There are many reasons to consider enrolling your kid in a self-defense class. Your child may be the target of bullying and need to know how to protect themselves. You may also want to teach them valuable life skills, such as self-discipline, the importance of personal protection, or when and how to use tools like kubatons or self-defense keychains.
No matter your reasons, you must first determine whether your child is sufficiently ready and mature enough to learn self-defense skills.
How Old Is Old Enough?
As a parent, you know every child grows differently. There is no minimum age to start learning self-defense skills. It all depends on your child’s ability to understand the world around them and deal with difficulties and hardships.
However, there are a few criteria to help you determine whether your child is mature enough to take self-defense classes. Your child is ready if they can:
What Makes a Good Self-Defense Class for My Child?
Self-defense is about the responsible usage of force to protect or defend yourself from violence or abuse. Before sending your child to your local dojo or classroom, ensure the class culture is appropriate for children. The primary focus should be self-control, discipline, respecting others, and resolving situations in a non-aggressive manner first.
Although children of all ages can start learning self-defense principles, many classes impose a minimum age limit. A good instructor or dojo master teaches your child about recognizing and avoiding dangerous situations. This enables your child to see the world for what it is, with simple principles, such as knowing what to do when dealing with strangers or learning not to wander and stray too far away.
Self-defense classes typically include physical exercise and activities, promoting a healthier lifestyle, and teaching valuable life skills. In general, children learn faster than adults, absorbing knowledge more effectively. Learning self-defense at a young age allows them to integrate the physical techniques and the discipline required with less practice than adults.
This knowledge will stay with your child for the rest of their lives, enriching their lives and helping them stay safe during their teenage years and adulthood.
What to Avoid in a Self-Defense Class for My Child
It depends on how skilled the instructor is and whether they are teaching the correct principles. There are many wrong ways to educate a child about self-defense. This is why it is your responsibility to ensure the teachers have a good reputation and share similar values to those you want to be instilled in your child.
If incorrectly educated about self-defense, your child may see it as a weapon to solve all their problems, potentially becoming aggressors themselves. They may become over-confident, believing the techniques they learned will protect them from all dangers, potentially causing poor decisions, such as going into a dangerous area or neighborhood. This issue can be easy to detect if you rely on GPS trackers for kids or similar devices.
Conversely, if there is too much focus on “stranger danger,” your child may conclude they shouldn’t go outside or talk to anyone they don’t know, potentially developing unhealthy social anxiety instead of self-confidence. So, before enrolling your child in a class, ask if you can observe a few sessions to get a feel of the culture, ethos, and instruction methods.
What Does My Child Learn in a Self-Defense Class?
Most self-defense classes for children should first and foremost teach about discipline and respect. As is the tradition in most martial arts, students learn how to respect their instructor and fellow students through simple gestures, such as greetings, bowing, and other honorifics.
The techniques your child learns depends on the martial arts taught at the local class. Each style has unique traits and benefits. Here are a few suggestions that frequently offer dedicated classes for children:
One of the most popular choices for children’s self-defense, this Korean martial art and recognized Olympic sport offers a blend of traditional values and modern sensibilities, focusing on kicks and strikes. Children as young as six can start learning Taekwondo, making it an ideal first choice.
A traditional Japanese martial art emphasizing grappling, throws, and takedown techniques, Judo is another popular choice for children. Classes typically accept students starting at age six or seven. Because Judo primarily focuses on grappling techniques, your child will get a lot of cardio training and build good muscular strength.
Perhaps the quintessential combat sport, boxing emphasizes the importance of agility, footwork, and various punching and striking techniques. Boxing training is physically demanding, functioning as an excellent workout for combating obesity. Boxing classes for children are also very safe. They do not place kids into the ring for actual fights, focusing instead on training and supervised sparring with protective gear.
Although similarly named, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has no relation to the original Japanese fighting style of jujutsu which employs weapons. BJJ focuses on submission grappling techniques, such as joint locks, chokeholds, and other methods of taking down an opponent without relying on strikes. BJJ is well-suited for older kids aged eight to ten.
Part martial arts, part philosophy, Jeet Kune Do is the creation of Bruce Lee. JKD emphasizes the importance of fluidity, dynamism, and adaptiveness. JKD techniques borrow from multiple other sports, focusing on practical real-world effectiveness.
Don’t forget to have a conversation with your child to determine if they’re interested in learning self-defense and if there’s a particular martial art they’d like to learn. Your child will perform better and learn even faster if they’re already motivated.