Your kid just got home from school. He or she cannot stop talking about Martial Arts for Kids or the new martial arts club being talked about at school. You are probably wondering what the fuss is all about and if you should consider letting your kid join. The thing is, you know very little about martial arts for kids. You may even be wondering if it is safe for him or her to take part.
Don’t worry. You are not alone. Many parents have similar concerns. Especially when it comes to your child taking up a sport that teaches self-defense. You may not even know what questions to ask.
Fear not. These are the most frequently asked question with information to help you make the best decision.
What are the Benefits of Martial Arts for Kids?
Of course martial arts teach kids to be able to better defend themselves. For some kids this is a big attraction. They may really like the thought of being able to defend themselves if a bigger kid starts to push them around. But in reality there is so much more that your kids can learn from taking part in martial arts.
Kids that get plenty of exercise are less likely to become obese or suffer with health issues later in life. Martial arts will offer your child a complete body workout that develops the muscles and provides good cardio exercise.
Good muscle development helps to avoid injury and makes it more likely kids will stay active as they grow. Good muscles also improve posture. This will help to counter some of the effects of spending hours a day sitting in class or at a computer. Good posture is also great for your child’s self-esteem as they grow older.
The techniques taught in martial arts will develop the link between the mind and body. This results in an improvement of motor skills, eye-hand coordination, and physical coordination.
The cardio exercise will help your child to stay healthy. It also has the advantage of giving your child an outlet for any excess energy. If you are seeking a little extra ‘calmness’ in the house then martial arts will help.
It isn’t easy to get kids to spend less time on their phones or on a computer. By getting them to take part in martial arts it will ensure periodic breaks from the screens. He or she will be more active and feel better for it. Over time your kid will become more comfortable with physical interaction. This can including self-defense during sparring. They may not become athletic superstars but they will still become more athletic.
Self-Discipline and Self-Control
Learning how to respond appropriately to different situations is something that we all must learn in our life. Martial arts teach kids to control their emotions and impulses. It teaches them to consider appropriate ways to respond. Kids are expected to take responsibility for their actions. This is all part of the learning process.
Martial arts teach kids how to listen. They will learn that they must pay attention if they are to improve. There will be periods of intense exercise and periods of quiet focused listening. Even while energetically practicing skills your kid will need to focus on what he or she is doing. This concentration is what helps to develop the relationship between mind and body. It can help with calmness. There is even evidence that martial arts improve the mind in areas such as memory.
Despites the nature of the martial arts it does not encourage aggressive behavior. There is evidence that martial arts training actually reduces aggressiveness. This is true regardless of age (including teenagers) and gender. Uncontrolled or irresponsible behavior inside or outside of the school is considered unacceptable.
Martial arts schools teach children how to be better at conflict resolution. Some martial arts schools emphasize the principle of anti-bullying. This includes enforcing that it is never acceptable to behave like a bully. Martial arts training centers make it clear that such behavior dishonors the individual and the club. This creates positive reinforced peer pressure.
Some martial arts schools have programs that teach children how to cope with being bullied. They teach effective techniques for defending themselves when there is no other choice.
Martial arts classes teach respect to the instructors. They also teach the importance of respecting each other. Kids learn the advantages of applying themselves mentally and physically. They are even encouraged to get better results by relaxing.
Of course it is no bad thing that your child will be able to vent his or her frustrations or excess energy with bursts of physical exercise.
Confidence and Self-esteem
For some kids the ability to better defend themselves is a big confidence booster. Let’s face it; the school playground really can be an intimidating place sometimes. Hopefully this is only a matter of your kid’s perception and it never come to anything physical. But having the confidence to protect oneself should the need arise can do wonders for self-confidence.
Saying that, your child will learn how to strike and how to take a hit in a safe and controlled manner. This can do wonders in everyday life.
Yet, the real boost to your kid’s self-confidence and self-esteem will come from the encouragement and support of their martial arts instructor. As your child trains he will learn to do challenging things for the first time.
There is an element of mental and physical toughness to practicing martial arts. A good instructor will make it fun and healthy. Not every session or test will go well though. There will be some setbacks, defeats and occasional disappointment. But this is part of a healthy mental journey. He or she will learn the value of resilience and to carry on.
Over time your kid will recognize their achievements by persevering. He or she will be encouraged to try to things. Your child will discover they can do things they never expected. And he or she will be congratulated when something is achieved for the first time. This creates a sense of achievement that leads to greater self-belief.
