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What’s the best martial art to teach a child?
My martial art of choice is Taekwondo, which is very popular, and you better believe the hype.
It’s not about the art, it’s about the atmosphere and teacher.
Our school has a very relaxed atmosphere. Sure, it’s still Taekwondo, a traditional martial art. But you can talk to the teachers, laugh, and toss in the ‘yes, sir’ when given instructions and you’re good. Before class or when I’m waiting for someone to finish an activity, I might sit down and talk to the kids, ask them how their day went. Why not? They feel less like I’m a faceless instructor; I’m a friend to them.
And at the same time, we teach respect and discipline; we are not scaring them into submission, which is often mistaken as respect, but actual respect. Respect for the knowledge and skill that the instructors can teach, for the partners that they spar with, for the school that they attend. Discipline, to let them be able to wait to make a comment or wait to talk to a friend. To be able to listen to someone who is teaching them instead of rolling their eyes or wandering off.
But that’s not the only thing you should look for, and this is the important thing I have to add.
You need to look for someone who isn’t going to force kids to learn a form dozens and dozens of times. Our school when it first opened used to allow you to start at white belt from 5. Now we don’t let you start at white until you are at least 7. Why did we do that? Because most 5-year-olds can’t learn the stuff! Ever try to teach how to throw a proper punch to a 5-year-old? Don’t ever. It’s repetitive, boring for both you and the kid, and they come back the next day and remember none of that. I still think 7 is pushing it a teensy bit, but it’s a massive improvement.
So for kids in that 3-8 range, look for a school that teaches developmental skills instead of Martial Arts to them. A tots program, or a little-ninjas program, or something along those lines. You can’t really teach them how to shift their weight or pivot a foot. They can’t physically make their bodies turn their hips into a kick or teach them the principles of an arm bar.
A proper small-children’s program will teach them spacial awareness, coordination, timing, focus. Once they get older, that will turn into actual martial arts, but it needs to wait. For the moment, the real benefits will be coordination and discipline, and those don’t come from teaching a kid how to throw a roundhouse.
Emlyn Shen is a second-degree black belt in Taekwondo who enjoys writing about marital arts. You can read more from Quora here: