The martial arts can be an important part of children’s lives and can help with a score of different aspects of their growth, including but not limited to increased attention span, better sleep habits, discipline and improved fitness. But how soon should kids start training? It’s an interesting question; one I’ve found myself asking even recently because my son usually sticks to me during my home workouts.
Depending on the type of fitness routine you follow, there are good and bad aspects for children. In general, the martial arts can be beneficial and even therapeutic for children and provide them with an outlet for their aggression and teach them some discipline; something that can prove difficult without. On the other hand, something that’s inherently physical that taxes the musculoskeletal system, like weight lifting, can be detrimental to young children.
According to an online article posted by the Mayo Clinic, “Trying to build big muscles can put too much strain on young muscles, tendons and areas of cartilage that haven’t yet turned to bone (growth plates) – especially when proper technique is is sacrificed in favor of lifting larger amounts of weight.” The article goes on to explain the difference between “strength training”, which can be beneficial, and weight lifting. The article can be read here: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/tween-and-teen-health/in-depth/strength-training/art-20047758
When it comes to the martial arts, there are no REAL limitations, as they apply to something intense like weightlifting. Stretching, punching and kicking as well as practicing forms can have a number of benefits with none of the down sides that some other sports may include.
When I travelled to Okinawa in 2001, I was having supper at the home of our style’s master. His wife was holding one of his grandchildren, who happened to be about three or four months old. His wife was holding the baby and dipping him forward every few minutes. I politely asked what she was doing, to which she replied “Teaching him to bow.” I was taken aback and quite surprised. They start grooming and teaching their children some of the fundamental aspects of discipline in their society from the moment they’re born. And they apply that same aspect to karate and the martial arts.
The only basic detail I think is important, is to remember not to PUSH your children into whatever sport regiment you follow. Although it fills me with pride overtime Nathan does a push-up or joins me in a workout, I’ve never forced him to join or told him he had to. I think that this is an important detail. Your child will enjoy themselves and are twice as likely to stick with it, if the decision comes from them. ☯