9 Reasons Why Your Child Should Try Martial Arts
When it comes to choosing a sport for your kids to participate in, you can’t go wrong with martial arts. Child wellness isn’t just about keeping fit; it’s about having fun while you’re doing it, and martial arts provides an amazing opportunity to do just that. Aside from this, there’s a number of ways in which martial arts can benefit your child’s wellbeing.
1. Self-Control: According to health coach Jessica Covington, ‘Students in a martial arts class practice waiting their turn, staying still, moving when instructed, listening and following directions.’
2. Discipline, Perseverance, Goal Attainment and Patience: ‘In a good school, students attend many classes and learn a series of moves in order to advance to the next level in tapes or belts,’ Covington details. ‘Typically, the advancements are small steps at a time. There is no “trophy just for showing up,” as they say – the reward comes only after legitimate work. Students are encouraged to set a goal (such as achieving the next belt rank) and to understand the steps necessary to reach the goal. Then, it’s a matter of staying patient and sticking with it long enough to succeed.’
3. Mentoring and Socialisation: Covington notes, ‘In many martial arts traditions, more experienced students (even if younger) are expected and encouraged to help the less knowledgeable kids. This is a boost both ways: the mentor practices teaching and nurturing; the mentee learns humility and recognises a new goal potential.’
4. Responsibility: ‘Good martial arts teachers believe that it is the student’s responsibility (even the youngest students) to care for the uniform, tie the belt, and take care of other equipment,’ Covington comments. ‘Pupils are expected to take personal responsibility for their actions as well – both in and out of the dojo. “With great power comes great responsibility” is an attitude common to high-quality martial arts studios.’
5. Balance, Coordination, Proprioception, and Posture: Covington explains, ‘Children’s neural pathways are very flexible, and the practices of balancing, transferring weight, engaging core muscles, and fine-tuning the positioning of limbs in space are crucial skills for a lifetime of good physical condition. Contrary to the popular belief that people are born either with natural coordination or not, these are all skills that improve quickly with practice (true for adults, too!).’
6. Breathing: ‘Coordinating gross motor movements with the breath is an essential skill,’ says Covington. ‘And one that can increase the efficacy of nearly any exercise. Martial arts teach deep breathing in various techniques, plus the coordination of breath and movement. In addition, breath control can be useful during times of stress or anxiety, such as test-taking, public speaking, conflict resolution or other emotionally-charged times (parents of ‘tweens and teens, take note!).’
7. Focus, Attention, and Mind Control: ‘Going along with the breathwork, martial arts study requires serious concentration and focus,’ Covington points out. ‘Narrowing the focus to precise movement is great practice for any task requiring sustained attention, and studies have shown that martial arts can be especially helpful to children with attention disorders (ADD/ADHD).’
8. Self-Esteem, Confidence and Self-Respect: Covington outlines, ‘Working toward a goal and achieving it, teaching others, learning difficult skills and being recognized for hard work all build a child’s sense of competence in the world. The ability of a strong martial arts instructor to instil this sense shouldn’t be underestimated, and neither should the importance of these qualities in a growing one’s life.’
9. Physical Safety and Empowerment:Covington asserts, ‘For any child unsure of his or her physical prowess, martial arts can be a game-changer. Learning to harness muscular strength and control gives anyone an advantage in uncomfortable situations, whether real or perceived. Certain martial disciplines also teach peaceful conflict resolution (sounds contradictory, but it’s a deep part of the tradition!), which can bolster a kid’s confidence around bullies. It can also give a child the power he or she needs to avoid becoming the bully, since there’s little left to prove.’
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