Do you worry about your kids? Do you worry that they will grow up overweight and/or obese? Are you concerned they will be the target of bullies? Worse, will they BECOME bullies? Are you seeing a tendency for them to boss their friends and classmates around? Are they clumsy and prone to injury?
If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, martial arts training would help. There is lots of evidence that martial arts training helps children grow up healthy and happy, able to interact comfortably in groups and one-on-one.
My family has participated in martial arts for my children’s whole lives, and over half of my life. I have seen with my own eyes remarkable results in behavior, self-esteem and self-confidence both in children and adults.
Children with autism-spectrum disorders who have shown improvement in their ability to tolerate touch. Children with ADHD who are able to meditate quietly for short periods. Children with little or no self esteem or self confidence who gradually bloom into skilled teachers and leaders on (and off) the mat.
What does the science say? There are LOTS of scientific studies published on martial arts training in kids. Kids who study martial arts tend to enjoy physical activity more than those who don’t. Martial arts is effective for prevention of fall-related injuries. Martial arts training improves creativity, flexibility, self-control, and discipline.
Martial arts training benefits adults too. I’ve seen adults with asthma develop vastly better lung function. Core strength and stamina are particular targets of martial arts training. Mindfulness, meditation, and stress relief are core principles.
If you choose to enroll your child in a martial arts program, how should you go about it? Look for a school that particularly emphasizes teaching children (not as an afterthought).
Go to your prospective school(s) and observe classes. See if the children have plenty of time to ask questions and understand the exercises and techniques. See if the master or sensei of the school teaches the children him- or herself, or if classes are taught primarily by junior instructors. Talk to the other parents and get an idea of what improvements they have seen in their children, as a result of the training.
Two other concerns to make sure you address before enrolling your child:
- What is the teacher’s attitude towards bullying? Does he or she specifically address measures to prevent and handle bullying in and outside of school?
- What are the safety measures taken? Injury prevention is a huge issue in martial arts, especially with developing children’s growing bones and flexible joints. Make sure safety equipment such as mouthguards and groin protection are worn whenever contact is expected.
If you choose to enroll your child in a martial arts class, you should consider taking classes yourself. Spending time on the mat is a great way to relieve stress and build strength, endurance and confidence that you can handle challenges that come your way. If you’re not interested in external, combat-style arts you can consider Tai Chi, which is gentle and meditative but still has great health benefits.
Martial arts training is of benefit to the whole family. Give it a try! Your results should speak for themselves.