Recommend a martial art for my 6 year old

Here’s the story - my 6 year old Bryan is small. He’s almost seven, but has the body size of a four year old. (Yes, we’ve been through tests with the endocrinologist; basically there’s nothing wrong, he just gets the size from my family coupled with late-blooming from my wife’s). He’s just starting the 2nd grade, but many of the kindergarteners are his height, or taller.

Anyways, Mrs. Younger and I both feel that studying a martial art would be good for his confidence (he’s got a pretty good self-image, but I know what it’s like to be the smallest in the class and every bit of confidence will help.) And we’re pretty sure that he’ll have the need to defend himself every now and then.

I should mention that we haven’t talked about this with him, yet. But he loves to play “karate chop - hiiiiya!” with his friends. So he’ll love the idea, we’re certain.

So the question - any recommendations for a particular discipline for little kids to start with, and how old? We live in the Detroit metro area, so we should have a few choices available to us. Thanks for the help…


Well, this is a tough call, Paul.
Having been associated with several forms through the years I feel I can speak with a little confidence on the matter.
Heres the problem: You want to protect your son in class, but also protect him ‘on the street’ I’m assuming.
Gracie Ju-jitsu is probably one of the better bets in actual self-defense but you sons chance of injury in the dojo is higher. Same with Tae Kwan Do - easy for 6 yr olds to learn the basic concepts, but lots of kicking and punching in the sparring (which would be essential for ‘street aplication’). A good art for dojo safety and fun is Steven Segals fave - Akido. But frankly, worthless on the street (or schoolyard). S.S uses what he calls a ‘combat’ version. I doubt you will find this taught in your area as it’s not sanctioned Akido. Akido is also hard to learn.
Which brings us to our next point. Frequently martial arts ‘experts’ get beat in a street-fight. The reason: for these tecniques to work, you have to master them. Emphasis on MASTER. Something thats usually out of reach for your average 6 yr old. I’ve been in a few brawl and I can tell you your’opponent’ won’t do what you practiced in class. Lots of 'windmilling. Check out some early UFC tapes, the first 4 or 5, you’ll see what I mean.
But if you just want to instill confidence. Any one reputable art should do that. The problem might be, though, that confidence might lead him into trouble. Or keep him out. It’s a toss-up. This is where YOU enter the equation. Putting someone that young into the MA require parent involvement and supervision in the form of talks relating to the role and responsibility of MA in your life as it relates to others.
Bottom line: for self-defense, some Ju-Jitsu (pref Gracie) or Tae Kwan Do, For confidence: any good accredited school. However I like Akido, as did my 10 yr old daughter.
Hope this helps.

I’d pretty much back-up what Gun has to say. ANYTHING is better than nothing. Don’t listen to people who try and proselytise as if their style was a religion. For example, technically speaking, I believe boxing is lacking so much compared to other styles that have grappling and knee, elbow and foot strikes. However, boxers train more rigourously and toughen up more than any other athletes I know of. It’s this that more than makes up for boxing’s shortcomings in any situation where self-defense is nee ded. Broadly speaking, you can group styles into hard and soft. Hard focusing on strikes (Muay Thai, kickboxing, karate, tae kwon do) and soft concentrating more on locks, throws, strangles and so on.

My own experience is with Jiu jitsu which falls in t he soft camp. Gracie is the Brazilian version of this. My own take on it is that Gracie people will tell you they have improved the Japanese version and ditched a lot of the ceremony. Us traditionalists say Gracie doesn’t show you how to take someone down to the ground; only what to do once they (or you) are there. From what I’ve seen, both views seem to hold more than a grain of truth. One thing is for sure though, here in Melbourne the Gracie schools are DEFINITELY not a place for a child. Too rough and a shitty, even brutal attitude towards teaching and conduct in general outside the dojo. This is in no way meant to disparage the way things are done anywhere else but just bear it in mind. Gracie proponents take a lot of pride in being the Ultimate Figh ting champions and it shows a little of their values.

It’s not necessary to teach your boy how to kill ANYBODY else. You should teach him how to defend himself against thugs who usually lack the self-discipline to have undertaken training in anything. Th is is a much easier job with any martial art. So instead of looking for the Ultimate style, look for the best one for him. Window shop and that way he’ll stick with the one he likes.

My bottom line would be Jiu-Jitsu (trad. is easy to find although Graci e will be a little bit harder), Hapkido (harder to find like Gracie) or even Muay Thai (very difficult to find though).

Good luck.ll

Since your concern is that your child is smaller than the other kids, then definitely some form of jui jitsu.

I’d say don’t look at the art itself–look at the teaching environment. Do you want a friendly atmosphere or one that inspires discipline? Etc. If you’re stuck between two or more schools with a teaching atmosphere you approve of, go with a more grappling oriented art, such as ju-jutsu–your kid will probably find it more useful on the playground. :slight_smile:

In any case, 6 is still pretty young for this. 9 or so is a better age.

