There’s no denying that martial arts can provide a child with fantastic exercise, develop self confidence and establish strong friendships.
With that in mind it’s not uncommon to try and find a local martial arts school or dojo for your child to attend. But, how do you determine which discipline is the right choice? There’s a tonne of different martial arts out there, each with their own techniques and philosophies behind them.
Throughout this article, we’re going to take a look at some of the top martial arts for kids, how to decide which is right and some of the core benefits of studying a martial art at a young age.
Benefits of Martial Arts
Martial Arts classes usually follow a very a similar structure – warm up, practice/ learn certain techniques followed by a period of sparring. This provides the perfect platform your children to partake in vital exercise which of course, is incredibly important for a child’s development.
What’s more, the primary function of a martial art is to learn self defence. This is an invaluable skill that will allow your child to feel confident in their ability to defend themselves.
Finally, martial arts tend to be focused around discipline and respect, two values that any parent would hope to teach their child.
Top Martial Arts for Kids
Ok, lets take a look at some popular martial arts amongst kids and what exactly each one entails.
This is the first martial arts class that I ever attended and was 5 years old at the time. I can tell you this was one of the best decisions my parents ever made, I was one of the fittest kids at school, made some amazing friends and learnt how to effectively defend myself.
For those who don’t know, Judo is an Olympic sport, founded in Japan by a man named Jigoro Kano. Judo is a grappling based martial art, that is won by throwing your opponent flat on their back, pinning them on their back for 25 seconds or by submitting them via a choke or arm bar.
Although this may sound like a brutal sport, the philosophy behind Judo is to defend yourself using your opponent’s momentum and aggression against themselves. In fact, Judo translated to English means “Gentle Way”, which once you begin to study the martial art, becomes clear in it’s methodology and techniques.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)
The popularity of BJJ has exploded over recent years, becoming one of the most popular and effective martial arts in the world. BJJ was created by a family called the Gracies, who adapted Judo and traditional JuJutsu with their own spin.
From an outside perspective, BJJ may look very similar to Judo, typically practitioners wear a Gi (uniform) and grapple their opponent. Aside from these similarities, BJJ is incredibly unique in it’s methodology and approach to winning a fight.
Both participants start standing, however a match can only be won by submitting your opponent or by accumulating more points than them throughout the fight. As such, most of the fighting takes place on the ground, requiring you to out manoeuvre your opponent, gain a superior position and perform a submission.
Many famous BJJ practitioners liken BJJ to a physical game of chess, requiring you to be one step ahead of your opponent and be able to counter their attacks. As such, BJJ is as mentally challenging as it is physically and provides an incredible amount of benefits for kids and adults alike.
Karate is a Japanese discipline that has become extremely popular all over the world, in part due to films such as the Karate Kid series that were massive hits during the 80’s.
Roughly translated to English, the word Karate means ‘empty hand’ and involves striking your opponent using a combination of hand and feet based techniques. Karate teaches it students the importance of respect, as well as to always strive for self improvement.
There is a number of different types of Karate and ways of competing, for example Kata. This is where you perform a routine of different techniques and are judged on the form and composure of your performance.
Alternatively, point Karate aims for you to score more points against your opponent by throwing strikes at different parts of their body, and your ability to defend against strikes made against you.
Taekwondo is a Korean martial art and is recognised as one of the oldest martial arts still performed today (it’s over 2000 years old).
Taekwondo is a striking based martial are that emphasises the importance of fast and agile kicks. Typically, more points are awarded for spinning or jumping kicks to the head and as such, teaches the importance of agility and flexibility.
Despite focusing primarily on kicks, punching and a small amount of grappling is integrated into the martial art, all with the added focus on the speed and power of these techniques.
Although this may seem like one of the more brutal martial arts on our list, the core fundamentals of respect and proper self conduct are evident in the way Taekwondo is taught and practiced through sparring.
The final martial art on our list is Muay Thai, commonly known as Thai Boxing. Muay Thai is a striking based martial art that also incorporates some grappling techniques that are used within the ‘clinch’ position.
Punches, kicks, elbow and knee strikes make up the foundation of striking techniques used in Muay Thai. More points are awarded for landing elbow and knee strikes, as these are seen to be more effective in afflicting damage to your opponent.
Muay Thai has become incredibly popular over recent years, with many western practitioners moving out to Thailand in order to better improve their abilities. There’s no denying that this is one of the more demanding disciplines on our list, but in terms of the mental and physical strength it instills in its’ students, it’s one of the best in the world.
How to Pick a Martial Art?
So, how do you go about deciding which martial art is right?
Well, most clubs offer a free ‘trial’ lesson in which you can turn up and experience a lesson for free. This is a great way to see if your child takes to the sport and to check out the quality of teaching before making a full commitment. You could attend a few different trial lessons for different martial arts and see which one is the best fit.
It’s also worth considering if your child would prefer grappling or striking bases martial arts, as the answer to this question will heavily determine which discipline is right for your child.
Introducing your child into the realm of martial arts is a great way to teach respect, self confidence and discipline, whilst at the same time taking part in some much vital physical exercise.
Having studied martial arts since I was 5 years old, I truly believe there is a tonne to be gained, even by attending a class once or twice a week.