Comparing Kid's Martial Arts

Always Keeping the Objective in Mind

Comparing Kid's Martial Arts

When the questions are more important than the answers...

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Sometimes bringing the reason for your decision to seek out a martial arts program to consciousness is helpful. In considering the answers to each question below, it is important to contemplate how your goals informs each one of the answers. This process helps insure your actions are best aligned for success, and other unconscious ideas you may have in other subjects do not leak into the process and thwart your ability to succeed.

Children's Quiz

When you sign your child up for a martial arts program, there is a reason. Something you are looking for. The most important thing is to be successful in achieving your objectives. The objectives may change over time as you learn more about how martial arts work, and you should be aware of them.

Only if you are looking for the largest, most financially successful program. Being from the western culture, we may have an inverted understanding of the relationship between these factors. We think the more something costs, the better it is. But the actual benefits only come when the martial art is taught with sincerity – meaning not for the money. The more commercially successful a school is, the more they charge, can actually indicate lower benefits for your child if the intention of the instructors is primarily to make money. Money can become the focus rather than benefiting your child.

MMA is loosely a term for combat in a ring. It is not an actual martial art. The different martial arts tend to use very distinct approaches (focus on escaping and control, striking, solo forms, grappling/wrestling) that appeal in very different circumstances (competition, traditional self defense technique). If you don’t understand which martial art they teach, you have no way to know if the program is right for your child.

Lineage is quality control. The originator of a martial art is often a profoundly realized practitioner of great skill. They typically signal which students they entrust to continue their system, and so on down the teacher/student lineage to present. If you do not have this, you don’t know where the instructor learned or if they have developed enough skill to teach.

As taught in Japan, Aikido classes consider developmental psychology for children. The first obligation is for the child to learn, and Aikido is fundamentally a partner practice. So in Japan, play is used to engage children so they can learn naturally. In judo they engage children through competition and in karate it is primarily a solo practice. These martial arts might be taught differently due to the nature of the practice.

Martial arts teach the most efficient way to defend oneself. Once you understand this efficiency, you can apply it to any endeavor and improve success. In addition, leadership accrues to those of good character who benefit the society at large. Of course, these are the people who others seek to follow out of admiration. So positive character should be emphasized. When a martial arts school trains students specifically for “leadership” without addressing the underlying cause that produces leadership, it is not genuine leadership training.

In Aikido, we look at black belts as possessing the positive character and maturity only of an adult. It can only manifest with maturity, and not during childhood. Holding out a children’s version of a black belt seems somehow misleading to the child, and may be interpreted as accomplishing something that is actually beyond their developmental capacity. We therefore do not set out a child’s black belt as a goal, but instead integrate the ranking system as leading into the pathway of the adult black belt curriculum for when they are of age (typically 16-18, depending upon the child’s maturity).

Lifetime training is the primary vehicle for the vast benefits available from martial arts training. Children are typically too young to identify whether they are interested in making this type of commitment. But they can still obtain many of the benefits you may be seeking, and the experience can act as a compass as they age that leads them to find the same benefits, perhaps in other disciplines, as they grow older.