Helping Underprivileged Kids Through Martial Arts

One of martial arts’ greatest attributes is the positive influence it has on people. When kids are impressionable, it’s very important for them to have positive role models and a positive environment. Unfortunately for at risk youth, the lack of positive role models can mean the difference between being a productive citizen and being one in trouble with the law. For these kids, martial arts can be a life changer. Here are some of the different ways martial arts can help underprivileged kids live a positive life.


Boredom plays a large role in the activities of youth, in general. A study from Willging, Quintero and Lilliott found that higher levels of boredom correlated with higher levels of drug usage and crime. With the time commitment to martial arts needed to be successful, a high-level teaching and being relatable to the students will have a strong impact on reducing the amount of boredom an underprivileged kid will face.

One of the most positive things you can do in your community is to host a positive after-school martial arts program. Creating that safe, proactive and social environment helps build community in a way that keeps people motivated, involved and positive. Keep that in mind, when you’re building your after school programs or martial arts summer camps.


Martial arts’ biggest focus may be on discipline. Many martial arts come from traditional Eastern philosophies that emphasize respect and self-control. Training in marital arts requires a large amount of discipline, in order to be truly successful. No black belt — who has rightfully earned his or her black belt — has achieved their belt level without self-discipline.

Teaching discipline may not be the easiest thing to do but it’s something you and your instructors need to be very mindful of. It’s a trait that translates to all aspects of life and having self-discipline is a big positive marker, when it comes to living a successful personal and professional life. In fact, Inc. says it’s the one key to success.


For kids and youth, self-esteem is incredibly important. A Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study found that low self-esteem during adolescence predicts poor health, criminal behavior and limits economic prospects during adulthood. The vast majority of martial artists face belt tests to track their progress. This allows students to test their efforts and successful belt testing may result in higher levels of self-esteem. Even failed attempts should be a reminder of how to work harder and increase commitment, in order to succeed; still creating a strong sense of self-esteem and self-worth.

For more tips on belt testing, check out our blog on 3 tips to stay on top of belt testing.


Being involved in martial arts gives students a purpose. Students know what is expected of them, when they show up to your martial arts gym, and what is needed to successfully attain the next belt level. For some, it may be the lure of competitions and sparring. For others, it could be the therapeutic effects of mastering a form. Whatever it is, students will have a constructive direction for their extra energy. Working with underprivileged or at-risk youth, giving them a focus or a sense of purpose can have a profound impact that lasts a lifetime.

Looking to attract younger students to your martial arts school? Check out 12 benefits of martial arts for kids; it’s an info-graphic we made for you to share! Does your school concentrate on mature clients? Here are 5 benefits of martial arts for adults.

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