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Best Martial Arts Programs for Kids

Athletes in Motion
Athletes in Motion
July 1, 2023
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When raising our children, we start with high hopes that each of them will be tall, brilliant, athletic… and will hopefully avoid the mistakes we made before them. While that is an excellent goalpost to guide them towards, there comes a time (often when they are around two or three years old) where we collectively decide that preserving all ten fingers and toes, and keeping them from yeeting themselves off things, becomes the priority. If you don’t know what I mean, just ask your friends with toddlers, and look how exhausted their faces appear as they answer you.

Having said that, it does remain our jobs as parents to properly prepare our children for the future, and certain skills are best learned when started early on. Martial arts are one of those skills, and properly nurtured can lead to a lifetime of benefits. Some of you may assume I mean self-defense, and you aren’t entirely wrong, but you aren’t entirely right either. As with any physical sport, martial arts provide a degree of conditioning and training that can help dramatically improve their overall health, both in the short term and throughout their lives if they choose to maintain it.

The question then becomes, which one should I choose based on the priority for my child? While I don’t claim to be an expert parent by any means, here are my recommendations based on two decades of experience in the martial community.

Krav Maga – Defense

Krav Maga is a highly effective self-defense system that originated in the Israeli military. Combining techniques from various disciplines, including boxing, wrestling, judo, and street fighting, makes it a versatile and adaptable form of self-defense.

One of the key benefits of Krav Maga is its focus on real-world scenarios and practical techniques, emphasizing efficient and instinctive movements that can be easily learned and applied in high-stress situations. By training in Krav Maga, individuals develop essential skills to defend themselves against a variety of threats, including punches, kicks, chokes, and weapons. It also enhances physical fitness by improving strength, flexibility, endurance, and coordination. Training sessions often involve intense workouts that simulate real-life encounters, boosting cardiovascular health and overall conditioning. Practitioners learn to stay calm under pressure, make quick decisions, and effectively respond to unexpected attacks. The training instills self-confidence and empowers individuals with the knowledge that they can protect themselves and their loved ones.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – Physical Fitness and Critical Thinking

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) emphasizes technique and leverage, making it suitable for practitioners of all ages and sizes. One of the key benefits of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is its practicality in self-defense situations. It teaches individuals how to effectively neutralize and control opponents, regardless of their size or strength, as well as offering numerous physical and mental benefits. 

It provides a full-body workout that enhances strength, endurance, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness. The grappling techniques and constant movement in BJJ contribute to improved muscle tone and overall physical conditioning. Beyond that, it also teaches the importance of planning your attack, and how to outhink an opponent, instead of outmuscling them. 

Taekwondo – Confidence

You’ve probably seen a demonstration somewhere like a school, fair, or event. A tiny kid snap-kicks a board in half, and you politely clap. Without realizing it, you witnessed a formative moment, where that young student overcame fear, and nervousness to demonstrate their practiced techniques in front of a crowd of strangers. 

As with many martial arts, Taekwondo focuses on learning respect for others, and for yourself. These lessons become the foundation of believing in yourself, and are reinforced by affirmations used for striking mantras, such as, “I will. I can.” Many students go on to spar in tournaments and learn the valuable lessons taught by full-contact competition. Primarily, that life can hurt, but you can keep going. 

Wrestling- Hard Work

Wrestling is notoriously a grueling sport. The kids who spend their free time on the mats learn personal responsibility, and emotional reliance. Similarly to BJJ, it teaches self defense and critical thinking. Getting picked up, and slammed is a great reminder to focus on fundamentals, and pay attention to small details.

Wrestling also provides a great opportunity to participate in school sports. If you don’t think you can afford to pay for your kid’s college tuition, maybe they can pay for their own degree by stuffing takedowns, and grinding their way to success.  

At the end of the day, most martial arts can provide positive direction and strength for children as they grow and develop. A critical aspect of success is not only fostering an attitude of fortitude for your children to encourage their participation, but to immerse them in a culture of community and preparedness.

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