“Mom, I want to learn karate!”
Yeah, right, I thought. My son discovers something new every day and wants it right now, tomorrow latest.
Why should my child learn how to kick and scream like one of the Ninja Turtles? What good would martial arts do him? Is it a good alternative to football, soccer, or baseball?
What are Martial Arts?
I started reading some martial arts blogs and apparently martial arts consist of a wide range of styles and systems from China, Japan and Korea.
To make it easy, let’s narrow these styles down to five categories:
These are generally considered as best for children.
AIKIDO from Japan. Through Aikido, children learn the power of movement – this style uses the kinetic energy of attacker’s blows and directs that energy back at him. Children learn safe, effective self-defense techniques along with skills in tumbling. For children aged six and older.
JUJITSU means “gentle art”. Jujitsu is one of the oldest forms of hand-to-hand combat in Japan. Records of Jujitsu date back over 2,500 years.
Jujitsu is an all-round form of self-defense utilizing kicks, hand strikes, throws and locks. Breakfall training teaches the student how to land in a manner, which minimizes the potential for injury when thrown to the ground. Best for children aged seven and older.
JUDO means “gentle way”. Judo originated from Japan and is a softer form of Jujitsu. Judo places great emphasis on moral and mental development. A judoka first learns “ukemi”, the art of falling properly to avoid injury. Children can start to learn judo as early as five years old; it is one of the safest styles for children.
KARATE comes from Japan and means “the way of the open hand”. The hands, feet and numerous other parts of the body are systematically trained and conditioned for use in a weapon-less form of self-defense. For children aged eight or older but some Karate schools accept even four-year olds.
TAE KWON DO means “the way of the foot and fist”. Tae Kwon Do comes from Korea and was introduced to the Olympics in 1988. It is the world’s most popular martial art.
What all these styles have in common is that they focus on avoiding conflict through self-control, self-discipline and improving self-confidence.
What about the belts?
Most martial arts styles use belts to signify rank. Colors may vary and go in different orders, but most systems start with a white belt and go to a black belt, with different degrees of black afterwards. It gives children the sense of achievement and they are proud of their ranks.
Why Choose Martial Arts?
The most obvious reason enrolling your child into martial arts is the great exercise. Children gain flexibility, balance and overall strength. A great outlet of too much energy and, when practiced correctly, minimal risk of injuries.
Skills like discipline, self control, patience and confidence are taught in lessons. The classes are a great place to meet other children outside school.
The structured environment with clear-cut rules and boundaries are the perfect playground for kids with aggressive behavior.
A good children’s martial arts class will focus on conflict resolution, personal responsibility and avoidance. With that in mind, it will teach a “bully” respect and responsibility towards others.
Martial arts are great for competitive children, who do not enjoy team-related activities.
How to find good martial arts school for your kid?
Look in the yellow pages for a first idea if martial art schools are in your area.
Give the school a call and ask question, such as:
“Do you have one combined kid’s class or do you split by age?”
“What is different about your children’s class vs. your adult class?”
“Do you have introductory lessons or a trial program?”
A good martial art school or club will offer your child the chance to attend a few classes, without signing a contract.
These first lessons will give you the opportunity to observe the teaching style.
- Does the instructor seem to have control over the group?
- Do the children pay attention when the teacher speaks?
Also important, a trial will give your child the chance to “feel” what he/she is getting into.
Ask about fees, uniform and equipment costs and any organization or membership fees outside of actual tuition.
My son is now a happy white belt and is learning “the gentle way” Judo. The choice of this style was based on a few trial lessons, the close location of the martial arts club, the instructor who clearly enjoyed working with the children and that my son just loved it. He found new friends and is looking forward to gain his “yellow belt”.
Martial arts are not for those who want to learn how to “kick butt”. The emphasis is to learn respect for themselves and others. A good martial arts instructor should teach children, strange as it may sound, how not to fight.