Karate can have a very powerful and positive influence on people, especially young people. Not only can it provide opportunities for enjoyment and achievement, it can also develop valuable qualities such as self-esteem, self-confidence, leadership and teamwork. These positive effects can only take place if the instruction of Karate is in the right hands – those who place the welfare of all young people first and adopt practices that support, protect and empower them.
Instructors have a moral and legal responsibility to support and care for young people and disabled adults and to protect them from abuse. This responsibility applies not only while these students on the club premises, but also if they suspect abuse is taking place elsewhere.
The reality is that abuse can take place in Karate as in other physical activities and Sports.
Instructors are expected to demonstrate a duty of care towards children, equivalent to that which a reasonable and prudent parent would expect from a teacher in a school environment.
Vale Karate has therefore recognised the need to establish a policy to ensure the safety of children in its care and to provide guidelines to Instructors and others who may be involved with the protection of these children.
It has also established guidelines which are intended to ensure that Instructors create a safer training environment for all young people. They will help Instructors to review their teaching practice and ensure they adopt sound procedures that protect not only the welfare of young and vulnerable people, but also the Instructor against false allegations.
These guidelines apply to all Vale Karate Instructors, whether they act in a voluntary or professional capacity.
They will also apply to any person who may have young Karate students in their charge, such as referees and judges or examiners.
Any allegations that may in any way be considered a child protection issue must be reported to the Vale Karate Chief Instructor, Dave Paine, who will ensure appropriate steps are taken and escalate the situation to the Parent association, the TSKA, where appropriate.
Any arrest or conviction relating to an offence involving a child must be reported in the first instance to Dave Paine who will escalate to the TSKA National CPO (Child Protection Officer).
NB: The terms child and children are used throughout this document but the policy and guidelines should apply to all young people taking part in Karate.
The law defines a child as a person under the age of 18.
These guidelines cannot cover every eventuality and Instructors should always use initiative and common sense when assessing the appropriateness of their actions and advice.
2 Vale Karate Child Policy Statement
The Vale Karate Group recognises that it has both a moral and legal obligation to ensure that when it is given responsibility for children, it provides them with the highest possible standard of care.
It recognises that:
– children’s welfare must always be the first priority
– all children have a right to be protected from harm
– all allegations should be taken seriously and responded to quickly
– it needs to encourage interaction between children and the organisation and to ensure that the best principles for conduct are conveyed to them
– it needs to encourage continued participation of children in both training and competition
– it needs to define the relationships between children and the organisation and take the Karate specifics into consideration including rules and a need for the Instructor to be aware of the demands that Karate may place upon a young developing Karateka
3 Guidelines for Good Teaching Practice
These Guidelines for good practice are provided to protect children and ensure that Instructors are protected from accusations of child abuse; also to assure parents that the highest standards of teaching are being followed within the organisation.
a General Teaching Guidelines
Place the well-being and safety of the child above the development of performance.
Ensure that skills are taught in a safe, secure manner paying due regard to the physical development of young students.
Always be open when working with children, especially where they and an individual child are completely unobserved.
Ensure that if groups are to be supervised in changing rooms that gender is appropriate.
Ensure that where mixed teams compete away from home, they are accompanied by at least one male and one female.
Respect the rights and dignity and worth of all and treat everyone with equality.
Always try to ensure that their teaching practices are well considered and safe.
Always try to ensure that their teaching practice reflect the high standards expected of Karateka.
Always try to ensure that they meet all the requirements and conditions in these guidelines.
What constitutes good general teaching practice?
Good teaching practice can be:
- Treating all children equally, and with respect and dignity.
- Building balanced relationships based on mutual trust.
- Making training fun and enjoyable
- Promoting fair play.
- Keeping up to date with teaching knowledge, skills, qualifications and insurance.
- Taking action to prevent intimate relationships developing with children.
- Getting to know children and their parents/carers.
- Being an excellent role model – this includes not drinking alcohol or smoking in the company of children.
- Giving enthusiastic and constructive feedback rather than negative criticism.
- Recognising the developmental needs and capacity of the children (e.g. avoiding excessive training and competition, and not pushing them against their will).
b Karate-Specific Teaching Guidelines
There is no minimum age for a child beginning Karate, as the physical and mental and maturity of individuals varies so much. However the nature of the class can be tailored to consider these factors.
Instructors need to understand the added responsibilities of teaching children and also the basic principles of growth and development through childhood to adolescence. Exercises should be appropriate to age and build and Instructors should not simply treat children as small adults, with small adult bodies.
Pre-adolescent children have a metabolism that is not naturally suited to generating anaerobic power, and therefore they exercise better aerobically, that is, at a steadily maintained rate. However, they can soon become conditioned to tolerate exercise in the short, explosive bursts that more suit Karate training.
