Among the most confusing choices that parents can be faced with when picking the best martial arts system for their child, is deciding between the countless martial arts styles available, and filtering through each of them to understand what they offer, and how they can be beneficial for their child’s development.
With many different schools in your local area all trying to obtain your interest, and every one of them positioning their school as the best for your little ones, it makes the decision all the more difficult.
Regardless of whether you end up choosing Taekwondo, Kung Fu, Karate, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or any other martial art, it is important to remember that learning self-defence is not the only important consideration, it’s also about supporting a child’s mental development, including their confidence, focus, respect and self-control.
Training in a martial arts discipline is also a great means to introduce physical conditioning and fitness at an early stage in life.
Every one of these aspects makes it critical to do a few comparisons, in order to decide upon the right martial arts school. Here are a few suggestions that will assist you to maximise your time, when researching which school will provide the best learning environment and most satisfying experience for your children.
WHICH MARTIAL ART IS THE BEST FOR KIDS?
There’s no single ideal martial arts discipline for children, yet here are seven different styles that generally use specialised courses with children in mind.
1. Kung Fu
Kung Fu is the western term used to describe all Chinese Martial Arts, which have a rich history and heritage that dates back thousands of years.
A dynamic and exciting practice, Kung Fu offers not only a robust and complete program of self-defence techniques, but also training on internal energy generation, Qigong, meditation and mindset, which is helpful to calm ‘excited minds’, and to delve into the deeper aspects of martial training.
This makes Kung Fu unique among other martial art disciplines, in that there is as much emphasis on mental and spiritual development as there is for physical training, which can help those even with learning difficulties to focus their mind, and alleviate frustration and anger when they can’t immediately grasp an exercise or movement.
After practising many different martial arts in my younger years including Hapkido, Muay Thai and Boxing, it was only when I discovered Kung Fu that I realised what the other styles I practised were missing, and I haven’t looked back since.
Taekwondo is a Korean art that is known for its dynamic and powerful kicking, and is commonly the initial system parents will find when searching for martial arts classes online.
Along with being an Olympic sport, Taekwondo offers a fantastic introduction to martial arts for children, with traditional values incorporated with modern athletic techniques. Some schools will offer a pathway and curriculum that supports children who want to learn Taekwondo only for fitness and self-defence purposes, as well as a dedicated program for those wishing to complete in this amazing art.
Judo is the first eastern martial art that was included in the contemporary Olympic Games.
A Japanese art, Judo focuses on takedowns, with no strikes allowed (i.e. punching and kicking), but also consists of joint locks and submission techniques. It’s a wonderful martial art to instruct kids how to use their own body in order to control their opponent.
At Wu Xing Dao Kung Fu, we incorporate Shuai Jiao techniques (Chinese wrestling) into our curriculum, which has many throws, takedowns and submissions similar to Judo techniques, which can be a great way for a child to learn how to subdue an aggressive assailant without having to hurt them.
4. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu,
Brazilian Jui Jitsu or BJJ, has a strong focus on ground techniques. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is established on the principle that a smaller sized individual can efficiently defend themselves against a larger, more powerful opponent by taking the fight to the ground.
Mixed Martial Arts and many modern day martial arts schools like Wu Xing Dao incorporate some of these practices into their training style, in order to be able to effectively defend against ground submissions, and more importantly, to effectively get up from the ground when in a threatening situation, in order to minimise the risk of serious injury.
Kickboxing is a modern sport developed by blending conventional arts like Muay Thai, Karate and Kung Fu with western-style boxing.
The sport was created to allow professionals of different martial arts disciplines to compete against each other in the ring, and concentrates mainly on using kicking and punching to score points, or achieve a knockout. Kickboxing normally does not consist of the traditional elements of other martial arts styles, such as patterns or kata, or self-defence techniques to vulnerable areas (i.e. throat and groin), or joint locks or throws.
All good modern martial arts schools include a robust program of sparring into their curriculum and Wu Xing Dao is no exception, we believe that regular combat practice is essential to apply the techniques practiced a non-compliant opponent, and to ensure a student’s hand eye coordination and reaction time stay sharp.
Boxing is another sport that focuses on combat techniques, however differs from most other martial arts, in that the combat techniques only utilise the hands. The majority of Boxing clubs have boxing programs for young kids from 6 or 7 years old, that teach the skills of boxing in a risk-free, regulated setting. Much like kickboxing, it is focused primarily on completing in the ring, which may not suit every individual.
7. MMA (Mixed martial Arts)
Mixed Martial Arts incorporate the most effective techniques from many martial arts disciplines into a system that enables trainees to strike utilising hands, feet, elbows and knees, as well as throws to take their opponent to the ground, and submissions to win the contest.
WHAT IS THE SIMPLEST MARTIAL ART FOR A CHILD TO LEARN?
Parents must be cautious of any martial arts school that declares training to be “very easy” to learn! One of the most crucial lessons that a child can gain from their martial arts training, come not from grasping “very easy” methods, but from learning to persist and overcome the obstacles that are difficult to master.
