Martial Arts for ADHD Children

10 February, 2015


Knowing which types of exercise are right for your children can be a complicated matter.

It goes without saying that you want your child to be fit and healthy, but you also want them to stay safe. More than that, you want them to always be happy. But if you are looking for sports activities for a child who suffers from ADHD or similar conditions, then balancing fitness, safety, and achievements becomes even more important. The answer to this puzzle means understanding the nature of exercise as well as you understand your own child's needs. And it may surprise you to learn that one of the most beneficial choices for your child is a sport that you have probably never even considered: martial arts.

The idea that martial arts can help your child's concentration is not a new one, and anecdotal evidence in support of its benefits are abundant both amongst psychology professionals, and in the wider world. Parents and children both make a convincing case that regular martial arts classes can train a young mind to find focus and stability, whilst psychologists with an understanding of martial arts (such as the above-referenced Michael J Formica), have investigated the phenomenon of martial arts training for children with ADHD.

So how exactly will your child benefit from studying one of the martial arts? The answer to this lies in the fundamental nature of the martial arts training process.

Every sport has its own, unique approach to training: whether it is technique and skills development for ball games, team building drills for co-operative play, or straightforward stamina, fitness and muscle development for athletes. Martial arts builds each of these elements, whilst also improving your child's focus and levels of concentration. This “mind training” can be attributed as much to the discipline of the martial arts class as to the physical training itself: providing structured learning and clear goals. It has perhaps been put best by Dr. John J. Ratey, a professor of clinical psychology at Harvard Medical School, who talked to the New York Times in December 2000: “This is not a cure, but it is certainly a useful intervention.”

A child with ADHD has a number of special requirements which means they can excel at some areas of sports and athletics, but may equally become quickly frustrated by other areas. Even the world's top athletes know that the secret to success is as much a case of setting realistic, attainable goals as it is about testing the boundaries of your own, personal limits. Striking the perfect balance between enjoyment and attainment is the key to unlocking your child's potential and them finding fulfilment in exercise. Along with the discipline of the lessons, the main strength behind martial arts classes is the emphasis on the controlled release of energy.

When we began, we talked about safety, and it is always a point of concern for parents. No doubt many will be nervous about sending their own children to martial arts classes but, in reality, martial arts is an incredibly safe activity. Trainers do not simply supervise classes so much as actively lead them, and personal progress is monitored throughout a child's training. Your child is never pushed into advancing before they are prepared; in fact, your child finding his or her own pace to develop at is one of the core character-building facets of the study of martial arts. The combined sense of clear goals, tangible achievements, and improved self-confidence have been described as like a therapy for children with ADHD, providing them with the confidence to achieve their goals. Though perhaps not a miracle cure, there is little doubt that martial arts are a pathway: a journey to a healthy body and a peaceful mind.