All parents care about helping their child grow into a happy and responsible adult. However, that can be easier said than done.
As a parent, you’re constantly battling negative influences on your child – and sometimes even their own apathy. Keeping them engaged in activities that help their personal growth is key.
And one such activity that can help your child greatly is having them participate in a Martial Art.
How do kids benefit from Martial Arts training?
There are numerous benefits for children to study martial arts. Let’s break down what benefits they can see, and how the nature of martial arts training helps:
Focus and Discipline
The Learning Loop
Martial Arts is a discipline. And becoming better at any discipline requires focus. The environment of a martial arts school helps develop focus by minimizing outside distractions. Once students put on the uniform and step onto the mat, the rest of the world will disappear as they’re fully immersed in the activity.
Students in class are asked to observe a particular movement and then are asked to replicate it. Usually there is an initial challenge in performing the movement, which then requires correction and feedback. This continued pattern of observe, replicate, challenge then correct develops discipline since the student wants to perform the movement better each time. This learning cycle increases their attention span gradually as techniques and drills become longer and more complex.
Belief in Self
Martial arts is a great way of improving self confidence. By introducing a challenging task, and then helping the student overcome the struggle to accomplish the task, the student begins to believe in their own ability to persevere and succeed.
The structure of learning a martial art – starting with more simple techniques and then progressing to more challenging drills – keeps the student engaged and ensures there’s always a new challenge to tackle. With each subsequent success, their sense of accomplishment grows, encouraging them to take up the next challenge to grow even further.
This helps your child develop a positive attitude towards adversity, whereby they seek out new challenges with confidence in their ability to succeed.
Body Coordination and Awareness
A huge part of learning a martial art is developing a strong connection between body and mind.
Students learn how to move their body in a coordinated effort to execute a technique, and become aware of how their body functions. In doing so, they learn how to use their mind to control their body.
This can greatly enhance their overall athleticism, helping them perform better in more traditional sports and other physical activities.
Dealing with Bullies
Martial Arts, by their nature, are studies of combat methods. As a result, they are great vehicles for learning systems of self defense.
Students are drilled with responses and principles to common attacks. Having a plan conditioned into them helps alleviate the fear they encounter when faced with a threat. As a result, they will have more confidence in their ability to protect themselves.
When faced with a negative peer influence or a bully, they won’t feel the same pressure to comply. This also discourages bullies, since most pick on who they perceive as “weaker” or more easily manipulated peers.
And if physically attacked by a peer, they will have the self control and techniques to maintain their safety while only using what’s necessary to diffuse the situation.
Japanese martial arts training involves partnered drills with each student assumes a specific role – called the “Uke” and “Tori”. The Tori is the person executing the technique, while the Uke receives the technique. Both play an integral role in learning.
The tori learns how to work with the given movement of the uke, and provide feedback on their attack. The uke then gives feedback on the Tori’s execution of the technique and how to improve. This system of mutual feedback functions as cooperative learning.
Learning how to give and ask for feedback is an incredibly valuable skill to develop regardless of what your child eventually decides to do with their life. It also makes parenting easier, since the child is accustomed to asking and receiving feedback.
Helping fellow students
Leadership qualities are also developed in Martial Arts training by allowing every student to assume a leadership role.
In Japanese martial arts, there is a concept of “Kohai” and “Senpai” – or “Junior” and “Senior”. It is the responsibility of the senior (Senpai) to assist the junior (Kohai) in training. When a student first joins, the existing students assume the Senpai role and assist the Kohai in becoming acclimated to training. Then the Kohai becomes the Senpai when a new student joins after they did.
This means that every student assumes a leadership role within the class, and acts as a student instructor to students more junior than themselves. This gives the student experience with handling responsibility and becoming a leader to others.
Martial Arts typically involves the High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT); students have short breaks where they observe the technique, then have a duration of high intensity performing the technique.
HIIT is great for both burning calories and improving cardio. This helps your child become more athletic and healthier. As well as burning off some extra energy.
How do Martial Arts compare to Team Sports?
There is considerable overlap between the benefits of participating in team sports and Martial Arts. And while both Martial Arts and Team sports are great for developing your child’s character, athleticism and social skills, there are some subtle differences that may make Martial Arts a better fit for your child.
Team sports are inherently competitive. Not only is there competition between teams, there is competition between players of the same team. The best players play the most, while the less skilled players tend to sit on the bench.
Martial arts on the other hand are much more individually focused. Students aren’t competing with each other so much as competing with themselves. This alleviates the peer pressure to perform and allows the student to progress at their own pace.
more leadership opportunity
As we mentioned, every student has the opportunity to be a leader to another classmate. In Team sports, typically there is only one leader per team (i.e. the Captain of the team). Comparatively, there are more leadership opportunities in traditional martial arts since leading a junior student is part of the culture of training.
At what age should kids start martial arts training?
This can be highly subjective, depending on why you want your child to start training in martial arts.
At our dojo we have kids start as young as 9 years old. This age is appropriate because of the development stage children reach at this age.
In Piaget’s theory of child development, children at this age begin to develop concrete operational thinking. This means a child can use more logic in observation and problem solving when it comes to concrete things. And the child can use inductive reasoning to make generalizations about the world.
An example of inductive reasoning would be:
If a labrador is a dog, and dogs are animals, then labradors are animals.
How this works with Martial Arts training
In martial arts training, a student is learning in large part through inductive reasoning: “If I do this technique in this fashion, then this is the outcome.” As the student is more exposed to techniques and examples, the more they can make a generalization about the principles of the art, internalize the concepts, and progress more quickly.
Why not younger?
While there isn’t necessarily harm in having a child start a martial art younger than 9 years old, the nature of the experience for the child changes.
If you’re around Moorpark and interested in giving your child the benefits of Martial Arts training, bring them by to try a class! We promise they’ll thank you for it.