If you have a child who struggles with physical fitness, enrolling them in a martial arts class may be the solution to this common problem. In this electronically-dominated age, parents and caregivers may find it challenging to get kids off the couch and keep them moving. With martial arts, many kids of all ages and ability levels find a satisfying way to combine exercise with learning valuable self-defense skills. It’s also a great confidence-booster. Listed below are some physical benefits as well as some tips for choosing the right class for your child.

Physical Benefits of Martial Arts

It’s amazing how many children who balk at exercise will gladly participate when it serves a purpose. They’ll eagerly engage in a whole host of repetitive, physically challenging motions if they think it will transform them into little ninjas! Here are just a few of the physical benefits associated with this ancient form of self-defense training.

1. Increased Balance

There are plenty of motions a child enrolled in Karate, Tae Kwon Do, or other fighting arts will learn that can help them gain greater balance. These would include balancing on one foot for multiple kicks, sparring, and mastering various moves while learning their forms or katas. A child who starts out as a wobbly white belt may even progress to the point where they’re a poised green, purple, brown, or even black belt.

2. Increased Flexibility

As with balance, flexibility is a skill that’s progressively developed as a child advances in their ability level. Often during warmups before each class, the instructor will have children engage in flexibility-enhancing movements, such as doing the splits, toe touches, and various stretches. The kicks, punches, and blocks used in basic moves and sparring can also help children to learn flexibility. As a child moves up in their belt ranks, they’ll likely be able to master higher kicks and more flexible movements.

3. Increased Strength

The more a child works at learning their self-defense skills, the stronger the child will tend to become. Many advanced martial artists can even break multiple pieces of wood at a time! After they pass the white and yellow belt phases of the class, children will normally start to develop what instructors refer to as “snap” when they’re performing their moves. This is an ability to use the momentum of their body’s motions to produce a hard, fast jab, punch, knee, or kick. The results can be quite impressive. Warmups such as push-ups, sit ups, and multiple repetitions of punches and kicks can also help to build up a child’s strength.

4. Increased Endurance

When a child starts out working toward their first belt, they may not have much stamina. But as they get accustomed to pushing toward their goals, their ability to endure greater amounts of physical activity should increase dramatically. It won’t happen overnight, but parents and caregivers are often amazed to see their former “couch potato” children able to be up on their feet moving for long periods of time. This is especially true of those who are getting close to taking a belt test, which is often a time of sustained activity where the child will need to perform a number of different moves to demonstrate all that they’ve learned up to that point in their training.

5. Increased Interest in Physical Activity

Once a child becomes involved in a self-defense class they may begin to develop an interest in other physical activities. Often this will happen naturally as their bodies grow healthier and stronger. They may suddenly jump at the chance to run around, play, and get involved in sports whereas they may have been reluctant in the past.

How to Choose a Child-Friendly Class

1. Look for an Instructor who is Used to Working with Children

One of the most important points in finding a class for your child is to look for an instructor who already knows how to work with children. Teaching adults and teens is often completely different from teaching children. Kids have shorter attention spans and respond differently to correction, criticism, or motivational incentives than adults or teens do. When you find an instructor who excels at working with kids, you can expect for your child to have a positive experience.

2. Look for an Instructor with Recognizable Credentials

The various schools of Karate, Tae Kwon Do, etc., all have their own forms of credentialing schools. It’s a good idea to work with someone who has recognizable credentials. Be leery of anyone who claims to have attained a “9th or 10th” degree black belt in multiple different forms of fighting arts, or of anyone who is offering to move students up in rank based on paying monetary fees rather than based on the student’s actual achievement.

4. Look for an Instructor who Promotes Safety

Inquire about the instructor’s plan for keeping kids safe. Make sure they require the use of proper safety equipment for sparring and tournaments. This would include cups for boys, mouth guards, and various pads, depending on the level of contact allowed. The last thing you want is for your child to suffer an avoidable injury during a class or tournament.

5. Look for an Instructor who charges Reasonable Rates

This is another way to weed out unscrupulous or fake instructors. Do your homework to find out the going rates of the various fighting arts schools in your area. Then avoid anyone who is charging exorbitant fees.

Whatever type of program you ultimately choose to enroll your child in, whether it be Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Kung Fu, or some other fighting arts style, you’ll likely be amazed to see the benefits to your child’s overall health and well-being over time. Kids who get involved in this fun, positive activity tend to develop greater physical fitness, self-discipline and socialization skills. If this sounds like a good fit for your child, get in touch with a kid-friendly martial artist center near you right away!