Some children have difficulty in concentrating and Karate training has been shown to improve their ability to concentrate, which can be beneficial in other aspects of their life, such as education.
Good discipline is seen as an essential element of the Karate ethos. It helps build good character and to ensure a good and safe training environment. This discipline is for the good of all children and does not constitute abuse.
Respect for senior grades and for their instructions and decisions is also a vital element of the discipline of Karate.
Physical contact is seen as a necessary and positive part of teaching Karate and is acceptable practice as long as it is appropriate and done in a safe and open manner. Instructors might manually adjust a students technique – for example by straightening a wrist or moving a block to a more effective position. They will often test the strength of a child’s technique or their balance by applying pressure. They may need to move a child for safety, e.g. to avoid collision or prevent them falling. Physical contact may also be used to re-assure or reward – for example, a light pat on the back or shoulder.
A child taking part in a class should not be allowed to leave the dojo without the permission of the Instructor. Where practicable, supervision should be provided.
Parents or guardians should be advised when to deliver and collect children, and not to leave children at the Dojo unless the Instructor or a responsible person is present.
If there is no other viable option, it is acceptable for an Instructor to give a child a lift in their car, but it is important to inform the parents.
- Always ensure that children are fit to train.
- Not allow children to do assisted stretching – they generally don’t need to and there is a real risk of damage with an inconsiderate or over-enthusiastic partner.
- Try to match children for size and weight for sparring wherever possible.
- Take great care, especially where children train in the proximity of adults, to avoid collision injury.
- Always take into account the age, grade and ability of children involved in Karate. Care should be taken with certain exercises and equipment and consideration should be given to the potential outcome of any activity.
- Not allow children to perform certain conditioning exercises, especially those which are heavy load-bearing, for example weight training or knuckle push-ups.
- Not allow children to do any heavy bag or heavy impact work – rather, they should concentrate on the development of speed, mobility, skill and general fitness.
4 Acceptable practice, poor practice or abuse?
In some cases it is hard to distinguish between poor teaching practice and abuse. Your responsibility is to do everything within your power to ensure your teaching practice is beyond reproach.
An Instructor must always examine their own teaching methods and practices and remember the basic principal that they must be in the best interest of the child.
What Constitutes Unacceptable Practice?
Unacceptable practice is anything which might harm a child or prevent them from developing properly. Those practices which harm children are generally referred to as abuse and they fall in to the following main categories.
- Physical Abuse
- Emotional Abuse
- Sexual Abuse
The following are more comprehensive descriptions of these categories.
In general terms, this would include hitting and shaking etc
It would also be where drugs or alcohol (specifically with children) are advocated or tolerated.
In Karate, this may include:
- an Instructor deliberately striking a child in order to inflict pain and damage
- an Instructor encouraging another student to strike a child in order to inflict pain and damage
- an Instructor asking a child to train in a reckless way which is likely to lead to physical harm
This may occur if children are subject to:
- constant criticism
- constant taunting of individuals
- unrealistic pressure to perform to high expectations.
Instructors should also consider the potential emotional abuse from excessive pressure during training regimes or in relation to competition.
This may result from a failure to ensure that children are:
- free from risk of excessive cold, heat, or injury
- properly insured
This may be the result of Instructors involving children in any form of sexual activity.
This may be the result of Instructors allowing other adult members to involve children in any form of sexual activity.
Showing children pornographic material is also a form of sexual abuse.
What signs might indicate abuse?
Abuse may result from various causes through the misuse of power by adults or peers in any of the above ways.
Abuse may not be apparent from physical signs. There may be behavioural indicators, particularly changes in behaviour.
Children may tell someone directly or indirectly that they are being abused. This will have taken enormous courage on their part because it is possible they will have been threatened by the abuser not to tell, or will have been aware and are very frightened of the consequences. In all cases, children will tell you because they want the abuse to stop, therefore it is very important that you listen to them and take them seriously.
Abuse can go unnoticed for a long time, yet have lasting and very damaging effects on children.
Physical indicators of emotional abuse include:
- A failure to thrive or grow, particularly if the child puts on weight in other circumstances (e.g. in hospital or away from home).
- Development delay, either in terms of physical or emotional progress.
There are physical and behavioural signs that might raise your concern about the welfare or safety of a child.
Some examples of physical signs are:
- unexplained bruising or injuries and a reluctance to talk about them.
- a change in appearance observed over a long period of time ( e.g. a student losing weight or becoming increasingly dirty or unkempt).
- Self-harm or mutilation.
- Covering arms and legs even when hot.
