Martial Arts for Children?

Wondered which discipline would be a good idea for my son, who is 4 years old. He’s fairly strong and coordinated, has good concentration and thrives in a structured setting.

Also wondering if I need to sign up his twin sister as well, as a preventive measure.

Probably an even more important question is which instructors in your area are experienced, good with kids, and have experience in teaching them. A lot of kids do well in traditional arts like Karate and Tae Kwon Do, but there might be a gem of a teacher in your area teaching a completely different art. Call a few schools in your area and ask if they teach kids, and if you can come for a trial lesson. Try a few and see where you and the kiddo best like the art, the instuctors, and “the vibe.” Absolutely take sis along if she wants to go. :slight_smile:

Aikido is an exceptionally fun martial art, but it doesn’t fit what a lot of little kids think of as a martial art (no kicking and punching), but it still might be something that’d be worth looking into when he hits the 12-16 range.

Tae Kwon Do can mess up your joints big time. It’s not a good style. The pedagogy of it in the US is lackluster. I guess the same is probably true of Karate, but I have no experience with that one. I’d try and find out what the teacher knows about the natural movement of joints and common ligament injuries and such. I had a great Kung Fu teacher that taught a wonderful kids class which I helped teach in order to get my adult lessons for free.

The problem with a lot of martial arts is that it attracts a lot of meatheads, and those meatheads then start schools when they think they are billy badass.

I’m a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. It worked out fine for me.

Well, from my understanding, a lot of non-Masters from Korea saw an opportunity to make money, so they came over and started teaching. The emphasis on power kicks and power punches supposedly puts a tremendous amount of stress on the joints. I remember doing it and it didn’t do much good for my joints. My Uncle who has been a black belt in it for as long as I can remember has joint issues now.

How old are you? How long have you been studying?

To the OP:
I’m generally a fan of Kung Fu. Particularly if you can find one that teaches animal styles. That’d be great for a kid.

Please, find someone with specific knowledge of small children and martial arts before you decide. Four sounds way too young to me, but if you have some sort of special little-kid class available, I couldn’t tell you if that was suitable or not. I would never let a child younger then 12-14 or so anywhere near martial arts, but I’ve seen smaller children do it with no ill effects, so…

Age aside, definitely send the girl along as well, if you do decide to sign him up. It’s great fun for girls.

If you “preventative measures”, martial arts is a really bad, woa bad idea.

I’m 26, but I had already stopped in high school when I hurt my back. I think I hurt my back improperly doing spinning back kicks, though.

For what it’s worth, I think I’d like to do Kung Fu.

Huh - very interesting. Thank you so much!

It always pays to ask here first. My first efforts online didn’t turn up anything specific to children beyond the YMCA. But maybe that’s precisely where to start.

I’m really just looking for a positive outlet for his energy, plus some fun. He loves to imitate Spongebob’s chopping motions. It’s not an area I’ve ever studied at all.

Re: his twin sister, they play ROUGH sometimes. She gives as good as she gets (sitting on his head is her latest trick), but I don’t want to equip him with a whole new arsenal if it’s likely to be used against her.

But I don’t know, perhaps “don’t beat up your siblings” is part of the training.

It really depends on the dojo or school, and since other people have already mentioned how important it is to watch out for charlatans, I’ll just add that although I haven’t had a large amount of experience teaching martial arts to kids, I’ve never heard of a kid who studied with a legitimate instructor and ended up mis-using his training or the like. A lot of them actually seem to take the whole “Knowing how to fight means that you need to know when to” bit quite seriously, and the ones who stick with it for a while tend to be pretty level-headed individuals.

My instructor was pretty specific: If he ever heard of any of us being involved in any kind of fight, that was our last day with him as our instructor.

We had the kids in Tae Kwon Do about that age for a season.

My son was pretty good at it, but wasn’t that interested. My daughter wasn’t interested and wasn’t very good. We stuck it out for a season, when they switched to soccer for the summer - which involved far less hassle in getting them out the door. My rule is that if you say “do we HAVE to” every week repeatedly - you finish out the session and we are done with that one. Except piano - I am making both my kids take enough piano that they get through the first book or two.

I wouldn’t worry about them hurting themselves as little kids - the yellow belt skills are fairly body friendly - no less body friendly than the playground activities little kids do - they are built to take a whole different stress than grown ups.

They did put the kids in sparring suits and let them fight. My daughter liked that part.

It did seem to help a little with body awareness and discipline - not as much as I hoped. Gymnastics for her has been much better for that because she is much more engaged.

Oh, the other thing I didn’t like - the place we went you paid one fee for the month that was quite reasonable. He had classes for the little kids on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The idea was you could come as much as you wanted - which would be a great value, but for us was too much Tae Kwon Do for little kids. And they really did want you there more than once a week, which was our level of commitment to it. A lot of little kids did do the multiple time a week thing - and really thrived.

JMO, but I did use to teach. Four years old is waaay too young.

I taught judo (and jujitsu - not the Gracie kind), and they just weren’t old enough to stay focused before seven or eight. Tae kwon do might be different, but you’d need a really good school, and (in my opinion) most strip mall dojangs would be happy enough to take your money, but it’s problematic if a four-year-old is going to learn anything worthwhile. Teaching children is a completely different set of skills from teaching adults, and the younger they are, the harder it is.

I am rather of the opinion that we push our kids into organized sports too fast. They should certainly be out playing, but a four- or five- or six-year-old shouldn’t be playing organized softball or Pop Warner football either.

YM certainly could V.


That is really interesting. It’s so funny, because as a parent I’m worried that I’m denying them something if I don’t ferret out opportunities and get them all signed up and ready.

But, yeah, the soccer and gymnastics they did last summer were a total waste of time and money, in terms of experiencing the sport. In terms of learning that other kids were even less focused than my own, it was a worthwhile experience for me. Oh, and my son learned that it was OK to stand his ground when Little Bobby was pushing him.

I’ve always said that of art classes – just give a kid materials and let them have at it. And then just questions as they arise, look at art books, try something new, whatever.

Looks like I need to follow my own advice. Maybe put the money into some series EE bonds instead :p.

Lots of kids w/ “black belts”, no matter what the style = ripoff.

Part of my gig as a brown belt in Kuk Sool Won was to help teach.

Occasionally I got roped into helpign with a childrens class. I hated it, but really, all I did with the kids was kick and punch drills, running around the Do Jang, and occasionally help with the first or second hyung (not many small kids much past that level).

That being said, I would be VERY careful. YMCA might be best for you… in the US, a lot of schools now require “contracts” that involve you paying for a whole year, even if you’re not going. I would try to avoid them, if you can.

Seconded. In the UK, we began at yellow belts, and you had to get three black tags on your belt before you granduated to the next rank.

I did Judo for four years, from ages 7-11 (and never earned a black belt, and didn’t expect to earn one until I was at least 13). Like Aikido, there’s no kicking or punching, which means your kid won’t learn to kick or punch other kids, which is something that invariably happens with some kids no matter how good the instructor.

Like Shodan said, there were definitely some six- and seven-year-olds there who just didn’t have the attention span yet, but I would guess about two thirds of us did just fine, especially in a once-a-week schedule rather than “every day after school”.



What, is it Free Verse Day at the Dope? :stuck_out_tongue: