There are many programs that parents and caregivers can enroll their children in, but few have as many positive effects as martial arts. Karate and Taekwondo are the most common classes that students take part in. There are many benefits to training in these areas that carry out of the dojo and into the child’s everyday life. Two key takeaways that students learn in martial arts are confidence and discipline, but other perks include improved health, improved interaction with peers, and resilience.
Confidence– As children learn and master new moves, formations, and weapons they will inadvertently also be improving their self-esteem. The teacher will praise the students for correct applications of their lessons, great attempts, and for paying attention. Parents, adult caregivers, and family gather during classes and special events to watch. Students grow used to having an audience watch them train. Many children are nervous to be in front of people alone, but consistent training boosts their self-confidence so they learn not to worry about the audience, but to focus on their instructor and the task at hand.
Martial art training is progressive. Students can test and earn new belts. The color-coded belt system provides students with an evolving goal. They do not have a chance to become stagnant because of a lack of purpose. The belts also provide an ongoing confidence boost as a marked achievement.
Discipline– Every dojo, the common name for a martial art training facility, has one specific thing in common. They all focus on the discipline of the mind and body. Students are taught from their very first day to answer “Yes, sir” and “Yes, ma’am” whenever an adult or senior classmate speaks to them. They also learn how to control their bodies, quickly respond to directions, how to make goals, and how to exceed expectations. Any martial art will challenge their students to push through challenges whether it be karate or taekwondo classes.
Children and teens with ADD, ADHD, or are on the autism spectrum have trouble regulating their minds and bodies, dealing with distractions, and interacting with peers. They lose focus easily and have difficulty engaging with tasks. The regimented style of teaching that allows for movement can be beneficial. Children with environmental sensitivities often wear noise-canceling ear protectors. These children with special needs can learn discipline in class and carry those newly developed skills into their classes at school and home life.
Health Benefits– Many classes take place twice a week. That means that students are kicking, punching, and running regularly outside of school physical education. Some children struggle with their weight and dislike traditional exercise or sports. Karate and taekwondo are an ideal alternative that gets them moving while having fun in a classroom environment where everyone is working on the same task. If weight loss is a goal, then regular exercise in classes can help the child to reach a healthy weight for their size and age.
Even children without weight concerns benefit from the physical exertion that builds lean muscle, stamina, and endurance. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recommends 60 minutes of daily exercise for children ages 6-17 and 150 minutes per week of cardio activities. Regular physical activities lead to a healthier body.
Peer Interaction– Classes are taught in a group environment with the children following the moves of their instructor. Students can build positive relationships with their peers. Children that have had difficulties making friends will enjoy the comradery formed in martial art classes. The students cheer for excellent moves and encourage each other when they miss a step or fall. Team building activities during class and special events further cement the concept of positive peer interactions with children.
Resilience– Unfortunately, bullying is a common problem in schools. Children feel down and defeated when they are constantly picked on. After taking part in regular martial art classes, students are better able to cope with these tense situations. The student becomes more self-efficient by knowing how to avoid conflict, but also be prepared to defend themselves and others if necessary. Resilience is a character trait that builds mental toughness and the ability to overcome obstacles throughout life not just as a child.
Self-confidence and self-discipline are two of the more rewarding results of a martial art program. Children can also improve their physical health through the regular training program the classes use. Students with learning disabilities can thrive in the dojo setting by learning to focus their mind and body while staying active. Peer interactions and friendships can be built during classes and special activities. Finally, students learn the ever-important lesson of resilience that build mental strength and the ability to better handle tense situations like bullying. School-aged children are at an ideal age to join a martial arts program and reap many personal benefits.