the ground.

  • The players stand on the squares about 6 feet away from one another.

  • They must have equal lengths of rope.

  • If you drop the rope or fall off the step you are out. Those are the only rules.

Benefits: This is a great way to show that martial arts are about tactics and intelligence as much as they are about athleticism. If you pull too hard & your opponent lets the rope slide through their fingers you can fall over backwards, but if you let too much go through your fingers you’ll run out of rope & lose that way. It’s a good way to practice kuzushi for us, plus it’s just fun to see the big, strong kids assume they will pull a smaller kid off only to fall flat on their backs!

Alternatives: You can always use uniform belts tied together as the rope, plus kick pads work as the steps. You can have pieces of paper on the ground or draw a square on the ground if you don’t want to risk kids falling on a hard surface.

Risks: Falling awkwardly or on a hard surface, rope burn on the hands and embarrassment are the main risks.

Safety: Warn kids of the risks of rope burn, make sure people can fall properly if you put them on a step more than a couple of inches high and make sure the kids don’t smack talk too much while they are playing or watching!

7. Sensei Says:  

Just like “Simon Says” but with martial art activities added.  

  • Everyone spreads out round the room.

  • Sensei says: “Sensei says, ‘Floss while walking’” and they have to floss while walking.  They are out if they don’t floss or floss standing still (it’s actually really hard to floss & walk at the same time and will entertain all the parents who are watching!!).

  • The Sensei calls “stop flossing” and they are out if they actually stop flossing.  

  • You keep playing until the last kid is declared the winner.

Benefits: People have to pay attention and have an opportunity to practice skills in a fun way. It also is a great equalizer; the little kids are just as good as the big kids at this game.

Alternatives/Adaptations: You can use any title you want, Sifu says, etc. You can make it really high energy by making them all run or do exercises between instructions. To keep the kids who are out engaged you can have them become referees watching for errors. You can make the game easier or harder depending on what you want to practice.  You could have Sensei say something really hard if you are trying to get out all the little kids, or something really silly if you want the older ones out! It’s a safe fun game you can play for as long or as little as you like and you can make it be as physical or as clever as you like.

Risks: The risks come only if you have them doing risky activities.

Safety: A really fun, safe game.

8. Kuzushi Games: Kuzushi is the act of off balancing an opponent to make it easier to throw them.  Some ideas to practice this skill while making a game of it include:

  • Pick a partner of a similar size.  

  • Line people up facing one another to form 2 lines going down the middle of the mat area.

  • When you say go the participants have to grab their opponent’s uniform and pull their partner to the opposite side of the mat.  

  • You can change it to pushing vs. pulling, using both or adding pick-ups etc.  

Benefits: A fun way to practice a martial art skill as well as getting people used to the contact needed in grappling arts. Plus it will teach small kids the difference between pushing & pulling.

Alternatives/Adaptations: You can do it without a uniform if people grab the body or limbs to maneuver the opponent. Apply the rules of your art to the activity anyway you want.I handicap bigger kids by making them stand on one foot or only use one hand when playing with smaller children.    

Risks: Kids can get a bit rough with one another, sometimes there are bruises and torn uniforms!

Safety: As with any of the rougher activities the most important safety aspect is close observation by the coach to make sure people aren’t playing too hard or being silly.

9.Terminology Frog Leap game: Learning martial arts language and terminology can be quite tedious, especially when it’s in a different language.  So to make it more interesting I turned it into a game.

  • Participants will begin by standing in a line at one end of the room.  

  • The coach then asks a question “What is Kuzushi?”

  • People have to put their hand up if they think they know the right answer.

  • The coach decides who to call on, no yelling answers out.

  • If their answer is correct they frog leap forward as far as they can.

  • The winner is the person who reaches the goal line first.

Benefits: A great way to learn new language or to test yourself on your language & terminology.

Alternatives/Adaptations: Sometimes the kids start making silly guesses so you can always add in a penalty where they have to jump back if they get an answer wrong. I tend to let the newer people or younger kids answer the easier questions even if someone else puts their hand up first, just to get everyone more involved in the game.

Risks: Sometimes people try to jump too far & hurt themselves.  Kids have a tendency to cheat & take a step & a leap. I penalize that behavior.

Safety: Tell adults doing this to remember that they aren’t kids anymore!


