A Look at What is a Good Age to Start Karate & Tips for Starting Kids in Martial Arts
A common question among parents is: What age is appropriate to enroll their child in karate (or any self-defence) class?
The short answer is, any age can be a good age (as long as they are potty trained) because there are many benefits to learning martial arts for children.
Karate classes for kids focus on character building, so kids can develop valuable skills that will benefit them throughout their lives.
Here’s an in-depth look at what is the right age to learn a martial art like karate, along with other disciplines of martial arts.
Key Things to Consider Before Enrolling Your Child
Before you enroll your child in martial arts classes, you should discuss the idea with your child. Children are often more motivated to try something new if they have some say in the decision-making. If your child is hesitant or is nervous about new activities, taking them to watch a class first might a good way to get them to warm up to the idea without having to commit right away.
What’s the Goal?
Do you want to register your kid in martial arts classes as a recreational pastime? Or do you want your child to get into martial arts training as a competitive sport? Is it to get them physically active? Or do you want them to develop confidence and focus? It might be that your child has been identified as having ADHD or another learning challenge. Or perhaps it’s a combination of factors.
Regardless of age or ability, most qualified martial arts schools will have beginner classes that are recommended for any age. Speaking to the instructor initially about your goals and objectives will help determine when and where you want to have your child begin their training.
Benefits of Starting Early
Martial arts benefits kids in many ways. Kids can have fun burning energy and learning about boundaries, respect, and impulse control. They also develop an increased concentration, so that they can focus better.
Many karate classes place an emphasis on respect, kindness, honesty, self-discipline, and self-confidence. As a result, kids benefit from the following at a young age:
Respect for oneself and others is a valuable character trait to have, but it takes some time to learn. Respect, kindness, empathy, and honesty are some of the most important values taught in martial arts classes. So the earlier a child learns these valuable character traits, the more successful they will be as they get older.
Martial arts training promotes physical development. It enables kids to develop motor skills and learn to be more agile and in control of their bodies at a younger age. Increased strength, endurance, and flexibility are all regular by-products of consistent martial arts training.
Kids who become physically active and fit at a young age will be more likely to maintain this healthy lifestyle as they get older. Regular physical activity helps improve both mental and physical health for kids and prevents health issues, such as childhood obesity and diabetes.
Children are taught to focus and listen to the instructor during karate classes. They must learn to follow directions, sit still, and sit up straight while remaining quiet during instruction. This learned mental focus is a valuable skill to have, especially for young children who have difficulty staying still and concentrating.
The belt system used in martial arts teaches kids to set and strive to reach goals with hard work and dedication. Each time they complete a level and achieve a goal, they are rewarded with a belt and can advance to a new level. This helps develop perseverance and an “I can do it” attitude.
How Early Is Too Early?
If a child isn’t potty trained yet, then it is too early to start them in martial arts classes. The minimum age to start martial arts classes will depend on the studio.
Some karate schools will start training kids who are aged 4 to 6. By age 6, kids can get the most out of classes because they are able to learn and apply concepts such as:
- Telling left from right
- Understanding empathy and how their behaviour affects others
- Listening quietly to the teacher
- Waiting their turn to speak
- Demonstrating age-appropriate manners
- Paying attention for an entire class
- Making an effort—give 100%
- Practicing reliably every other day (sometimes with the encouragement of their parents)
- Effectively taking polite and constructive criticism
Which Martial Art Is Best for Beginners?
There are many different types of martial arts, although all are based on some form of self-defence or physical competition. Some of the differences stem from their methodology: some are striking based (like Karate, Tae Kwon Do or Kickboxing) and some are grappling based (like Judo or Brazillian Ju Jitsu); some arts might even be a mix of many styles or methods.
What is most important for beginners is not so much what they are taught but how it is taught. Especially with children, you should look for a program that is structured to allow for a steady progression of skills and techniques, that is safely delivered by qualified instructors, and that is taught in an atmosphere of positive encouragement.
Will Martial Arts Make My Child Aggressive? Is Martial Arts Good for Kids?
Martial arts will not make your child aggressive. Instead, martial arts provide kids with an outlet for their pent up energy and aggression, while helping them to focus their minds.
If your child has behavioural issues, a sport based on discipline and respect, like karate, can help improve your child’s behaviour.
Behavioural Benefits of Karate/Martial Arts Training
Here are some of the most important behavioural benefits associated with karate and martial arts training.
With martial arts training, kids learn both physical and mental discipline with hard work and routine. Physical activity benefits children not just physically, but cognitively and behaviourally as well. By giving them structure and exercise, even kids with behavioural problems can learn to become more focused and disciplined.
Often, kids who lack confidence will act out and try to hurt others emotionally or physically, or can be the opposite and become withdrawn and shy. But with the learned self-improvement and positive feedback that comes with martial arts training, children grow to appreciate themselves and have more confidence. Also, they will learn to defend themselves and become more confident in their abilities over time.
Martial arts training teaches valuable socialization skills that will benefit children throughout their lives. While under the direction of an instructor, your child will learn to respect their opponent, the art of karate (or other martial arts), and their self.
Immediately upon entering the class, your child will learn to show respect and address the instructor as sensei, master, or mister. Students must also bow to their opponents before and after sparring, which is another sign of respect. With these classes, children learn how to develop as an individual and as part of a team.
What to Look for In A Facility/Studio/Dojo
When searching for a martial arts studio, focus on the studio’s approach, vision, philosophy, and teaching style.
A good martial arts studio will have a positive teaching style that focuses on self-confidence and development, instead of only focusing on learning to become a fighter.
Good studios will make kids feel secure, happy, confident, and give them the ability to approach situations without being fearful.
Ideally, the studio will have separate classes for different age groups and abilities, so that each class will focus on age-appropriate development for the specific groups. And they will also allow parents to watch the classes.
The best way to find the right studio for your child is to sign up for trial classes to see if the program is a good fit for your child before committing to the class.
While there are many benefits to starting early, beginning martial arts practice can have a positive impact on your child at any age. Ultimately, there is no best age to start karate or martial arts. Any age is a good age.
So if you’re interested in martial arts classes for kids, speak to your child to see if they are interested too.