Martial Arts classes helps children build up their confidence, exercise and stay fit.
But martial arts offers children many other potentially life changing benefits that parents may not already know.
It’s not just about self defence!
Using martial arts as a framework, children’s martial arts classes offer kids an educational programme that can complement their school education.
Children will learn transferable, help them acquire skills that can be transferred into school to help them achieve their goals academically.
So while they’re learning martial arts, they’re actually learning valuable and transferable life skills that can help them during their childhood and even later on in adult life.
Tailored learning, designed for specific age groups
Martial Arts schools will typically offer classes tailored for specific age groups. These are designed to be inclusive so that children of all ages and ability can learn and benefit.
For younger children, martial arts programmes will focus on helping them develop their coordination, balance and fitness while teaching life skills that include goal setting, concentration, social skills and many more.
Older children who have been training for a while, will learn more advanced martial arts techniques. They’ll not only improve their skill levels, but will steadily improve their overall fitness levels as they build up strength and improve their athleticism.
Our Guide To Martial Arts For Children
We’ve put together this guide to help you discover how martial arts can help your child. Rather than focus on the self defence side of this activity, we provide you with real life case studies, help you find out about the different styles of martial arts and show you what parents and children have to say about martial arts in their own words.
We hope you find this guide useful. If you have any questions please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org where we’ll be happy to help.
Common questions about children's martial arts
What happens during a typical children’s martial arts class?
Depending on your child’s age, classes vary in the types of learning and activities they offer.
For example, 3 - 5 year olds will develop their co-ordination, motor skills and balance through simple martial arts exercises and games. At the end of class or term children are rewarded with certificates that recognise their personal achievements or reaching specific milestones.
Junior classes will start to introduce more advanced martial arts techniques such as patterns, forms and moves depending on the style of martial art being taught. Children will learn other important life skills along the way with positive encouragement and motivation from their instructor. Martial Arts schools may run competitions too, which are completely optional of course, but for those who like to compete, it’s a great way to show off their skills and feel part of a team.
For parents it’s comforting to know that Martial Arts is based on the foundation of respect, so every child feels included regardless of their ability.
Does my child have to be fit to take part?
Of course not!
Most Martial Arts schools offer free trial classes to children designed to help beginners try a class regardless of their fitness levels.
Will my child become violent?
A common misconception about martial arts is that it may negatively influence a child to become aggressive or violent.
While it’s natural to think this way, the truth is that martial arts can actually help children who already have behavioural problems learn to cope with situations in a calm and relaxed manner without resorting to physical confrontation. In martial arts, it’s always said that the best form of self defence is to walk away!
As Mr Miyagi once said:
“Here are the two rules of Miyagi-Ryu Karate. Rule number one: ‘Karate for defence only.’ Rule number two: ‘First learn rule number 1.’”
Will my child have to wear special clothing?
For your child’s first lesson, comfortable clothing like a t-shirt, shorts or jogging bottoms will do. For future classes though you may have to purchase a suit (or Gi) depending on the school.
Some martial arts clubs will offer a free suit when joining. In most cases, shoes are not required as classes are taught bare foot.
How much are martial arts lessons?
This depends on the area you live in or the programme that your child joins but typically classes average between £25 - £55 per month. It’s always best to check with your instructor after your child’s first free lesson.
All the classes on Get Into Martial Arts are FREE trial lessons provided by independent martial arts schools.
21 Benefits of Martial Arts for Children
Remember - martial arts isn’t just about self defence! Martial arts offers so many wonderful and varied benefits for children that can help them at school (improved focus and concentration), as they grow (exercise and fitness) but also help them later on life (confidence and self-esteem).
With so many different benefits, we’ve put together this list of 21 Benefits of Martial Arts for Children so you can see everything that martial arts has to offer to children.
Of course this list is by no means definitive, but it’s a great start to help you decide whether martial arts is right for your child!
1 - Martial Arts is fun!
There’s nothing more fun for kids than getting the chance to run, jump, kick and spin around with other like minded children. As well as martial arts sessions, schools will also hold other events like fun days, festivals and demonstrations that children can get involved so there’s always something exciting happening. The variation that martial arts offers means that children should never feel bored!
2 - Learning how to set and achieve goals
Many martial arts styles are based on a grading system that uses coloured belts that represent a child’s skill at that level.
