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Ninja Camp 2017 Was a Blast!

What. A. Week. Ninja Camp 2017 and the Ninja Sleepover may be over, but we've still got tons of video and photos to share with everyone. We've already shared a few clips on our Facebook and Instagram pages, and you can see the rest by clicking the links below. This year, Campers got to create and star in a Martial Arts/Action movie trailer! They worked on that during the first two days of camp and we'll upload it to the bottom of this post. But it wasn't all fun and games! Here's how we spent our time at Ninja Camp:

On Day 1 of Ninja Camp, Campers learned about different types of bullying and how to identify bullying behaviors. Next, we discussed and demonstrated the steps that they should take if they are being bullied or witness bullying.

Step 1 is to ask/tell the person to stop. The kids practiced being assertive with several different partners, looking into their eyes and telling that person to stop the behavior.

Step 2 is to notify an adult, preferably a parent. We talked about and demonstrated the difference between “tattling” and telling, and encouraged the kids to talk to their parents about bullying even if they haven’t yet experienced it so that together you can come up with an action plan of how you would like to deal with such matters as a family if they ever come up.

Step 3 should be used only as a last resort and is something we hope the kids will never need, but is still very important for them to know. This step was teaching the kids how to deal with a more serious physical confrontation, and how they can physically stop someone who is aggressive or threatening, shoving, or hitting.

After a lengthy discussion about when it is appropriate to use self-defense techniques on another kid, the consequences they may face even if they are acting in self-defense, and the difference between defending themselves against another child versus defending themselves against an adult attacker or kidnapper, the kids split into groups and worked on techniques designed to stop someone who is trying to hit or push you, create space between yourself and your attacker, and defend yourself in a way that will let the bully know that they don’t want to mess with you without badly injuring them.

For a demonstration of the techniques we worked on, speak with one of our instructors.

On Day 2 of Ninja Camp, we switched things up a bit and the main focus of the day was “Stranger Danger”. We spent some time discussing who a stranger is, what a stranger can look like, and that not every stranger is a bad person, but you never know. We also discussed the things they can do to make sure they’re not easier targets for predators:

  1. Always tell your parents before you leave the house or go somewhere.

  2. Use the “Buddy System”

  3. Keep important phone numbers with you in case of emergency (parents’ cell phones, 911, etc.)

We always really try to stress to the kids that although knowing how to physically defend yourself against a bigger and stronger attacker is very important and could end up saving their lives one day, if kids find themselves in a position where they are facing an adult attacker alone, they’re already in extreme danger, and it is better to take the steps to avoid a situation like that than to just rely on their self-defense knowledge alone.

Here are the ways we taught the kids to avoid a physical confrontation with a bad guy:

  • Never talk to anyone you don’t know unless you are with a parent.

  • If a stranger does try to talk to you, ignore them and get to a safe place where you can alert a trusted adult.

  • Listen to your gut. If someone is making you feel uncomfortable or something doesn’t feel right (you think someone is following you, a car drives slowly beside you, you see a friend or sibling interacting with a stranger, etc.), get to a safe place and tell a trusted adult.

  • If someone chases you or tried to pull or lure you away into a car or building, get to a safe place as fast as you can and alert adults that can help you by yelling “No!” or “Fire!”.

After we drilled the importance of being able to avoid and recognize dangerous situations with strangers, we taught them some basic yet effective techniques, specifically designed for a child to use against a much bigger and stronger attacker. Before we began we also talked about the amount of control and force they should use when stopping a child bully versus the amount of force needed when trying to stop and adult.

Then it was time for the challenge and the fun. I think this is the most important drill we do in Ninja Camp. First, we drill a few different techniques with the kids, ones that have the power to stop an adult with less risk of the child injuring him/herself (we generally tell the kids not to use straight punches against adults because they run the risk of hurting their fingers and wrists, especially when punching upwards, or if they do not regularly practice Martial Arts). These include knees and kicks to the groin, palm and hammer strikes to the nose, elbow strikes, and strikes aimed at the eyes.

Next (this is the good part) we had one of our long-time students, Mr. Garrett, wear what we call the “Bad Guy” suit. This protected his entire body and face while still allowing him the range of motion and flexibility to try and “kidnap” the campers on a one-on-one basis. The kids had to escape from the Bad Guy and get to the safety area before they could be pulled or carried to the “danger zone” (inside a car or building or somewhere that there won’t be anyone around to see or help them). The kids work on improving their power, speed, the accuracy of their kicks and strikes, and agility, but what makes this drill so important is that they are able to realize how helpless it feels when they have been picked up or have someone holding both of their wrists, and how they have to fight the urge to panic before they can fight the actual attacker. Many of them start off giggling and being silly until they see just how quickly and easily an adult could just scoop them up and take them away. It had a very sobering effect on them and by the second or third round, I’m proud to say that almost all of the campers were reacting and striking in a way that I believe could stop a predator.

I encourage parents to quiz the kids at home about what steps they can take to avoid dangerous confrontations with strangers, what targets they should be aiming for when fending off an adult attacker, and have them demonstrate for you some of the kicks and strikes they learned to be used against adult “Bad Guy”.

Sorry for the longer explanation, but this is something that is very important to me as an instructor and a parent. Let’s help keep our kids safe!

And finally, on Day 3 of Ninja Camp, we honored the longtime tradition of heading down to North Beach for some fun in the sand! Kids got to play dodgeball, Capture the Flag, and tons of other games and challenges that help instill in them the importance of Teamwork, Communication, Cooperation, Sportsmanship, and Friendship. We ended the day with a beach picnic and an epic water war!

All of the students who completed the Bully Workshop on Day #1 and the Kidnap Challenge on Day #2 received their awesome Ninja Camp patches. We also awarded badges to our "Stars of the Day" on each day of camp to campers who showed outstanding effort and a great attitude. Our stars of the day were:

Day 1: Taylor M.

Day 2: Mitch B.

Day 3: Peyton M.

Aaaaaaand of course we had to go out with a bang! The Ninja Sleepover was as wild as ever with a Pizza Party, Pinata, Games, Challenges, a Board-Breaking contest, and more fun than a barrel of ninjas! The kids got to see the movie they had created on the first 2 days of camp, and just around midnight, they rolled out the sleeping bags and settled in to watch Kubo and the Two Strings. What a great way to end another amazing week of Ninja Summer Camp!

Remember to check out our Ninja Camp 2017 photo albums on our Facebook page by Clicking Here, and to follow us on Instagram @ussdsc (Click Here) to see some awesome video clips from the Kidnap Challenge. Below is the movie trailer for "Enter the Dojo", I hope you like it! Great work to the Ninja Campers for coming up with so many creative ideas and stunts for the trailer!

Registration for Ninja Camp 2018 begins in February. We'll see you in the Dojo :)

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