Some examples of behavioural signs are:
- Excessive fear of making mistakes.
- Fear of parents being contacted.
- Aggressive behaviour or severe temper outbursts.
- Running away.
- Fear of going home (e.g. after training).
- Flinching when approached or touched.
- Reluctance to get changed for training.
- Neurotic behaviour (e.g. hair twisting, rocking).
- Being unable to play or unwilling to take part.
- Withdrawn behaviour.
These signs are indicators, not confirmation of abuse. However if an Instructor notices any of these signs regularly or more than one sign, they should record and report their concerns.
5 Reporting Procedures
a What to do if you suspect abuse
Although it is a sensitive and difficult issue child abuse can and does occur within institutions and within other settings other than the home. It is crucial that Instructors are aware of this possibility and that all allegations are taken seriously and appropriate action pursued. This would include anyone working with children in a paid or voluntary capacity and there are established procedures to follow should any concerns arise.
If you suspect a child is being abused by an Instructor, student, parent or carer, you will have to report your concerns in order that the abuse is investigated and stopped.
If you are worried, remember it is not your responsibility to decide if abuse is taking place but it is your responsibility to act on your concerns and do something about it.
If a child tells you about someone’s behaviour (e.g. an adult or another child) which he/she finds disturbing, always:
stay calm and reassure the child – ensure he/she is safe, feels safe and does not feel to blame for what has happened.
- listen carefully, show and tell the child that you are taking seriously what is being said.
- be honest, explain you will have to tell someone else to help stop the behaviour that is distressing.
- make a note of what was said as soon as possible after the event.
- maintain confidentiality – only share the information on a need to know basis and if it will help the student.
- gain medical attention immediately if required and if appropriate contact police or social services.
It is your responsibility to act if you are concerned about the behaviour of an adult towards a child or if you feel a young person/disabled adult is being bullied:
- Always follow Vale Karate’s child protection guidelines.
- Report your concerns with full details to the Child Protection Officer or Regional Officer. is then the responsibility of that person to act.
- If these persons are not available, the concerns are about them, or you do not feel appropriate action has been taken, you must contact the social services or the police. Both organisations have specialist units trained to deal with these situations and their numbers are in the phone book.
- If you were abused in the past, you can still seek help to deal with how you feel. There are many confidential helplines and organisations in the phone book. Please find the courage to call – especially if the perpetrator is still involved in instructing and has access to other children.
b Do you have any other concerns?
These guidelines provide some of the steps for safe and sound Karate instructing.
Any further questions may be addressed in the first instance to the chief instructor and, if a satisfactory answer is not received in a reasonable period of time, to the TSKA CPO.
c Protecting Instructors and Volunteers from False Allegations
To prevent the possibility of wrongful allegations about your teaching, adopt the good practice guidelines and advice advocated by Vale Karate. In addition to the points made earlier, instructors should remember to follow the advice below:
- To always work in an open environment – avoid private locations (e.g. taking children to the Instructor’s home).
- To maintain a safe and appropriate distance with students (e.g. it is not appropriate to have an intimate relationship with a young student or to share a room with them).
- To involve parents and/or guardians wherever possible.
- To be aware of Vale Karate’s child protection policy and their responsibilities.
- To adhere to Vale Karate’s code of conduct.
- To avoid any horseplay, sexually suggestive comments or language.
- To be aware of current child protection information and knowledge.
d Police Checks
It is now a requirement that those working with children in particular circumstances are Police-checked to ensure that they do not have a criminal record which may preclude them from teaching children.
It is important to note that it is not necessary to gain a police check in every situation. However, there are three main circumstances in instructing children when a police check should be sought:
- When it involves one to one contact separate from other adults and children without consent of parents or guardians.
- When it is unsupervised and no other responsible adult is likely to be present.
- When the situation is isolated from family surroundings, for example, going on holidays.
However, the most situations will not fall under the above three circumstances and therefore a police check is not required if the candidate has the correct qualifications and a suitable background history.
If the situation arises that a police check is required, Vale Karate has in place a particular procedure to follow.
e Investigation Process
When a complaint is received, this will be dealt with within the process outlined in Appendix 1 below.
In the event of an allegation being proved and disciplinary action being taken, this information will be shared with the appropriate authorities.
In the event that a complaint is received from or about a child, the complaint must be reported to the Vale Karate Chief Instructor who will take steps to understand what had happened and how the situation applies in relation to the guidance above. The Vale Karate Chief Instructor will document fully all information relevant to the situation. If there is any doubt that any form of misconduct has taken place, the chief instructor will inform the parent association’s CPO. It is then the responsibility of the parent associations CPO to decide what, if any, steps are to be taken based on their policies.