Most of us accept that today’s generation does not spend nearly as much time socially interacting as we did. At least not face to face anyway. Kids spend much more time on their phones or playing computer games. As a rule they are not nearly as adventurous.
Martial arts are a great way to get your child interacting with other children. They will experience teamwork and activities that rely on cooperation. They will engage with other kids of different ages and learn to work together and to help each other. This creates a healthy environment for developing social skills.
It is usual for friendships to develop. Your child will be sharing the same experiences as other kids and they will progress their abilities together.
For a more information on the wider benefits of martial arts see our article Martial Arts Training: What are the real benefits?
Is there a chance my kid will get injured?
Yes. But then any sport involving physical activity carries the chance of injury. This is true for adults and kids alike.
Context is everything. We have covered the benefits now let’s look at the risks in terms of potential injuries that could occur.
Types of injuries
Scrapes and bruises are the most common injuries in martial arts. If there is punching and kicking then there is the chance of minor injury. This can happen when learning to strike pads and bags. Poor quality or worn out pads can make scrapes and bruises more likely.
It is also possible to suffer sprains or strains when training. As your child learns new techniques he or she will be pushing their body to learn new thing. There can be overstretching kicks and punches, or even going off balance and falling. Wrestling or grappling sports can result in strains on joints and muscles.
Concussions are by far the biggest concern for parents. They can be very serious and need to be recognized and treated. Concussions can happen as a result of a blow to the head during training. They can also happen as a result of a bad fall. A concussion is usually noticed immediately but it can sometimes take longer before symptoms appear. Any child sustaining a blow to the head should continue to be monitored and refrain from further activity.
The hard truth is that young people have been seriously injured and even killed as a result of sports. Martial arts are no exception. This is usually older kids participating in physically punishing matches such as boxing and kickboxing, or mixed martial arts (MMA).
There is plenty of debate on whether children should be allowed to participate in sports that could result in head injuries. Some medical experts believe the risk outweighs the benefits. Others believe that with appropriate safety measures the risk is minimal and outweighed by the benefits.
With all of these injuries there are sensible precautions that will reduce the likelihood of occurrence
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The attitude of the instructor is very important for preventing injuries. Every lesson should encourage self-control and safety measures from warm up to finish. Your child’s safety must be the most important thing to him or her.
It is reasonable to expect that your child is monitored at all times. This is to ensure that he or she learns each technique the correct way and avoids injury. Equally the instructor should ensure that no kid can cause injury to another kid. The instructor should create an environment that is a fun and creative but also safe.
It is particularly important to avoid head contact. Children under the age of 10 should not freely spar or participate in bouts. Reputable martial arts instructors will take their duty of care seriously and look after your child’s welfare.
Like most physically challenging sports kids must develop skills over a period of time. Many activities are limited for young and inexperienced children. As they get older and have more control and experience they will be able to engage in more physical activities.
It depends on the type of martial arts and physical activities, but there is a range of safety equipment to help ensure the safety of participants:
Headgear reduces the risk of head injury. It can also reduce the risk of cuts to the head. Its use depends on the type of martial arts. Some kids will take part in controlled sparring with punching or kicking. For example, Taekwondo or Kickboxing. If so it is necessary to wear suitable headgear.
For other sports such as Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu headgear is not appropriate or helpful. Your child’s instructor will tell you if headgear is . If required then either the school will provide one for your child or you will be told where you may buy one.
Mouth guards avoid mouth injuries such as broken or dislodged teeth and tongue bites. They can also help prevent concussions. Mouth guards are heated in warm water so that they can be gently molded to the teeth and gums for a good fit. It is worth spending a little extra for a good quality mouth guard. You may need to help your child with this.
Body pads protect against serious bruising. Again, the use will depend on the chosen martial art. Like headgear any sport that involves punching and kicking will require kids to wear appropriate padding. This can include chest and torso padding, shin padding, foot padding, arm padding, and hand or fist padding (such as boxing gloves). All padding is worn to protect your kid. But some padding, such as for the feet and hands, is also intended to protect the other kid.
The martial arts school should also take precautions when it comes to the environment they provide. The flooring should be appropriate to prevent slipping. Most martial arts need cushioned mats on the floor to reduce slip and falls. Cushioned mats reduce the impact of falls. Mats should be reasonably clean and there should be no gaps between them.
There should also be adequate space for kids to train. Training shields, pads and bags should be in good condition. They should not be coming apart or the padding deteriorated so that there is inadequate protection.
How Do I Choose a Martial Arts School for my Kids?
There are three simple things to consider when searching for a martial arts school for your kid.
