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martial arts for children

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Aubrie posted 7/1/2014 14:14 PM

QS and I are beginning the discussion to put DS5 (almost 6) into some form of martial arts. And with a few clicks online, I'm completely overwhelmed.

What is a good age to start children? In what style/form/whatever? There's oodles to choose from! Should we focus on just 1? Or a couple? How often do they train? Where do we even begin?

Are there certain aspects in children that make them poor candidates for martial arts versus other types of sports?

Any guidance would be appreciated.

simplydevastated posted 7/1/2014 14:31 PM

I think it's all personal preference. I took a few years of martial arts. The style I learn was Shaolin Kempo. Some people prefer Tae Kwon Do.

Research the teachers in your area. See if you can find reviews of the studio. Some instructors will let you take a free class to see if you like it.

There are a few studios in my area. They mainly teach Tae Kwon Do. One teacher is really good and is strict with the children...meaning that they have to carry a form with them and adults who interact with the child (parents, teachers etc...) can check off their behavior and respect to others and they have to bring it in to the teacher. Then there's another teacher in town (think along the lines of the bad teacher in The Karate Kid). He teaches cage fighting etc...

I don't think there's a good or bad age to start, it all depends on how the child views the classes. They need to be able to understand that any form of martial arts is for defense only and they should not attempt to use it on other children for any reason including attempting to teach them.

When I took classes I didn't even tell anyone about it just because I'm a pretty private person.

I hope some of this helps.

Good luck on your search.

*ETA - Be careful if you see someone advertising that they know Jeet Kune Do. That is the style that Bruce Lee created, and to the best of my knowledge the person has to be certified by one of his family members (I believe Shannon Lee is one of them). From what I've read it's very difficult to become certified and a lot of people claim they know it when they don't. Just an FYI

[This message edited by simplydevastated at 2:34 PM, July 1st (Tuesday)]

Phoenix1 posted 7/1/2014 15:03 PM

I studied martial arts (Mu Duk Kwan Tae Kwon Do) for many years under a Korean Master and Grand Master, and taught young children as part of my own study and progression. The general consensus is to not start younger than 5 because they have no attention span. Yes, it is challenging trying to corral 5-6 year olds (much like herding cats) in what is considered a high discipline activity, but they slowly get the idea (usually), IF they are truly interested.

There are so may styles out there it is really a personal preference. Talk to the school owner (should also be a seasoned instructor) about their own background. Take advantage of free "intro" lessons to see if your DS likes it before making a commitment as it can be quite pricey in some areas. If he doesn't like it, or take to one style particularly, look at a different school. Watch how the instructor(s) interact with the kids. Ask a lot of questions so you feel comfortable. The focus of the school should be on teaching the kids and mentoring them, not on profits.

Martial arts is a very solitary sport, like swimming, so it is not ideal for a kid that wants to be part of a team (e.g., soccer, basketball, etc.). There is a lot of self-discipline needed to succeed, which is always a challenge for kiddlings. However, I am a strong supporter of martial arts when it is taught by reputable instructors and is being learned for the right reasons. With the right instructor your child would learn those right reasons as that is part of the instruction. It is great exercise, teaches self-discipline, self-defense skills, and humility, and is just simply a lot of fun (for those that enjoy that kind of thing). It is not for everyone, but give it a shot! I LOVED doing it!

Oh, and you do learn how to tolerate a lot of pain. Breaking one board or concrete block wrong and that tolerance is much appreciated!

wifehad5 posted 7/1/2014 19:17 PM

The school that BR used to teach at wouldn't take kids under 5

ETA, she taught kids for several years, and is now with a school that teaches various special needs communities. If you have any questions, feel free to PM her. They're off for the summer, so the need to talk about it is getting pent up

[This message edited by SI Staff at 7:21 PM, July 1st (Tuesday)]

LosferWords posted 7/1/2014 19:45 PM

My son and I went to a dojo that caters mostly to families. We started when he was 6 and I was 36. It was a really good experience for him in many ways: discipline, confidence, self-esteem, socially.

The place we went was 'officially' a Shotokan school, but actually taught many forms of martial arts. Safety was always priority number one. In a lot of cases, the more dangerous maneuvers were taught differently to the kids than the grown ups, in order to be made more safe for the kids.

Feel free to either PM me or have QS PM me if you want more specific information or a link to the dojo we went to, which I think would be a prime example of a kid-friendly/family-friendly school that still teaches effective self defense.

Best of luck!

Aubrie posted 7/1/2014 20:45 PM

Thanks gang. I may shoot some PMs out. I'll probably do a bit more research first so I don't annoy the fire of of you.

Bluebird26 posted 7/2/2014 05:32 AM

My kids used to do Karate, we all did it as a family. Oldest DS was probably 6 or 7 at the time, he loved it did it for about 3 years progressed through a few belt colours, but he wasn't aggressive enough it was like he was swatting flies for him to continue he had to find the fire within, think he is still looking. He found his niche though in a team sport - basketball.

Youngest DS signed on at the same time he was probably 4 it was like someone else described as herding cats. It was impossible. He is aggressive enough but will never have the concentration required he has some SN.

Maybe you could call a few centres, they may offer free trials that way you can try a few. One thing I loved about Karate (am I guessing other martial arts) is that they train the kids that it's only used in an emergency it's not for beating people up etc.

bluelady posted 7/2/2014 08:12 AM

I took karate for a couple of years. The dojo I studied at had a program for young children (ages 4 and 5, I think), although that program was mostly balance work and story telling about the history of the sport, compassion and confidence. The kids then moved on to the "real" classes when they turned 6.

One thing that I will stress, and I've heard from a number of parents in that dojo, as well as some colleagues who have their children in different martial arts, is to find an instructor that best fits your child.