That’s free-style practice, usually means sparring or fighting.  But if someone picks this card I get to decide what the parameters are, could be full free practice with throws & mat work combined, or just throws etc.  Whatever works to keep things fun & safe.

Benefits: An integral part of most martial arts practice.

Alternatives/Adaptations: You get to decide what you want to do, so the person picking this activity thinks they won the prize they want but you really are getting them to practice in the way you want. A win: win!

Risks: Depends on the activity but randori is where most accidents & injuries occur in Judo because people like to win so they go a bit hard at times.

Safety: Injuries will happen, but you can help avoid it by monitoring the activity & by matching people with the right partners.

11. Exercise counting:

To make exercises less boring we have added a new component, counting in foreign languages.  We usually count sets of 10 in Japanese or English during class but I like to promote the diversity of my students by doing as many as it takes to exhaust all the languages we know.  Each person who can count in a language other than English does so. Some kids even learn how to count in new languages so they can participate. We have kids who can count in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Danish, Russian, Farsi, Hindi, Latin, Cantonese and Tagalog.  Then I’ll do French, German & Dutch before finishing in Japanese. So sometimes they’ll do 100 squats without complaining (mostly!).

Benefits: A fun way to exercise and celebrate diversity at the same time.

Alternatives/Adaptations: You are only limited by your imagination. You could have them do other activities to the count or have them exercise while reciting a speech or concept of your art.

Risks: Sore muscles from too many reps!

Safety: Be aware of how many reps people are doing!

12. Sumo:

This is an ancient Japanese art that uses skills similar to Judo, just without the gi.  

  • Using belts, rope, or tape make a large circle in the middle of the mat.  

  • Have everyone take their jacket tops off.

  • Two people go into the circle and face each other across the ring.

  • Play starts when they both squat with their knees out sideways & have placed their fists on the ground.

  • The goal is to push or pull your opponent to the ground or make them step or fall outside the circle.  

  • The first person to touch the ground in the circle with any part of their body other than their feet or to touch the ground outside the ring with any part of their body loses.

Benefits: A fun & physical activity that has been a sport in Japan for a very long time.

Alternatives/Adaptations: The rules can be changed to fit different kinds of practice.  We play Judo Sumo which is similar to regular Sumo in that it is played in a ring, but you have to throw the person out of the ring. In this version you can touch the mat with your body in the ring, but first one to touch the mat outside the ring loses.  You can do this with or without uniforms. And for fun there’s also one legged Sumo where you have to hop on one leg while trying to get your opponent out of the ring or to the ground. Or you can be more traditional where open handed blows to the torso are allowed.

I usually start with the smallest two people in class & then have the winner stay in. The next player is the next smallest person and so on until you get to the largest person. Then I allow each person to go in the ring & challenge someone of any size.  They can even challenge a parent from the audience if they want to or me! Keep the kids not currently fighting engaged by having them shout support and instructions to the kids in the circle.

Risks: It can get rough! Keep a close eye.

Safety: Keep the spectators away from the edge of the mat so they aren’t squished by people coming out of the ring suddenly.

13. Pick up game:

This is a fun game that does favor the bigger kids but is fun for the little ones anyway.

  • Have everyone spread out around the room.

  • The goal is to pick everyone up one by one.

  • The winner is the last person standing.  

  • Teamwork is encouraged.

  • How they are picked up can be controlled by the person in charge of the game.  You can be very specific or you can leave it vague so the kids can use some imagination.

Benefits: A fun and high energy game that makes the kids use their brains and brawn.

Alternatives/Adaptations: It’s a version of tag really so you can adapt it any way you like, have them grab pieces of cloth out of their belts or jackets rather than pick one another up. It’s up to you.

Risks: Can be rough as with most of my favorite games!

Safety: Keep an eye onthe activity to make sure people aren’t being too rough!