Hi Paul,

I was the shortest kid in my elementary school. When I graduated in grade 6, there were kindergarten kids taller than me. I also had the top grades in school, glasses, and bright red hair. Can you say target? I knew you could :wink:

I was picked on several times, and every new kid in school always thought I would make a nice victim. I won every single fight by being an incredibly dirty and violent fighter. Hard kicks to the groin (and even at 7 years old I could kick a soccer ball 50 yards), biting, and ripping at ears and eyes were just a few of the nasty tactics that were part of my repertoire.

Now I did attend karate for a couple years (when Karate Kid came out), which taught me one thing: I would be killed if I fought fairly against people who were taller, heavier, and stronger than me. And everyone was bigger than me.

I also learned that everything taught to me in class went straight out the window every time I got in a fight.

(Boy, I sound like a violent scrapper, don’t I? I’m much better now, honest.)

So my advice is to not bother with martial arts unless Bryan wants to go. If you’re worried about teaching him how to defend himself I recommend you talk to dojos in your neighbourhood-- without Bryan present. Go visit them during a class, and observe the attitudes on display. That probably matters more than anything else.

Don’t forget, you’re not the first parent to be worried about a small kid.

Of all the brawls I have seen, the wrestlers always had the advantage, which is consistant with warmgun’s advice. Wrestlers are the only people I know who won’t even bother with punching during a fight. They will get you too the floor and can twist a wrist or leg to the point where a fracture is imminent. Usually the opponent taps out. Boxers on the other hand are worthless when they are off their feet.

Whether your kid has recieved enough abuse already to become totally ruthless during fighting is another story. I suggest taking the pacifistic route and get the kid into gymnastics. One thing I have learned is that the kids who can do a standing flip or consecutive back hand springs don’t usually have that many enemies.

Great advice, thanks!

I think the key for Bryan is to give him the confidence to stand up for himself, and realize that his potential is much greater than what may be perceived by just looking at him. Not much we can do to keep him from looking like a target, but you know that a kid can make it worse by acting like a target. If he has the confidence to stick up for himself, then I believe that goes a long way to avoiding the kind of crap that other kids will dish out.

Obviously, he’ll need the discipline to stick with it and find a love for it in order to want to be good. It goes without saying that he’ll need to find it fun at this age to want to continue with it. slortar thought that 6 (he turns 7 in three weeks) is too young to start any kind of training. What’s the general feeling on this? What’s the youngest any of you became involved, for better or worse?

Thanks, barbarian, now when I show this thread to Mrs. Younger she’ll have visions of her little darling chewing someone’s ear off. :eek:

Actually, that’s pretty much how she describes her little brother fighting when he was 3 - 5 years old. They lived at the time in Paris, and her small-for-his-age brother learned to scrap with the little French kids – kicking and biting were the norm. When he got back to the States, the other kids thought he was nuts, kicking at them instead of throwing fists or shoving. (Now “little brother” is 6’2" and solid as a Sequoia, so maybe there’s genetically hope for Bryan.)

I’m pretty sure that’s what Mike Tyson said now that he’s on Prozac. :slight_smile:

wishbone beat me to it, but I was going to suggest wrestling. Most playground fights end up as wrestling matches anyway.

If he starts now, he’ll probably be on the varsity team his first year of high school. On a lot of high school wrestling teams, the smaller guys don’t have a ton of wrestling experience. (Most are drafted by coaches just to fill a hole in the line up.) Your son could be a state champion wrestler. How’s that for a confidence boost?

I think your suggestion points out something we already know – that confidence will be gained by success at any endeavor, but especially sports. He LOVES soccer, and started playing this spring on the city league for his age group. He is, BTW, an extremely smart kid, and we are wrestling with the idea of advancing him a grade. Of course, that just paints another circle 'round the target (he’s the smallest and ahem smartest kid in his class, and maybe the next one, too.)

Speaking of wrestling, I’ve got a cousin who was all-state in HS, coached, and wrestled semi-pro for years, so if he wants to do that (how young can you start? I’d think he’s still a few years off…) we’ve got some good inside help.


I am not conversant in the martial arts - I don’t really know if Ju-jitsu has anything to do with Judo. When I was a kid, however, I took Judo to adress some of the same issues facing your son. I would recommend it. A lot of these suggestions seemed to focus on the ‘survive on the playground’ aspect of martial arts, which I think should be downplayed. Judo was great for my self esteem and it de-emphasised violence (it involves a lot of throwing and using an attackers weight and momentum against them). Having said that, the few fights I got into as a kid invariably ended with my opponent on his back, usually without having to come to blows.

If I remember right, the PeeWee division in wrestling is 5 and 6 year-olds, and the Bantam division is 7 and 8 year-olds. So he can start now. The lightest bantam weight class is 40lbs. I have no doubt that there are plenty of youth wrestling clubs and tournaments in the Detroit area. Not to mention the Michigan Amatuer Wrestling State Championships.