There was a single mother who studied at our dojo with her two sons. She chose our dojo over another because she found the sensei at the other dojo much too aggressive. She wanted a positive male role model in her sons' lives and the sensei at our dojo struck the right balance of confidence and compassion whereas the other seemed harsh and mean. A coworker switched his son from one Tae Kwon Do school to another for similar reasons. He found the teacher (I don't know what they're called outside of karate) to be too aggressive with his son to the point where my coworker felt he needed to step in a number of times.

sadone29 posted 7/2/2014 12:14 PM

My DD is in MMA (karate, Mauy Thai and Jiu Jitsu). She loves it! She started when she was 7.

I think ultimately it's about the environment and the teachers. I know a kid in another martial art who is younger and frequently goes home sore because the kids manage to get away with real hits.

DD is on the mats going crazy and she has never gotten hurt.

sisoon posted 7/2/2014 12:23 PM

Ideally, IMO, you want a teacher who relates to kids well and teaches both the technique and the mental/emotional/spiritual side of the discipline.

Everyone knows Tai Chi Chuan is the best, but I'd go with the 1st really good teacher you can find, no matter what school s/he follows.

Aubrie posted 7/2/2014 13:06 PM

Sisoon, that's kinda what I'm noticing. Each form has its pros and cons. But it seems that utimately, the student/teacher connection and teacher integrity/style are the big things to look for.

fireproof posted 7/2/2014 17:50 PM

I would see what is available in that area. At that age I don't know if there is a huge difference- I was in Karate.

If there is I would call the various places and most will let you sit in or try a class without a fee.

I think it is a great sport for confidence and discipline.

Good luck!

suckstobeme posted 7/2/2014 18:46 PM

My DS took tai kwon do when he was about 7. He took it for a year. He really liked the exercise and the punching and kicking moves. But, it was very hard for him to advance. He has a learning disability that impacts his processing and memory. He couldn't master the sequences.

I didn't renew the contract after the year. That's the other thing. Where we live, there are lots of reputable studios and, to stay competitive, most require a contract of at least six months. It was pretty expensive and the studio wanted the kids to take at least two classes a week. It was a lot in terms of time and money.

If you can, try a small studio first that doesn't require a contract. That way, you can gauge interest level and quality of the studio without being locked into anything.

itainteasy posted 7/3/2014 08:34 AM

My BFF's son is in Jiu Jitsu. He's autistic and gets bullied in school. He doesn't know he's being bullied though--he says they're his friends, and they're just kidding, etc. But he had a vicious encounter last year that left him with bruises on his BONES.

So, the Jiu Jitsu has taught him self defense, and discipline. And his confidence has soared.

I have no personal experience with Marital Arts, but seeing how Joey has changed, and blossomed with his Jiu Jitsu experience has me convinced it's a good idea.

StillGoing posted 7/3/2014 10:24 AM

Even ancient military societies would wait until 5 or 6 to take the kids from the home and start training them as super soldiers so I'd wait until 6ish too.

My personal preference is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, especially since it meshes well with kids rolling around playing, but just about any form of martial arts at that age is probably going to be beneficial in regards to discipline, exercise and self esteem. It's also awesome for kids that aren't super popular or great at sports because it's an individual sport that is part of a team - as in, they are on a team but the whole team doesn't suffer and get pissed if they miss a catch in the outfield, kind of thing.

I don't think anyone is a poor candidate for martial arts.


The thing to know about Jiu Jitsu, at least BJJ, is that it does not advance in belts the way most other combat styles do; generally people stay at white belt for 2-5 years before they move to blue, and then to move from blue to purple requires teaching other students, and purple is an instructor grade. There are slightly different belt grades for children under 15 but it's just something to remember in that a lot of kids look at belt advancement and might wonder why they aren't getting a new belt grade every 3 months or something.

[This message edited by StillGoing at 10:27 AM, July 3rd (Thursday)]

Aubrie posted 7/3/2014 11:02 AM

Thanks so much for all the advice and tips.

DS turns 6 in October. We'll probably start him at the start of the school year.

There are three schools on our side of town. Tae kwon do, karate, and another which teaches several different types. Guess my next step is phone calls and visits and such.

Thanks again folks.

osxgirl posted 7/3/2014 11:32 AM

I'm going to reiterate the comment from suckstobeme about trying to find a place that does not require a contract.

I stumbled into a Tae Kwon Do dojo that was great when I lived in CA. Sheer luck. One of the things the master there talked about was the fact that he ran as a drop-in only place because he did not respect the places that did contracts. He said he had seen way too many of them that insisted on signing for a certain belt level, and then the person would get that belt level in the amount of the time the contract stated, whether or not they should have. He felt a lot of those places were just charging for the belt, and didn't really care about what you learned.

Bigger posted 7/4/2014 08:51 AM

I did judo from 5 to 14 with a few breaks (periods not bones!).
I also did some karate and tai-kwon-do but judo was always my favorite.
It came to good use while working as a police officer but it has come to even better use when I slip and fall. Just a week ago I slipped on a rock while fishing and fell backwards, only to have my judo-reflexes kick in and take the fall like a pro.

Jomarion posted 7/5/2014 20:16 PM

My son, who has both Asperger's and ADHD began Aikido when he was 7, and has progressed to a green belt at 13 now. It has given him confidence, concentration, and not-nice kids who might bully him because of his Asperger-like unusual behaviours sometimes, think twice because of his Akido.

His instructor is a gentle and polite man, a great role model for my son. I am proud of him, and he is proud of himself too (even if he does sometimes complain about going to class, he does seem to enjoy it generally)

h0peless posted 7/5/2014 23:37 PM

My step brother did Tae Kwon Do when he was a kid. He ended up being really, really good and competed in it. He had to quit because he got too many concussions.

Now he plays college Football. Go figure.

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