A little story - My mother loves telling the story of when my sisters & I played the pick up game at a UK Judo club many moons ago. I was 14, we’d been training at a club for about 4 years but my mother didn’t like some of the ways the all-male coaching staff treated the girls so we were trying out a new place. The new club’s head coach was so happy to have three capable girls join his class he thought he’d finish the night with a fun game. The club had a 16 year old boy who was their star player, I don’t remember his name. His parents were chatting amicably to my parents as we played the game, going on about how cute it was that we were giving it our all even though everyone knew who would win! They laughed as the star and his teen-male buddies picked off the girls & smaller kids one by one, including my sisters. In the end it was down to him and me. Facing one another he moved in confidently for a bear hug to pick me up since he was much bigger than me. But then inspiration hit and I grabbed his jacket and dropped to my back whilst placing my foot in his abdomen for a Tomoe nage (circle throw). Since he was pushing in to me he went up in the air as light as a feather, and I held him up there on the end of my foot until the coach agreed that he had been “lifted up”. He flailed around a bit up there while his parents argued that I had cheated, but the game was the pick-up game, no one ever said you could only pick people up with your hands & not your feet!  My sisters and I joined the club and won team and individual medals for them. My older sister even dated their star for a while. All was forgiven, but my mother still dines out on that story 35 years later!! The moral? Don’t assume & don’t forget, kids are inventive and will come up with ways around any rules you put in place!

14. Hokey Cokey Sweeps:

This is an old Judo game that can be a really fun but is really quite rough, so be careful!

  • Participants get into a circle and grip the collar of the people on either side of them.

  • When you say go everyone must try to pull someone off their feet or sweep them off their feet.

  • When a person falls they are out and the circle closes back after them.

  • The winner is the last person standing.

Benefits: It teaches gripping, off-balancing someone while maintaining your own balance, foot sweeps, hooks and tactics.

Alternatives/Adaptations: You can do it without the uniform if they use different grips, you can allow only certain types of moves. Encourage team work so smaller kids can double team a bigger kid to get them out.

Risks: People can start kicking each other! I’ve never had a person with anything more serious than a bruise but I monitor it very carefully. If they pull too quickly towards one another you can get bashed heads.

Safety: Be careful not to let people become too rough with pulling because they can bash heads with people across the circle by accident. Watch closely when small kids are playing with bigger ones so you pull the little ones out of harm as quickly as possible.

15. Sonomama: This is a version of statues.  

  • The participants spread out around the room.

  • When you say go they have to move around at random.

  • When you yell sonomama they have to freeze, like a statue.  

  • If they are seen moving they are out.  

  • They can move again when you call “Yoshi”.

Benefits: You can make it be as strenuous as you like by making the movement be something specific, only the fortnight dances that are all the rage right now or have them work on kata/forms.

Alternatives/Adaptations: Use language and movements from your own art, be as silly or as serious as you want be. To keep the “out” kids engaged you can have them become the judges.

Risks: Little

Safety: No safety precautions needed really.

16. Individual or Team races:

Just as it sounds, you just need some imagination and a space big enough for people to run around in.

  • Pick an activity or skill you want people to practice.

  • Set up a course with or without obstacles.

  • Then make everyone race, individually or as a team, in a relay or single race.

  • They can just run or run while a partner is over their shoulders or do rolls or front kicks down the course. You are limited only by your imagination.

Benefits: Making teams encourages team work. You can make it be as high energy or as difficult as you want it to be, you can even have the kids come up with the details of the race so they use their imaginations. That also encourages the quiet kids to speak up.

Alternatives/Adaptations: You can manipulate the races by activity, teams or groupings to have as many winners as you like or to have certain people win if you feel they need a boost.

Risks: Depends on the movements you include. There is often a lot of cheating!

Safety: Again depends on what activity they are doing in the race.

17. Hop crash:

Another potentially rough one, the point of these games is to be rough as a way of practicing the physical contact required in Judo.

  • All the students stand on one leg and hold their foot behind them with both of their hands.

  • If any student lets go of his foot with either hand or falls down they are out.

  • They can hop around and try to knock the others down until the last one standing wins.

Benefits: Teaches them balance, tactics and makes them use up energy while they are at it.

Alternatives/Adaptations: You can have them keep one hand for grabbing people or have them only be able to knock a person over by backing into them.

Risks: They can bash heads if they put their heads down when making contact.

Safety: Make sure they keep their heads up & coaches keep their eyes open for unnecessary roughness.

18. Crabby tag:

I don’t play this one much, it is easier for those who are physically gifted or skinny but not so much fun for the chubby, shorter or less coordinated people. I hated this game when I was a kid, my arms were too short to be any good at it.

  • All the participants get in the crab position (hands and feet on the ground, face up).

  • Everyone moves around trying to knock down the other players.