One good thing about wrestling is that you are guaranteed to be competing against someone the same size as you.

The French they are a silly race,
they fight with their feet but
make love with their face

  • Monty Python

All I can say is get you kid some ear protection…and make sure he wears it! I was speaking with the 1999 or 2000(I can’t remember) national wrestling champ in a bar about a year ago. I got the impression from him that “cauliflower ear” symbolized dedication among wrestlers, and he mentioned that he had had several plastic surgeries as a result. I can respect dedication, but ear protection for wrestlers has been around for decades and I still see cauliflower ear all the time. Why they would intentionally mutate themselves is beyond me.


As a kid that was picked on for being short, rather than a martial arts expert, my suggestion would be for him to take Aikido.

Judo is more a sport now a days than a “martial arts”, very similar to wrestling I would say. I have never taken it, but a guy that I work with teaches it on the side. He loves it, and would no doubt recommend it for self confidence. If your son likes sports and competitiveness then he might enjoy it immensely.

Aikido is what I would recommned myself. It teaches avoidance of conflict, has no strikes, and teaches mastery of movement. It is hard to learn though, and takes many, many years to develop to usefulness. It mostly teaches the ideal use of energy and momentum with minimum effort, and holds the safty of the attacker and defender in mind. Like all martial arts it teaches discipline and has strong philisophical ideals that it teaches. These things could help once the boy starts to reach his teenage years, and will give him the confidence necessary to keep bullies away.

Wrestling I don’t know too much about, but I would have to agree that many of the wrestlers I know can hold themselves well in a fight. I would imagine that it teaches self discipline also, though I would guess not as much as an eastern martial art. It does allow for self confidence though, something a smaller kid really needs in life. (trust me on this)

Overall I would suggest all three, or at least Aikido and either wrestling or Judo, the combination of the two or three would make for one bad mo-fo. Personally I would be more apt to have my kids learn Aikido, as the philosophy of it can benifit in many ways. All eastern martial arts that I am aware of teach that avoiding a fight is the best way to win it, but IMHO aikido is the better in teaching mastery of avoidance. Self confidence, I think, is what keeps most of the fights away, as long as he does not instigate them, and learning exotic ways of defense can also keep the bullies wary of messing with him.
I know as a kid, when I took my first Martial art, Tae Kwon Do, I grew discouraged when I did not master it quickly, and quit when I kept getting hurt. Aikido has no kicks or strikes of any sort to hurt, and all the moves keep the enemy from suffering harm also. It is hard to master though, and I only mention this again and again because kids can become easily discouraged from things they cannot gain quick control of. If you and he can overcome that, I think he will enjoy it.

Good advice, all.

Since this is really a matter of opinion, I’m going to move it over to IMHO.

I don’t know much about the differences between the martial arts, or what you’re hoping your son will get out of them. But I took TKD back in the day, and that’s real fun. There was a six-year-old at my level, too, and now she has a black belt :slight_smile: Like I said, though, I’m not what you would call an expert, or even really informed.

I do have some familiarity with several styles, and was a Kung Fu practitioner for a while. As such, I would second the Judo recommendation (as it really does require fairly little effort) because of the sheer shock value of rolling someone twice your size onto the ground at relatively high velocity. Besides, it’s an early physics lesson. Gotta find the educational value in everything! Judging by your kid’s size and body type (what I could guess anyway) I would also venture to suggest snake or dragon style Kung-Fu. They are better suited to flexible and slighter people than, say, tiger. If you are determined to put him in martial arts, go for a softer style. It’ll be safer for your son and they are more easily adaptable to a real-world “survive the playground” environment. Of course, wrestling might be good for him too.

I happen to be quite partial to Tang Soo Do, myself. :slight_smile: There is a giant world-wide organization called the World Tang Soo Do Association, of which I am a member. I’m sure there would be a club near to you. They tend to be wonderful places with great kids’ programs. (Aww, shucks. Yeah, I teach the kids karate.)

But what’s really important is to research the club. Talk to the master, instructors and students, watch a class. If they say stuff like “We can’t tell you, it’s a secret.” or “Sparring is the most important part of martial arts.” or “We don’t need traditional philosophy.” run far and run fast. They just want to turn out fighters. What your kid needs is a place with tradition and values, somewhere that is open to the parents. :slight_smile:

Aikido is the gentleman’s version of it’s big brother:


IMHO, this is the best art ever…little girls can throw around big guys if they have the training. It’s more of an understanding of physiology: “This joint moves this way…” Than a matter of how heavy you are or how hard you can hit the other person. There are strikes involved, but mostly to get the attention of your opponent away from what you are about to do to them. It gives you the option of not hurting the other person if you don’t have to, but also being able to stop them from hurting you.

Other benefits are promoting a sense of balance, confience, and such.

Just my two cents…

–==the sax man==–