The trick to succeeding in martial arts training is to improve focus, self-control and discipline, even in the face of adversity.
This hinges on the steady introduction of more complicated patterns or forms, as well as difficult individual techniques, when the student has mastered the basics of their chosen martial art.
With competent and also inspired instructors such as those teaching at Wu Xing Dao Kung Fu, any child can ultimately learn even the most difficult martial arts skills. This is different from many other sporting activities, where only the most competent children have the ability to achieve and compete in their chosen sport.
Whilst mastery of the martial arts may take a very long time, eventually kids learn to appreciate the constant challenge, which builds character in addition to physical skills. This is a valuable life lesson that will certainly remain with your child for remainder of their life.
Our trainers will do whatever feasible to ensure your children understands and appreciates the value of overcoming adversity, and striving to succeed even when they feel overwhelmed. At Wu Xing Dao Kung Fu we always encourage a student to be their very best, no matter how hard the training gets.
HOW TO PICK THE RIGHT MARTIAL ART FOR YOUR CHILD
There are a lot of different individual styles of martial arts, including Kung Fu, Taekwondo, Judo, Karate etc. and also many different sorts of schools, from full time martial arts centres, to local community centres, and of course ‘training at home’ environments.
We have created a simple checklist below you can ensure you choose the best martial arts institution for your children:
1. Free introductory lesson or trial period
Most schools supply a totally free trial lesson or 2, or a low-priced initial program. This is a wonderful way to introduce your child to the training environment and instructors, and see if it is suitable for your child’s ongoing development. Wu Xing Dao offers a 14 day free trial period, to ensure they feel right at home at our school.
2. Specialist, highly-trained teachers.
One common flaw I see in many martial arts schools in my own local area, is that they often have junior instructors running the kids classes, who are often no older than 14 or 15 years old themselves. Whilst it is great that schools are trying to develop instructors within their ranks, and provide a progression system that teaches teenagers the importance of leading by example and having more responsibility, I have found that younger children (especially those around 5 – 7 years of age) really need an older role model, that has reached a sufficient level of maturity to command the same amount of respect as a child’s parent.
As a father of two young children myself, I know that your kids are your world, and it is absolutely essential to feel that your children are in capable hands, with someone who knows how to handle the unbridled excitement and enthusiasm of young minds, and can keep them focused for the entire session.
At Wu Xing Dao, Head Instructor Grant Mundy always oversees every class, including the Little Dragons program, and although he is often supported by Junior Instructors to run the class activities, he is present to ensure the best possible learning environment, free from interruptions.
3. Student to Instructor ratio.
It is important to ensure that martial arts students have the right amount of supervision, as the techniques of martial arts can be dangerous if not closely supervised, particularly in novice’s courses. There is no perfect ratio, but institutions with a proportion of one trainer per 6 to 10 students are perfect.
4. A Comprehensive, age-appropriate curriculum.
Any martial arts institution worth spending your kid’s time (as well as your money in) will certainly have a detailed, age-appropriate program.
Their program should include as much focus upon a student’s mental development as it does their physical growth. Wu Xing Dao has a comprehensive curriculum, which has been developed to meet the requirements of youngsters aged 5 to 12 years old. This curriculum additionally gives a smooth development and transition to the Parents and Teens Martial Arts Program.
5. Clean, safe training centres.
All martial arts schools should offer a clean and risk-free training setting for kids. Our facilities at Wu Xing Dao are state of the art, offering two separate spaces, a matted area with flooring designed to absorb impact in the event of any falls, as well as additional tatami mats specifically designed for throwing and takedown practice, and a timber floor section, perfect for fast footwork, forms and weapons practice and demonstrations.
The equipment also needs to be well maintained, with variety of age-appropriate punching and kicking targets offered. At our facility we also have a large variety of training equipment for skills practice, with hurdles, an agility ladder, skipping ropes, rowing machine, balance beams and cardiovascular fitness equipment, perfect for testing a child’s balance and coordination.
There are two bathrooms at our facility including a wheelchair accessible bathroom and two showers, as well as First Aid kits, in the unlikely event of injury.
6. Courses differentiated by age and experience.
The best course framework for martial arts disciplines will have students learning in classes divided by age and experience. Having an ‘all in one’ class environment where young children are training alongside teens and adults simply isn’t the most conducive environment for proper learning, as the skills practised must match the students maturity and understanding.
Some techniques are simply too dangerous to teach to a young child who may not properly understand the ramifications of using these techniques in a self-defence scenario.
It is therefore essential to have a structured class environment, where all participants can practice safely, and with the right amount of supervision.
7. Flexible subscription alternatives.
A good school will provide a range of subscription alternatives that you can pick from, depending on the amount of sessions you would like your child to attend each week.
While a lot of schools will ask you to commit to a fixed membership term, this is a realistic expectation, as casual attendance doesn’t work for a discipline like martial arts, as training is all about commitment and dedication.
Without regular class attendance and ongoing practice at home, a child cannot expect to build a strong enough skill set to progress in their chosen style.