Martial Arts as a discipline is so much more than kung-fu moves and karate kicks. In this helpful piece, Shekhar explains all you need to know about enrolling your kids in these classes.
Why are martial arts good for your kid?
Martial arts are not only traditional forms of self-defense techniques but also a great way to impart lessons of virtue and life-skills to kids.
The benefits are innumerable
- Self-discipline: The rigorous regime and strict rules that form a part of any martial arts program cultivate a sense of discipline and routine in young children; a very desirable trait in their personal lives too.
- Confidence: The difficulty factor in these programs proportionally increase with the advancement level. Children get a sense of achievement and accomplishment as they master each level and move ahead. Needless to add that this is a tremendous boost to their self-confidence.
- Healthy perspective: Martial arts teach kids to respect their bodies and also care for the others’ space. It also teaches them the importance of taking care of one’s health.
- Humility: Every session of martial arts begins and ends with a gesture of bowing down. It’s a lesson to respect the ground we stand on, the teacher who imparts knowledge, and also develop a sense of gratitude for all that life has bestowed.
- Improved concentration: The physical regime and exercises not only benefits the body but also boosts the capacity of the mind to focus on a single activity for longer periods of time.
- Social skills: Martial arts programs are as much a solo sojourn as they are a team effort. The batches also usually function with mixed-age groups thereby giving the kids ample opportunity to develop soft skills of team spirit, communication, and leadership.
- Improved IQ: The intense physical moves require great mental grit and physical strength. Getting trained in a martial arts form brings out the fine balance in a person. This translates to a sharper mind, better grasping skills, increased emotional and intelligence quotient.
- Acceptance of failure: The certification level examinations are tough and it’s only with a focused mind and consistent show of effort, can one acquire the competence. In this sense, the program puts things in perspective and allows a child to cherish victory and at the same time accept failure as a part of the scheme.
Available styles and things to observe during a trial session
While there are plenty of different styles in the category like Karate, Taekwondo, Aikido, MMA,Brazilian Jiujutsu, Kungfu, Krav Maga, Muay Thai, Tang So Doo, Judo, and Wrestling, the most suitable options for kids under 16 would be Karate and Taekwondo.
Some of the styles involve throwing or grappling techniques that can be unsuitable especially for young kids. It’s very important for parents to take part in trial sessions to make sure that the choice of martial arts would suit their child.
The right age to begin would be at 6 years, although some programs accept kids as young as 4 years. However, parents are advised against enrolling very young kids in classes that have a higher than 20:1 student-trainer ratio.
While many mainstream schools offer a peek into such programs, experts advise parents to look out for a dedicated training school that offers a full-fledged program and not just an overview course.
Here are few other pointers parents must make a note of before enrolling their kids in a martial arts program
- How the students are being treated in the class: Children need to be treated with a lot of patience, respect, and love. Beware of teachers who discourage or use a condescending tone while addressing the students.
- How many kids are included per session: Too many kids in a session would dilute the intensity of the program since personal attention is very important. The trainer must be able to devote equal time to each of his/her students. An ideal strength would be around 20 kids per batch, especially if the kid is as young as 6 years.
- How safe is the equipment and the practice area: The use of proper safety gear (such as training mats) is a must for any given style and parents must take care to see that these are in place. Not just that, the practice area needs to be clean, hygienic and the necessary equipment in good condition.
- The capability of the trainers: The trainer must be able to infuse a sense of enthusiasm and interest in the child. The environment should be friendly, encouraging and motivating enough for kids. Parents could make a note of whether the kids seem happy and receptive in a training session.
- Warm up sessions: It is important that every session irrespective of the style chosen start with appropriate warm-up and cool-down sessions. The kids must be sensitized towards the hazards of practicing the art without adult supervision or the dangers of imparting the skills to friends without proper authorization.
The role of a parent and trainer in a Martial Arts program
Parents play a vital role in their children’s lives and when it comes to holistic programs like martial arts, they need to become the facilitator to ensure that the benefits percolate well. A few things that will help children learn the ropes better and quicker are:
- Have a realistic expectation: Any physical training program takes time to grow roots in a child’s life. The skills to be imbibed are for the long term and hence a far-sighted approach is highly recommended. Parents are requested not to push their children into taking part in too many competitions and expecting them to win always.
- Invest time and patience in the program: It’s impractical to expect results within a short span of time and pushing the child to do better and quicker will have debilitating effects. Give the program and child the necessary time and be patient with the progress chart. Experts also advise the presence of an adult with the child during the class sessions.
- Avoid comparison at all cost: Every child is unique and has his/her strong and weak areas hence parents must avoid comparing one child to another at any given point of time. The learning curves will be different for each child and the parent must understand that.
- Do not request for a fast-track program: There are no short cuts to success and this applies to any martial arts program. It takes about 2-3 years for kids to attain balance and stability in such programs. Parents need to refrain from making requests for a faster route or quicker rank promotions for their kids.
- Encourage and appreciate every little milestone: Appreciate every small step taken towards mastering this difficult art and encourage the child at every minor or major hurdle. The path will be arduous and full of challenges but with the right support and environment, the child can do wonders.