As children work towards their next belt, they learn the importance of setting and achieving goals, and how practicing and working hard can help them achieve them.
This mindset is also useful at school, in exams for example, or later on in life in further education or in their work life.
3 - Build confidence
Naturally, as a child achieves they also feel more confident in themselves.
For every new belt they earn or new move they learn they’ll grow in confidence. A confident child will always be happy to give something new a try or face challenges positively, which are great skills to have in all aspects of life.
4 - Build up their fitness
Children’s martial arts classes can help them stay fit and healthy while offering an alternative exercise activity that is fun and varied, to help them stay motivated.
For younger children, class can help them with their physical development by helping them develop their motor skills and coordination.
Juniors and teens will also improve their general fitness and strength as classes become more advanced.
5 - Teaches self discipline
Martial arts is built on the foundation of self-discipline.
For example, in traditional martial arts, students will bow to their instructor at the start of every class, while self discipline is required to learn new exercises, moves and patterns to help them achieve their next belt or grade.
6 - Develop social skills
For children who might not always feel confident in social environments, martial arts can help them build their social skills. Because they’ll be in an environment where everyone shares the same common interest, they’ll find it easier to socialise and build friendships.
7 - Boost focus and concentration
Smartphones, tablets and social media are just some of the distractions that kids face these days. While these are great in leisure time, when there’s homework to do then these distractions can cause children to lose focus or concentration.
In martial arts, a child’s full focus and attention is required by their instructor, to help them learn moves, repeat exercises and practice for their belt or grade. This can help children improve in this area and help them when it’s most important, whether that be doing homework or at school!
8 - Helps develop balance
Children will develop or improve their balance through kicking exercises and moves.
9 - Teaches non violent conflict resolution
Children are actually taught to deal with conflict in a non violent manner and without resorting to physical confrontation. Peaceful conflict resolution will help give children the skills they need to cope with situations using reason and common sense.
10 - Develops co-ordination
Martial Arts can help improve a child’s coordination as it requires specific moves that involve combinations of hand, eye, arm and leg movements.
For younger children, classes will help develop this with simple exercises that gradually become more advanced as the child progresses and grows.
11 - Instil the importance of respect
Respect for others is the foundation that martial arts is built on.
Before class, students will bow to their instructor or sensei as well as their training partner.
Success is always celebrated gracefully and children are taught to be respectful and courteous in all situations regardless of the outcome.
12 - Learn how to stay motivated
Being positive and motivated is a key aspect of martial arts.
Children are positively encouraged by their instructor regardless of their level or ability so classes are always inclusive.
The grading system helps them stay motivated because it rewards them for their achievements and efforts in class.
For the more competitive and skilled student, there are optional competitions for them to take part in where they will be coached and encouraged positively.
13 - Build friendships
Naturally, with martial arts as a common interest, children can quickly build new friendships through sharing the same activity and striving for the same goals.
During some classes, children will train with a partner which is again a great way to build new friendships.
14 - Anti bullying
Many martial arts schools run anti bullying programmes for children as part of their martial arts curriculum.
Children learn how to prevent and interrupt harassment and bullying, in most case without resorting to physical confrontation.
Anti bullying programmes aim to make children see bullying as anti social and unacceptable.
15 - Improve listening skills
For children to be able to learn the skills they are taught and achieve their next belt, then listening carefully and attentively quickly become important to achieving success.
Children who might struggle with paying attention or listening to instruction or guidance, will benefit from verbal and one on one coaching in the dojo.
16 - Leadership
Many martial arts schools run leadership programmes which can help children learn important leadership skills through character and team building exercises.
They’ll also learn important interpersonal skills that enables them to interact successfully with different types of personalities, as well the learning the importance of helping others.
17 - Can help children with ADHD
Research shows that martial arts can help children who may struggle with ADHD or behavioural problems.
During a typical martial arts class, students start the session by bowing to their instructor and will have to listen carefully to their instructors commands, requiring discipline and focus. This can help ADHD children learn self-control and discipline, something which can often remain underdeveloped in children with ADHD.
18 - Help cope with dyslexia
For some dyslexic children martial arts can provide a way for them to cope with the challenges they face.
