The Eastern idea of multi-layer training works on the West with some meaningful modifications and teaching Judo for kids is a good example of it.
When the first order of business is to install interest in the training, the sport aspect of Judo – and randori in particular – is a good tool for the task. Sport is addictive. Seeing this, the other types of martial arts started to incorporate some sort of competition, be it form/kata demonstration or competitive fights under different sets of rules. This is exactly how Dr. Kano saw it. However, it becomes an issue when sport fight misinterpret as a real fight.
When we’re talking about teaching Judo for kids the sport aspect is a must. The second most important aspect is a grading. All idea of Dr. Kano behind creating multi-color belt-ranking system is to create incentives and measurement of progress.
Number of schools is presenting a good example of kids’ Judo training. David Rudman’s “SAMBO-70” in Moscow started in a basement and then moved to a vacant ground-level space in a working-class neighborhood on city’s south-east. The training space with three tatami had not enough secure perimeters, so walls were covered with soft rags nailed to it (I still have visible scar on my right hand from one of those nails – result of an accident during local competition, they hosted, that I took part in as a guest in early 1980th). The early students were in a big part troublemakers well known to local law enforcement. The school changed the life of those boys and from neighborhood’s problem they became neighborhood’s proud. Later “SAMBO-70” [ru] moved to a new school building of its own as a specialized sport school with multiple state-of-arts training arias. It produced many good athletes, but its early students still the best of its alumni.
The other good example, that got a media attention, is teaching Judo for kids by Flavio Canto on the other side of the Glob – in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. When I don’t know this school first-hand the story looks starkly similar to “SAMBO-70” – local “bad boys” got changed by their Judo school for the good.
To find the right balance of sport vs. martial art (in its traditional sense) is the primary task of teacher who is working with kids. Sport element is very important in the beginning of Art studies, but overemphasis on sport achievements can be detrimental for kids’ life-long interest in the Art (it what eventually happened at “SAMBO-70” in the later years when it became kids’ sport high-achievement flag bearer, as many of its students left the Art as soon as their personal sport results got over the pick).
The other critical point is use (and abuse) of belt-ranking system in Judo kids training.