The Benefits of Martial Arts Training for Children

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

Part I  The Benefits of Martial Arts Training for Children and the most appropriate age to start.

Did you know that martial arts training is safer than most school sports for children?  Research has shown that kids are injured less in a well supervised dojo/ dojang than on a football foeld, basketball court or baseball diamond.  But that is not the only benefit to martial arts for kids.    For starters, martial arts training gives the student an arena of self-discovery and a chance for he or she to set reasonable and obtainable goals for themselves.  Studies show that in most cases, martial arts training increases the child's self esteem, as well as the ability to focus and concentrate on tasks at hand.  Martial Arts also help with coordination and motor skills in children who might seem or feel out of place in another area of physical activity.  Many parents with children diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, report that their child's success in school and social settings improve after some time in the martial arts due to the dicipline and concentration, as well as the structure required in a well run dojo/dojang with certified instructor's experienced in teaching children.  This benefit, as well as the the benifit one gets in the area of respect, both for self and others, flows over into other areas of the child's lofe both on and off the mat.

Some parents may think that martial arts training promotes violence.  They have watched the "Karate Kid" too much.  In a traditional, well supervised dojo/dojang with the proper certified instructor's, the martial arts acyually foster self dicipline, and socialization skills, which allow them to often walk away from a "bad" situation or at least be aware of it and not let themselves get involved.  If taught traditional aspects of honor and integrity, they have nothing to prove.  Using physical combat would be their last resort in self protection or protection of another who is weaker and bullied.

Dr Mimi Johnson of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Committee on Sports Medicine and Fitness, says that, Age six is usually a good age to start class."  By this time the children have developed enough coordination and muscle control to function properly in class and socialize with other as well as have the desire to please the instructor.  I know many will disagree, because schools to accept children as early as age three, but the research stands.  We have tried ages 4and 5 and what we got was Roomper Room.  Our Little Dragons program is from ages 6-10.  At ten they graduate into the aduly class as novice, but with a well grounded foundation.  This is for Taekwondo.  We do not start young people in Hapkido until age 12-14 depending on maturity and body structure since these techniques have no "sport" application and are taught for defense only. 

Instructors should be Black Belts with a desire to work with children and a willingness to study early childhood behavior.  Being a Black Belt is simply not enough.  They should also be certified by their alliance as instructors and when necessary be firm, but kind.  On the other side of the coin they should the encouraging and pastoral as well.  The World Taekwondo Federation sets the age for a first degree black belt at 15.  It takes more than the ability to "Parrot" movements as an instructor.  As true, mature Black Belt, understands martial arts philosophy and well as combat or sport skills.  The instructor should be a role model for the child.  It is in the modeling, that the psychologist Bandura explains, that the child learn and grows to mimic what has been presented.  Remember, the child before you today, is the future of tomorrow.

Part II next week will address how to pick out an appropriate martial arts school for your needs.