1 The goal
The most important thing is to have an idea of what you would like your kid to get out of martial arts. It could be as simple as improving fitness and losing weight or a general need to burn off excess energy.
Some parents like the idea of their kids participating in activities that improve concentration and self-discipline. Others may want their kid to be exposed to good moral values and meditation. Others may simply want to see their son or daughter get out of the house more often and experience more social interaction.
Once you know what is most important for you and your child you can start to look at selecting a school. For an idea different types of martial arts have a look at ‘Our Guide to the Most Popular Martial Arts’.
The actual martial art itself is not the most important thing. What is important is that your kid enjoys himself or herself and that it meets both of your goals. The only exception to this is if your main goal is for your child to learn self-defense. If he or she is getting bullied at school and his or her safety is your concern then some martial arts are suitable than others.
If your kid enjoys the classes it will be much easier to get them to go every week. This doesn’t mean they won’t complain sometimes. Even happy kids complain. But if they are happy and enthusiastic after every session then it’s working.
As your child grows older he or she can always try different martial arts that suit his or her interest. Your kid will already have an idea of what to expect so it will be less intimidating. He or she will have the advantage of better fitness. Likewise, he or she will have better coordination and be able to listen and focus when required.
2 The instructor
The lead instructor will have different titles depending on the tradition of the martial art. Sometimes the lead instructor will be the only instructor. At larger schools there may be more than one instructor. But it is the lead instructor that determines the school’s philosophy. He or she will be the one that is responsible for the training environment that must work for your kid.
The instructor should concern himself with your kid’s welfare above all else. He or she should enthusiastically speak about how their program will help to develop your child in a healthy and safe manner. Safety for all children should be openly discussed but if not it is important to ask questions. It should be abundantly clear with tangible evidence that the instructor is always ensuring everyone’s safety.
If the instructor is not approachable and personable toward you then it is unlikely they will be any different toward you kid. A good instructor will be relaxed appear at ease with large groups of kids. He is the one that has to take your kid on a journey of self-development and at the same time make it an enjoyable experience.
3 The school
This is primarily about logistics. It is well worth travelling extra distance for a school that ticks all the most boxes. However, if the school is so far away that it is not practical then it makes sense to look for something closer to home. It will be important that your kid is able to regularly attend classes so that he or she does not fall behind everyone else.
You will also need to find out the class times. If it is not possible for your child to make the class times then you will have to look at other schools. It is better to find this out before you visit the school and get your hopes up, or worse yet get your kids hopes up!
Tips on making a final selection
Look at the school’s website if they have one. What is the general ethos of the school? See if it gives enough information to get a feel for whether it will meet your requirements. Does the website specifically talk about their program for kids? If so, it should go into some detail describing the schools philosophy and their goals for training children.
Get recommendations. Ask around. If you or your kid knows anyone that has attended a martial arts school in the area then speak to the other parents. Find out what their kid likes and doesn’t like about it. Ask about the style of martial arts and what it involves. Also ask if the parents have any concerns with safety of their child. This will give you an indication of whether the school is likely to meet your goals.
Attend taster sessions. Sit through the whole thing. This is important so put your phones away, moms and dads, and watch everything. Don’t feel you need to commit to signing up your kid right away. Beware of signing up to any lengthy contracts. You kid should be able to attend several sessions before you agree to anything. Attend the first few sessions yourself to get a better understanding of the instructor’s teaching style.
Arrive early and observe what is going on when you get there. You may be able to observe the instructor teaching a regular class. Are things reasonably well organized? Are the facilities reasonably clean and tidy? Does the environment appear safe?
Speak to the lead instructor (who is usually the owner) and ask questions. Is he or she engaging and helpful? The lead instructor should enthusiastically describe how their program will help your kid. If he or she only talks about their qualifications, awards, titles, etc. then you should be leery. Find out if the school and classes provide what you are seeking. You should get a comfortable feeling from the conversation.
If you find a school that you feel ticks most of your important requirements and your kid is up for it then chances are it will be a good decision for both of you.
Martial arts offer a whole host of benefits for kids. Beginning martial arts training as a kid will have many benefits as they grow and develop. It will provide good building blocks for mental and physical health as they become young adults.
If you have an idea of what you and your child want to get out of martial arts then this will help you to select the good school. But even if you are not sure what type of martial art it doesn’t matter too much. They all have something positive to offer. If you like an instructor and his or her school then let your kid give it a try. If in turn he likes the instructor, the school and the general experience then you are onto a winner.