  • You can bash into people or use your hands to pull them down or feet to sweep their feet out from underneath them.

  • You are out when your butt or back hits the ground.

Benefits: Great exercise while teaching competitive skills.

Alternatives/Adaptations: You can aid the less advantaged kids by turning a blind eye to when they fall a little bit or make the better kids start further away, etc. You can add a ball to the game that the kids have to grab rather than knocking one another down. Or just have them touch one another to “tag” a person.

Risks: Kids can fall funny but I’ve never seen any actual injuries, maybe a bruise or two.

Safety: Keep an eye out for roughness & to stop kids backing into one another.

19. Guard Game:

This is a fun mat based game that really is a BJJ or self-defense drill, but if you call it a game people are happier to perform drills.

  • One person lies on their back defending with their legs (without kicking).

  • The standing partner runs around and tries to get past the legs to a dominant top position.

  • The person on their back spins around to keep their legs in the way to prevent the top pin, or works to win the guard position.

Benefits: Great abdominal exercise when done properly. A great way to practice guard techniques without worrying about submissions.

Alternatives/Adaptations: The person on top can try to tap the bottom person's head. That forces the bottom person to keep the standing person further away in order to protect the head but can mean the kids end up slapping one another on the forehead!

Risks: Bruises are the biggest risk.

Safety: Make sure you are clear that they can’t kick from the bottom!

20. Judo Tag: Judo tag is similar to the game Freeze tag.  

  • One person is selected to chase and tag the others.

  • Once a person is tagged they must freeze.

  • You unfreeze them by throwing them. You have to trying doing it before you are tagged yourself.

  • The game ends when either everyone is frozen or you decide that it’s time to have a new person to chase & tag people.

Benefits: Another adaptation of a familiar fun game where you have to use martial arts skills. You can use this as an award; the winner of a class activity becomes the first person to be the tagger.  

Alternatives/Adaptations: You could have the kids who are frozen stand with the legs open so instead of throwing them you unfreeze them by crawling between their legs or by leapfrogging them, you decide.

Risks: Can get a bit fast & furious!

Safety: Keep an eye out for roughness.

21. Monkey on My Back:

  • You split everyone into partners of a similar size

  • One person stands in a balanced & based position

  • The partner will then climb onto the other person’s back and try to climb around their body without touching the ground.

  • Return all the way to the back.

  • The winner is the one who does it the fastest or the most rotations within a time period.

Benefits: Great for grapplers but fun for everyone.

Alternatives/Adaptations: You can decide how the person climbs around their partner & how much help the partner can give. You might be the body for the monkey if you have a chunkier kid so they get to have a turn without toppling the smaller kids over. You can even pull the parents out for the kids to climb around, that’s a fun bonding activity.

Risks: People can fall over if not balanced properly so you have to provide hands on assistance with the smaller kids.

Safety: Keep hold of people who might fall over or have other students provide ballast.

22. Animal movement warm-ups: A fun activity for anyone of any age.

  • Participants line up on one side of the room.

  • In turn, they have to think of an animal and then move across the room in the way that animal would.  Noises can be added if you want!

  • The best choices include movement that would be good for your art.

Benefits: It is fun and the kids get to show their personalities. The more you have them come up with their own movements the more confident they become, especially when you are supportive in their choices.

Alternatives/Adaptations: Sky’s the limit! At Halloween we do this where they have to be monsters or superheroes or the character they are in costume as. You can make it more complicated by asking them how it helps your practice, or by making them do it in pairs.

Risks: If rolls or cartwheels etc., are chosen they can bash into one another.

Safety: Keep them spaced apart & stop them from being too silly.

23. Plank Wrestling: Another one from my youth.

  • Everyone goes into a plank or push-up position.

  • Then they try to pull others down by pulling their hands or feet out from under them.

  • The winner is the last person in a plank.

Benefits: Great core exercise.

Alternatives/Adaptations: You can either have head to head competition so a pair fights & then the winner gets a new partner until you get the ultimate winner, or a free for all where everyone tries to get everyone at the same time. You can make older kids only use one arm or one foot. Cheating is when a person has their balance more over their feet rather than a true plank position or if they fall and pop back up again denying the fall.

Risks: People have a tendency to fall on their faces.

Safety: Just keep an eye out for roughness or cheating.

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