At the outset, I’m sure you have reservations about getting your children involved in combat training. This is understandable (especially since kids can be mean enough as it is!). Who wants to make them more efficient at it?! This reasoning is actually contrary to evidence however. Training in martial arts has actually been shown to offer incredible developmental benefits to young kids. But before you simply take my word for it and rush out to sign your kids up for karate, tae-kwon do, tai chi, boxing, or wrestling lessons, let me offer you 5 irrefutable reasons why enrolling your kids in martial arts can be so beneficial!
1. Physical Training: The most obvious point here is that martial arts lessons keep kids active in a way that many team sports or other physical activities do not. Instead of your child sitting on the sideline if he or she isn’t as talented as the next kid, they will receive individual attention and will be responsible for the same amount of activity as every other child in the lessons. Martial arts emphasize speed, strength, flexibility and cardiovascular health. Additionally, to set the record straight, children who participate in martial arts actually do not suffer as many injuries as those who play football, basketball, or even gymnastics!
2. Mental/emotional health: Many parents have found that their children received much more than mere physical benefits when taking martial arts lessons. Sustained and form-oriented exercise actually engages the mind just as much as the body. We know that the mind is connected to the skeletal muscles by neurons and the nervous system, but few people understand how exercises and sports that involve heavy concentration actually develop the intellectual faculties of the brain. Martial arts have proven beneficial for kids with ADD and other attention-related learning obstacles.
3. Discipline: The key to martial arts success is discipline. As your kids progress in their lessons, they will become aware of the connection between success in their sport and their level of attention and discipline (hence, they will teach themselves the value of obedience to instruction). Also, the martial arts experience is centered on a student-master relationship that is built on obedience, encouragement, and trust. Sometimes, kids have a hard time learning discipline and obedience from their parents simply because you’re their parents! But having another adult (even if it actually a teenager or very young adult) to look up to and learn from, actually gives your children another source of input to learn the values that you’ve been trying to instill in them.
4. Confidence: It is a fact that individuals who are trained in martial arts are typically more confident and less anxious in uncertain or high-stress situations. On one level, this is because they know they have the ability to take care of themselves, and on another level, it is because their training has been centered on maintaining a clear head and precise movement in physically exhausting exercises. This is perhaps more important with children, whose interpersonal relationships with other kids are less mature and who are more susceptible to physical bullying than adults. Confident kids are happy kids, and happy kids are successful kids.
5. Martial Arts are geared toward ending conflict, not starting it. This is huge! Plus, it ties into my last point. Contrary to popular opinion and media portrayal, martial arts are designed to end confrontational violence, not propagate it! Judo is an excellent example of this. This style of martial art is primarily concerned with throwing or immobilizing the opponent, not severely hurting them or over-abusing them. The purpose of throwing or pinning an opponent is to neutralize a violent aggressor who otherwise could not be peaceably stopped from trying to hurt you. It reminds me of the old Looney Tunes episodes where one character would peacefully side-step or toss aside their aggressive companion instead of engaging in aggressive back and forth combat with them. The same can be said about all of the other martial arts disciplines as well: good physical fitness and training in combat techniques keeps potential victims safe from bullying and aggression. Alternatively, martial arts lessons could help pacify and discipline children who already possess over-aggressive behaviors.
Now, there are several different disciplines implied under the umbrella term “martial arts”. Usually the term refers to East Asian combat disciplines such as karate, tae-kwon do, tai chi, and judo, but it can also refer to the Western sports of boxing, kick-boxing, wrestling, MMA, or even fencing. In light of the evidence, determine what type of program would best suit your child and begin looking for an instructor. There are a ton of great studios and gyms out there in your area.