Four Ninja PIES: How a simple kick can give children an unfair developmental advantage.

In our SKILLZ children’s development courses, we use martial arts as a tool to help children connect with effective lessons that give them an unfair developmental advantage.

Each activity is specifically designed to focus on one or more of these areas of development. We use the abbreviation PIES to describe these aspects of a child’s growth:

  1. Physical – This includes all aspects of the child’s interaction with the physical world, muscle development and kinesthetic awareness. While most of our students have perfectly healthy young bodies, it is not uncommon for children to feel physically demanding as they change and grow.
  2. Intellectual – This area of ​​development draws a lot from the latest research in neuroscience. This includes things like working to improve a child’s processing speed, increase their cognitive workload, and improve their awareness of how their decisions affect outcomes.
  3. Emotional – Children face great emotions. Our courses support their emotional intelligence by helping them label those emotions and providing children with the tools to self-regulate and overcome the “lower” emotional brain so that they can stay cool, calm and successful.
  4. Social – We are aware that at every stage of development, children experience social situations differently. Our goal is to help them become active members of their social group while maintaining a well-defined self-identity and strong personal boundaries.

(Bonus: the fifth development focus is language skills, which we actively include in our intellectual training)

Take a look at this picture of 3-year-old Bradley working on his kicks with Mr. Robert in our Early SKILLZ class:

Bradley thinks he’s learning how to be a NINJA!


Can you spy on all four PIES?

In this exercise, called Happy Feet, students must wait for the challenge and then step on the mat as quickly as possible without falling over. Once in balance, each student throws two kicks according to how the instructor counts. Eventually, they jump off the mat and land in good balance.

Can you name one thing that Bradley works on physically, intellectually, emotionally or socially?


Bradley works on several skills related to his physical development. For example, it actively develops its sense of proprioception, which is the awareness of the position of individual parts of the body relative to each other, and its ability to balance (vestibular system). This includes strengthening his stabilizing muscles, developing eye-foot coordination, and learning how to apply and control force in his movements.


Bradley learns how to follow multi-step commands, which is related to the principle of cognitive burden. At the age of 3, a typical child may follow a two-step command, but will struggle with more complex instructions.

Believe it or not, it also examines advanced physics by calculating the amount of force needed to jump a certain distance with a particular trajectory; it is his ability of spatial perception. As mentioned above, as a bonus, he also improves his language skills by practicing the prepositions “front” and “back”.


Bradley works on his ability to regulate his emotions by easing his excitement from bouncing and kicking. Children at this age will often be excited to try new things, but struggle to obey instructions as their emotions take over.

The same idea is applied to his fear of falling; as he copes with the challenge and builds competencies, his self-efficacy (faith in his ability) increases, allowing him to process on a more rational level instead of being driven by a strong emotion of fear.


Bradley learns about rotation, which is above the expected stage of development in a child his age. Preschoolers are often more interested in the parallel game model, which means that they play alongside their peers, often participating in the same activity, but just as often with minimal interaction. They learn how to work with a partner to achieve a goal (usually expected from a 5-6 year old child) and practice how to be encouraging towards their peers.

Martial arts vehicle

No, not Ninjamobile!

If we brought the children to another class, where another group of adults talked about another set of facts that need to be learned, they would quickly disconnect. Using tools such as martial arts, we help children engage in their own learning. We do this by promoting the excretion of the body’s chemicals for well-being: neurotransmitters that enhance a positive learning experience.

According to Brain Gym founder Paul E. Dennison, “Movement is the door to learning.”

When children become physically involved in movement, they have a chance to understand very high concepts internally. In the same way that you can flick a basketball without having to count on a blackboard, a child can naturally understand high-level concepts when he or she has a chance to go through an activity. This movement also promotes the secretion of endorphins, which provide a pleasant feeling of success.

By providing an educational environment with instructors who are specially trained in anticipation of each stage of development and related theories of motivation, children will learn to bind and feel safe in the presence of their mentors. When a child loves you, the desire to learn from you increases. These close bonds promote the secretion of oxytocin, a chemical of trust. If the child feels safe, he or she may shift attention to learning.

Each part of each class has a clearly defined set of challenging but achievable goals. Using the use of edutainment (blending of education and entertainment), children face these challenges as if they were facing a new level of video game: with excitement! When children laugh and have fun, their bodies secrete serotonin, which contributes to the overall sense of well-being they associate with the environment in which they learn.

Recognition comes with success. Thanks to the careful integration of internal and external motivators, children learn to anticipate the challenges of each lesson. This expectation and the success that follows leads to the production of dopamine, a chemical for the body as a reward. When children feel rewarded, they look for ways to continue the activities that have brought them success.

When we talk about these four neurotransmitters – dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins – and the ways we use them in the learning environment, we call it the DOSE method. Combined with the PIES concept, even simple activities such as hoops on the mat and throwing kicks become a powerful tool that gives children an unfair developmental advantage.

To learn more about Skillz’s powerful children’s development program, which uses martial arts training as a means of growth, or you want your child to start at our Patchogue, click on the button below:


380 East Main St

Patchogue, NY 11772


Author: Michael A Evans

Michael is a 6th grade black sherpa under the guidance of his teacher Moises Aroch and has been practicing martial arts since 1985. Michael holds a degree in massage therapy from the NY College of Health Professions. He is the co-owner of 4GK Martial Arts in Patchogue, NY, and Skillz of Patchogue, a childhood development facility using martial arts and other movement modalities as a means of children’s growth and success. Michael is also a senior consultant at Skillz Worldwide.

Special thanks to Freshly Cut Film for a great photo!

Click here to see Michael’s Fox News interview on how SKILLZ is revolutionizing the way we support children to succeed.

David Berry

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