Martial Arts offer a great way for kids to learn self-defence and mindfulness, exercise, and build strength and self-esteem. They are contact sports but teach children about discipline, honour and respect. They can be particularly good for boys with excess energy and anger to learn control.
You should do you research on the available martial arts classes near you to ensure the instructor and environment are right. All should have beginners classes where children compete against others of a similar level.
Each Martial Art is different, with some better for self-defence and others more physical. 2nd Dan Judoka Anastasia-Alexandra Nenova explains the differences and gives us a list of Martial Art styles that your kids could try.
Karate is one of the most used martial arts in the world. Created as far back as the 1300s, Karate focuses on a full-body workout without the use of weapons. Most traditional Karate classes teach their students to incorporate the sport as a way of life, with emphasis on the self rather than on the opponent.
Karate is a suitable discipline for kids who are interested in learning striking techniques with both the hands and the feet. Breaking boards and forms are major elements used during Karate training. The philosophical teachings in Karate focus on leading a balanced and happy life, with a primary concentration on activity.
Founded in Japan in 1882, and an Olympic sport, Judo was created to use an opponent’s attacking mentality against them and to defend against strikes. In Judo, there is a high concentration on controlling the body weight of your opponent and on the timing of throws.
The sport is focused on grappling with moral and mental pedagogy. The goal of Judo is to throw the opponent and subdue them with a hold down, strangulation or armlock.
If your child wants to learn self-defence, throws and potentially compete, Judo is one of the best sports there is. If your child prefers a striking martial art, this isn’t the discipline for them.
Another Olympic sport, Taekwondo originates from South Korea. Taekwondo is heavily focussed on sparring, so protective equipment is needed to get started. Attacks in Taekwondo involve punches, kicks and throws; making it a well-rounded Martial Art.
If your child is competitive, Taekwondo should be at the top of your list. It’s a very popular sport so there are plenty of opportunities for competition.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, otherwise known as BJJ, is one of the best martial arts. The sport focuses on self-defence, and particularly on defending oneself from a larger opponent.
BJJ is heavily focused on grappling and groundwork. When grappling, the main focus is to takedown the opponent to the ground, with the ultimate goal of getting them to submit. Other groundwork focuses include positioning, levering and distance control.
Virtually anyone of any size, age and sex can practice the sport as it’s a Martial Art designed for a weaker and smaller practitioner to subdue much stronger and larger opponents.
One of the hardest and oldest martial arts is wrestling, and it’s a major part of sports culture in both the Western and Eastern world.
There are two types of wrestling: Greco Roman and Freestyle.
In Greco Roman wrestling, holding below the waist is forbidden. Meaning, they can’t grab their opponent’s legs to score takedowns. Instead, the focus is on throws.
In Freestyle wrestling, wrestlers can grab both above and below the waist to score takedowns, with the main goal being to take the opponent down and subduing them with a hold down. Also, grabbing onto the legs of the opponent to avoid being taken down is allowed.
Your child should explore both styles of wrestling before choosing the one that suits them best.
Unlike kickboxing, Muay Thai is an “art of eight limbs” using sweeps, throws, elbows, knees, and the clinch. Muay Thai teaches self-control as sparring is light and intentional.
Another plus side is that Muay Thai doesn’t have a ranking system, meaning your kids can set their own personal goals rather than working towards pre-set goals.
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)
If your kids want to be well-rounded martial artists, then Mixed Martial Arts is the best option for them.
As opposed to the Martial Art disciplines mentioned above, Mixed Martial Arts teaches you how to fight on the ground and standing up using a variety of styles. This will also prepare your kids for real-life situations and make them more well-rounded.
Krav Maga actually means “contact sport”. The sport was developed as a self-defence and fighting system for the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and Israeli Security Forces.
The sport is derived from a combination of techniques sourced from Judo, Wrestling, Aikido, Boxing and Karate.
Krav Maga teaches kids to be disciplined, strong and confident. The sport is all about using your body and surroundings to take down your opponent.
The best part is that Krav Maga develops situational awareness, so that you act instinctively and effectively under stress. This will give both yourself and your kids a greater sense of safety at school and in public areas, along with the physical and mental benefits that come with it.
Another Martial Art originating in Japan, Aikido teaches you to defend yourself without injuring your opponent. Aikido originates from old-style Ju Jitsu, just like Judo.
It’s a non-aggressive form of Martial Art, with Aikido being used to end a fight instead of starting one.
Aikido is made of different joint locks that help you defeat your opponent. Aikido teaches kids non-violent ways of solving problems and boosts their self-esteem.
The sport emphasizes that fighting should always be kept as the last resort. Aikido also teaches kids to remain calm, relaxed and balanced. Since the sport doesn’t rely on size, reach, weight, strength, or speed. Anybody can do it, no matter age or gender.
One main difference between Aikido and Judo is that it’s a non-competitive sport, so there are no tournaments or rules that govern the sport.
Kung Fu is one of the oldest and most complex styles of Martial Arts, being around since 420 AD.
Kung Fu is another sport that was created for self-defence and military purposes.
The sport focuses on balance and relaxation techniques, with strikes being performed moving forward and in close proximity to your opponent.
Kung Fu challenges children physically and mentally, as it requires concentration.
Ultimately, there isn’t a “best” Martial Art when deciding which style is best for your kids, and you may go through a period of trial-and-error.
All the above mentioned Martial Arts are suitable for both boys and girls.
Let your kids try out each discipline and see which one they feel the most comfortable doing. Remember, if your child enjoys studying the art, they will reap the benefits that come with it.
So don’t put any unnecessary pressure or have any unrealistic expectations, let your child experience and decide for themselves.