For example, the confidence gained from achieving their first belt or positive encouragement from fellow students and their instructor, can help give children with dyslexia the confidence they need to cope positively with their condition.
19 - Help children with special needs
For children with special needs or requirements then martial arts has the potential to help in a number of ways, including some of the benefits mentioned above and below.
Classes can help in other ways too. For example, some martial arts schools may offer specialist tuition one on one or in a small venue where there are less distractions. The varied exercise that martial arts offers can also provide a benefit.
Before starting a class at your dojo, check with the school first to ensure that they can provide the right training and are professionally trained to cater for your child.
20 - Stranger danger and awareness
Many martial arts schools provide children with ‘stranger danger and awareness’ programmes as part of their training.
They’ll learn how to identify strangers, what do when approached by them and techniques to use as a last resort.
21 - Learn self defence skills
Of course, children will learn self defence skills!
And while they will learn physical skills, the most important ones that learn will help them deal with conflict without physical confrontation or violence.
Which martial arts is best for kids?
Should your child take up kickboxing or karate or kung fu?
The answer is - it doesn’t really matter.
When choosing a martial arts school or class for your child it’s more important to make sure that it is tailored to your child’s age or requirements.
A free trial class can be a great way for your child to find it if it’s right for them, but also gives you the chance as their parent or guardian to assess the venue, how the instructor interacts with children during class but also gives you an opportunity to speak to other parents.
Karate is a traditional martial art originating from China and is possibly the most famous. Karate literally means ‘empty hand’ and is a method of unarmed combat that utilises arms and legs for kicking, defensive blocking and striking. Karate focuses on respect and the importance of positive mental attitude.
Taekwondo or Taekwon-Do is built on the ‘6 Tenets’ which is a faith or belief in a set of principles which practitioners must follow either while taking part in the sport or in aspects of everyday life. Taekwondo originates from Korea focussing on self defence while developing self discipline and control.
Kung Fu Classes
As famous as Karate, Kung Fu is one of the more well known styles. Translating as ‘achievement without effort’, Kung Fu incorporates a number of different Chinese martial arts, using moves that feature punches and kicks that aim at pressure points on the body.
An unarmed combat method, Jiu Jitsu (otherwise known as the ‘gentle art’), teaches students self control when dealing with anger and frustration. As well focussing on the mind, the physical side of Ji-Jitsu teaches that it should only be used in self defence.
These are just a few of the styles. To find out more about the other different styles of martial arts, visit our martial arts wiki page.
Case Studies & Testimonials
Martin Ducker from Kuk Sool Won in Lowestoft talks about the positive, life changing influence of martial arts on one of his many students.
I’ve been teaching the traditional martial art of Kuk Sool Won for nearly thirty years. I’d like to tell you a short story about one particular person by the name of Matthew Ball.
Around twenty-years ago a young mother brought her small five year old boy into one of our free taster sessions. Immediately the youngster became enthralled with what he had just experienced and without hesitation immediately got his mum to enroll him as a member at our school. Matthew always enjoyed his martial art training and rarely missed any lessons. He was one of those young kids that would always totally immerse himself into everything that was put in front of him and was never frightened to ‘give anything a go.’
After continuously working hard for about five-years he slowly progressed through the ranks of the coloured belt system. Eventually Matthew was awarded his 1st degree black belt after, at the tender age of ten-years old.
Unlike many of children that reach that level, Matthew didn’t stop there, but continued to study and practice. After a further period of another five-years the young teenager had his sights firmly set on his second-degree black belt and in due course achieved his next Dan grade, when in his mid-teens.
A year later at the age of sixteen, Matthew made a big decision to leave School and seek entrance into the British Army. His choice was to enroll at the Sixth-Form College at Welbeck in Nottinghamshire. The only unfortunate thing, it probably meant that he’d have to stop his martial art training.
Matthew was sad that his training might have to come to an abrupt halt. However I made an offer to carry on supporting him with lessons on the premises that he would also have to practice himself while attending college. It was an agreement that worked really well for both of us and allowed him to progress to the next stage of his martial art development.
A year or two had passed when one day I unexpectedly met Matthews mother in the local High street. She excitedly informed me that her son had recently passed all his final exams. She was absolutely ecstatic and went onto say that she really believed that much of Matthew’s success was unquestionably down to the discipline that he’d gained during his formative years of martial art training.
