Youth Physical Development Model: A Scientific Compass for Every Karate Sensei!! (Part 1)


What’s the first thing you should do, when you finish reading this post?


SAVE THE TWO TABLES we put inside this article about Children and Adolescents training. Save them where you have the easiest access and use them everytime you have a doubt! No matter if it’s your smartphone or your laptop. If you are a “pencil and paper” teacher, print the tables and attach them to your notes.


When you have doubts about what to prioritize in your Karate classes – from 2 to +21 years old -, consult the tables… Don’t come up with fancy but inappropriate exercises for each of those ages! We’re talking about next generations health and development.


You, as a Karate coach, have the responsibility of optimizing your young students’ abilities while respecting their developmental stages. There are some critical periods where you should give more attention to some skills…




Fortunately, the scientific researchers Rhodri Lloyd and Jon Oliver created this model as a practical and easy-to-follow guide to every sport’s trainer or teacher. And most important, based on the scientific evidence available only 4 or 5 years ago (2012). To our knowledge, since that period, there wasn’t a new model (and so rigorous) being presented.


Nevertheless, we all have to look to Youth Physical Development Model in a dynamic and evolutional way. Because Science is always giving us new knowledge. Don’t you ever forget this!!


YPD-Model is a complete and global approach to the development of young males and females. It gives us the athletic development from early childhood (2 years of age) up to adulthood (+21 years of age).


Rhodri and Oliver (2012) expect that this Youth Physical Development Model provide to sport’s coaches, physical educators and even parents an easy-to-follow tool. A tool that gives you, as a Karate Sensei, an overview of global physical development… And the better part, when and why each fitness component should be emphasized!!






As you can see in the tables, training priority is highlighted by a bigger font size. The greater the font size, the more important is to train that fitness quality! Thank you, Rhodri Lloyd and Jon Oliver. For us, in Karate Science Academy, Science is this: simple, useful and practical tools for all the professionals that work in the field (like Dojos)!


Practical Example (the same that appears in the original paper from Lloyd and Oliver, 2012):


“The model shows that a 12- to 13-year-old boy should primarily focus their training on strength, power, speed, agility and sport-specific skill (SSS) development, with a reduced focus on hypertrophy, mobility, fundamental movement skill (FMS), endurance and metabolic conditioning”





Fundamental Movement Skill (FMS) are the building blocks for sport-specific movement patterns. In karate, Sport-Specific Skills are Kihon, Kata, Kumite, etc. You, as a good Karate coach, should deconstruct these 3 fundamental dimensions of Karate into general motor pre-requisites. Please, don’t beat down your 7 or 8 years old students with old-school long number of repetitions of the same exercise!! They don’t deserve that…


Science shows us that more variability of the same stimulus is extremely beneficial for their athletic development in the long term, for their health and for their sport practice habits at adult ages.


If they have more motor solutions (physical, cognitive and perceptual) they’ll have more performace solutions when they become athletes. And hard routines leave to an early dropout from great talents!!


Too many repetitions of the same exercises, movements and positions will have a negative effect on your kids’ joints, for example.


And yes, you have the responsibility to ensure that all the kids and adolescents that pass by your Dojo create an excellent relationship with exercise and sports practice. One of the most correlated factors with regular sports practice in the adult age is the enjoyment and satisfaction we all have in our physical activity experiences in childhood! Yes, you must convince yourself that most of the kids that go to your Dojo won’t be training Karate when they are adults… They will not be the next champion or grand-master. You have an important role in their future health!


FMS should be the focus of physical development programs for children from early childhood to develop gross motor skills. This doesn’t mean you don’t teach them Karate! You should teach them Kihon, basic sequences, Kumite games, etc. But always with the main goal of opening their mental and motor structure as wide as you can… Not with the strict objective of make them the best in Kata or in Kihon. They’ll have time for that a few years later.


From the onset of puberty, adolescents can and should then be exposed to more Specific-Sport Skill (specific Karate technique).


It must be noted that FMS should always be present in any Karate class, no matter your students’ age or goals! So, what’s the difference?


For example, for an inexperienced 7-year-old boy or girl the training emphasis should be on FMS developmental exercises. Whereas a young, elite, 21-year-old Karateka may integrate FMS maintenance exercises in a dynamic warm-up.


As you can see in the tables, FMS and SSS are present at all times throughout childhood and adolescence, but with a different priority.





Despite many myths still prevail when we are talking about strength training for Kids, Science shows us that children and teenagers can safely and effectively participate in strength training! Of course, when that training is prescribed and supervised by qualified Karate teachers. To know more, please read DESTROY THE MYTH: “Strength Training is Bad for Children and Young Karateka”.


Always remember this: Hypertrophy is not the only way of increasing strength!! Strength development results from a combination of muscular, neural and mechanical factors.


In the prepubertal years (before about 10-11 years old in girls and 11-12 years old in boys) your Karate students have a greater neural plasticity. At that time, development of the neuromuscular system naturally accelerates. So, your youngest kids will largely benefit from proper strength training due to these neural adaptations.


The Youth Physical Development Model shows that the development of muscular strength should be a priority at all stages of development for boys and girls. This is important because Karate depends a lot on speed and power. And strength is the basis for those physical outputs.


Remember that the strength levels are also important for reducing the risk of sports-related injuries.


High Aerobic Fitness + Low Levels of Muscle Strength = Bigger Risk of Fracture in Children.


In the next post, we will frame other physical skills in the Youth Physical Development Model. Stay tuned and thank you for following Karate Science Academy!


If you want to know more about Karate Science, click here.

Karate Science Academy has a mission: to take Science into all Dojos in the world.


P.S. – Did you notice that YPD has different tables for boys and girls? Keep that in mind when you are training your Karate students and thletes.

Related Posts...

What is the MOST PRACTICAL Method of Explosive Tra... How to be More Explosive with this Simple and Practical Training Method… PLYOMETRIC TRAINING   At the end of this article, you'll better unde...
When less is more: Why you REALLY need to take a b... Today, we are going to dedicate this Blog post to a theme that is well generalized in sports training: SUPERCOMPENSATION! Thanks to our friend Ranu...
Kata Series: Moving Explosively from Static Stance... During the last Karate training I gave to my +15 Students, we dedicated time to developing Kata physical performance… And I found that most of th...
Ultimate GUIDELINES about Core Training for Karate... Core Training has a lot of attention in Sports training and Fitness. Karate is no exception! This has a reason and its fans use it as fundamental tra...
WHY CAN’T your Karatekas make an easy Jodan-... Maybe your Karate athletes are able to make full-splits to all sides, but what really matters is that they can use all the Flexibility to kick higher ...
Karate + Science = SUCCESS THE IMPORTANCE OF SCIENCE TO KARATE AND TO OUR LIVES After all, what is SCIENCE?!? Some people look to Science as a nerdy thing, with lack of conn...

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *