I am always looking for something fun, educational, and healthy for my kids to do. My kids have been involved in martial arts classes for about a year now and it definitely checks all of those boxes.
So why are martial arts for kids a great idea?
What I love about martial arts for kids is that it offers them, and you as a parent, so much in such a short amount of time. It is the activity equivalent of nutrient-dense food.
There, of course, is going to be a good amount of exercise in a class like this which is always great for kids. In a world where more and more time is spent virtually in front of some electronic contraption, it is nice to have my kids involved in something that gets them moving.
Don’t be fooled by that simple answer because classes like this offer them so much more. Kids learn about public speaking, about listening to and following directions, about how to interact with their peers, and about self-control and self-motivation.
Sweep the leg!! (Well not really…)
Many parents (myself included) have seen The Karate Kid way too many times and figure that martial arts are either going to be the gong show that was the Cobra Kai or the very peaceful, zen-like instruction of Mr. Miagi.
My experience is that neither of these scenarios is very accurate. I recently wrote a review of Soccer Shots and I was amazed at the parallels I found. As with that activity, as your kids get older I am sure they can get more:
When they are six and five like my boys, they are just learning the foundations of so many things in life. So as with that activity, my kid’s experience with martial arts has been as much about learning lessons that they can apply to practically all parts of their life, as it is with learning how to kick and punch.
So in this blog about martial arts for kids, I thought I would talk a little about how I got them started, what they learned, how much they did (or did not) enjoy it, and whether it is worth the time and cost for you as a parent.
“The beauty of martial arts for kids is that it teaches them so much more than just how to punch and kick”
What you will love about martial arts for kids
There is so much to love about martial arts for kids because it combines so many things that are of value to you and your kids. It starts with:
- A good physical workout
Martial arts for kids includes exactly what you might expect like kicking, punching, and running. While there are some moments that are a little slower, there is a lot of physical activity going on during a class.
This can range from just running simple laps around the studio, to doing sprints, doing tumbling and groundwork, or even some sort of “race” that involves several or all the kids in the class.
If adults were doing this, you would call it a very comprehensive aerobics class!
- Very specific physical movements are taught
As much as these movements are good for kids to learn, at my kid’s age it is just as important that they are learning to follow specific directions.
As kids develop both physically and mentally, I am on the lookout for not just their ability to mimic what the instructor is saying, but to also see the light bulb go on in their head when they actually LEARN the move. It is one thing to have it shown to them and then repeat it, it is something else to just ask them to do a move and then have them do it correctly.
- Learning to slow down as well
One part of martial arts classes for kids that I was surprised by was the time they spent slowing the kids down. So this can be as simple as them sitting cross-legged on the floor with eyes closed for thirty seconds doing meditation.
I would guess that my kids have no idea what that word means or why it is of any value to them, but when you are a parent and your kids always approach life with a “more, more, more” attitude, this is a nice part of the learning.
- Being gently taught to follow guidance
The martial arts for kids classes I have been to never involve raised voices or negative reinforcement of any kind. There are just gentle and calm reminders of what is expected of the kids at any time.
So if a child is talking or their attention is wandering during a class, an instructor might simply ask “should we be talking now?” With kids, this is a constant endeavor (as any parent knows) but this is a continuing part of a martial arts class for kids.
How I got started
Well actually to give credit where it is due my ex-wife got them in their first class. There was a studio right by her house and she enrolled the kids.
For most folks that is probably how you get started. You see a studio and think “maybe my kids would like that.” When I wanted to move them to a studio closer to my house I just hit up Yelp and Google to see what was out there.
I found Freestyle Martial Arts. It was close to my house and had some great reviews. The programs seemed tailored to the age group and with all that I had found my studio.
Be warned, as with all kid (and adult) activities, there is the push to get you to spend more and more on martial arts for kids. Do not be fooled by discounts or packages. Start with a small time and money commitment to see if your kids actually like it and if so work up from there.
A typical class
My kids are enrolled in a program that is 30 minutes per day, twice a week. This is very well thought-out by the studio since that might be the maximum attention span for kids this age.
They start by doing a little bit of stretching and then get into whatever is on the menu for that day. The activities can vary from class to class but they always seem to incorporate the elements I have described here.
When the kids are done, they get a sticker on their uniform belt. I do not think that these are part of any formal ranking system but it just lets kids feel like they got something for their accomplishment.
How long before my kid is a black belt?
I have no idea!
The great thing about the classes I have been to is that there really are no start and stop dates. The classes are grouped by age, not ability so there are kids with “higher” belts in the same class as my kids. So your kids can just jump right in at any time with no problem.
As an adult remember that the point is for them to learn and not just get higher and higher ranks. Your kids may someday start focusing on their “level” but just make sure to always stress to them it is about the journey and not the result.
So let me say again why martial arts for kids is a great idea for your kids
You know as a parent that you are always on the lookout for great activities for your kids. Martial arts teaches them so much, gives them some great exercise, lets them make new friends, shows them to follow instructions, and just gives them an overall great time!
Are the classes dangerous?
Well of course there is some danger in anything but in my experience, these classes are very safe. In fact, I would say that the studios go out of their way to teach safety to the students to limit any potential for injury.
Are there any “crazy” parents?
One of my concerns, especially at sporting activities, is running into one of those “crazy” parents that go over the top and makes the experience far from enjoyable for kids or parents. In my experience, I have never found these parents at martial arts. I think the fact that the classes are so disciplined tends to bleed over to the adults who usually act very respectfully before, during, and after the class.