Matthew had now set his sights on becoming an Officer. After approximately three years he graduated from Army College and had been accepted at Sandhurst Military Academy. Matthew was to enter an elite site, renowned Worldwide for excellence and leadership.
I remember Matthew telling me that being in the Army wasn’t that dissimilar to his Kuk Sool training; the discipline that was required had already been instilled in him at a very young age.
Despite Matthew’s ever increasingly workload, he continued with his martial art training, practicing hard when and wherever he could. Again he never complained but just carried on with whatever was expected from him.
With his continued love and dedication for the traditional Korean Martial art of Kuk Sool Won, Matthew went on to receive his third degree black belt at the age of twenty years old, making him also one of the youngster practitioners at that level here in the UK.
Several years have passed since Matthew graduated from Sandhurst with distinction. Subsequently he has been posted to a variety of different locations all around the World. He has climbed many mountains, both physically and symbolically. He has been leading men much older than himself in whole host of different assignments.
Last May 2014, Matthew sent me a lovely letter, which I’ve included below, which brings this success story up to-date. I truly believe that this brief statement really emphasizes the power of the Martial Arts and the enormous effect it can have on an individual’s life.
Martin Dixon, from Masters of Martial Arts in Accrington talks about the positive impact that martial arts had on one student with dyslexia...
Aaliyah, now aged 13, started at the age of 4 in our little Dragons section. Aaliyah was severely dyslexic.
Over the years the impact that Aaliyah's Martial Arts training and accomplishments of gold medals at International and National Championships have allowed her to come to a very mature and confident attitude towards her dyslexia.
While Aaliyah still struggles with the practical aspects element of reading and writing she has made great improvement in that area. What she and her parents have found is the mature way she deals with the dyslexia on a day to day level with her peers and those around her. She has the confidence and ability to laugh out loud at herself if she says or gets words wrong and has no hesitation in meeting and greeting people for the first time, yet she never uses her dyslexia as an excuse for anything.
In short her Dyslexia has been looked on as a gift that has brought about a change in attitude where her parents looked to raise her confidence and self esteem through Martial Arts and it's certainly has done this.
Using Martial Arts To Improve Personal Fitness...
Growing up I always struggled with physical activities and had issues with my legs and balance. This improved a little growing up but I was left with a lack of confidence in my physical ability. Since beginning my training, I have noticed a huge improvement, particularly in my lower body strength. This has in turn improved my balance and confidence. My fitness level has also grown massively and I have lost nearly two stone in weight. All of this means I generally feel better, have more energy and am able to do more with my two children. Added to this, I hugely enjoy the training and being part of a lovely school with a family feel to it. I look forward to the days when we train and I am disappointed when work commitments mean I have to miss a class. I cannot overstate how much of a positive impact Kuk Sool has had on my life and would recommend unreservedly to anyone."
Chris Nicolaou - Kuk Sool Won of Thetford
Martial Arts As A Family Activity...
My husband and I took our 10 year old son to a open day at Thetford Academy,this then resulted in the whole family joining Thetford Kuk Sool Won in May 2014. We have enjoyed our time at Kuk Sool Won and learnt so many new things since joining and have had been through 2 testings to gain our next belt which we have been supported by PKJN Kris French and Jenny French when I first started I was seriously lacking in self confidence this has improved to such a level where as a team this summer we completed our first demonstration in Thetford,through PKJN and Jenny's support they have given me the confidence to enter my first tournament this month. The atmosphere is fantastic and we all work as a team and a family supporting each other when we don't find things easy. So I would encourage any adult or child to try Kuk Sool Won and enjoy all the challenges that face you. So from Anna, Anth and Joshua, thank you Sir and Ma'am.
Anna Elmer - Kuk Sool Won of Thetford
Giving Children A Confidence Boost...
Since my son started training with Kuk Sool Won the benefits to him have been significant. In just over a year it is not just his physical health that has improved but also his self confidence and self esteem. The greatest change however has been in his behaviour and his overall respect for others. This, prior to Kuk Sool, was a great concern for me so, you must appreciate, the benefits are not just for my son but also for me. He is now ambitious to do well, not just in Kuk Sool but also in other aspects of his life. I am proud of my son and grateful for the help and support Kuk Sool has given us."