As an instructor of young children I am asked this question a lot. So many factors need to be looked at, mostly notably the age of the child. I used to teach kids as young as 3 but each generation changes and a 3 year old in 2011 is quite different from a 3 year old in 2000. In fact, Martial Arts training for all ages of children in 2011 is different from the kind of classes we used to run in 1990, when I began teaching. This is a good thing. Although the same principals of Martial Arts should still apply, the method in which the information is passed along should change with each generation. So every year the classes should be ever so slightly different from the previous year. By this I mean the classes should be current, appropriate to the things and the trends of today.
Parents still want the traditional lessons of Martial Arts to be taught to their kids – personal discipline, fitness, self defense skills, personal respect and the respect of others including class mates and the instructor; but they also want to ensure their kids are happy to be in the class and their Martial Arts experience is a positive one.
Many of the principals that make up a Martial Art can be passed on in a subliminal way. Just like hiding the peas in the gravy, kids are encouraged to do things in a Martial Arts class without realizing the benefits.
- Kneeling quietly and closing their eyes at the start of a class is a very short burst of meditation that helps the kids become centered and focused on what they are about to be taught
- The many and varied exercises helps the children develop fitness and strength with the additional benefit of weight loss because resulting in greater self confidence and a feeling of self worth
- Games played during class helps by practicing the Martial Art skills as well as teaching the kids to play with others, respect others, team work and the valuable lesson of just because you did not win does not mean you did not have fun.
- Going through the grading process might be stressful but it is a physical and extremely a visual way of recognizing your improvement. By attaining the classes, trying your best and working on improving your skills you are rewarded with a different colored belt and a higher grade.
Joining a Martial Art school is not just to develop a physical skill. It is a greater experience than that. There is a place for martial arts in all our lives and the benefits of training, both physically and mentally, should be open to everyone. The feeling of achievement that a student gets from participating in a Martial Arts class is just impossible to quantify. Not all kids are naturally confident but all children should leave a class with a feeling of greatness, as is their right.