One of the most contentious topics for many martial arts schools is the age kids should be when first they start their practice. While some parents think no age is too young — as long as the classes are tailored for tots — many others think starting a child in martial arts too early is a recipe for disaster. In most cases, this will come down to the child, the martial art, and the instructor, but there are other factors to consider.
While the spirit of competition should be nurtured early, we need to collectively work towards providing your child with a balance in their training and sports activities. This will be a is a key factor in well-being. However, consistently training rigorously is something that must come with age and is not advised for young children. Here are some thoughts on when your child should start training in the martial arts.
The biggest subject of concern for most parents is physical, chronic injuries that can occur from unsafe play. Young children can be more susceptible to this. Without a good physical activity plan, they can cause long-term damage. According to Allston Stubbs, M.D. (an orthopedist at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, in Winston-Salem, NC), he’s seeing more teens than ever with major joint problems, such as pulled or torn ACLs.
These types of injury issues are prevalent in athletes who spend a lot of time training, as it increases wear and tear, as well as potential imbalances in the body. If your child’s prospective martial arts school trains rigorously on a regular basis, consider waiting until 8 to 10 years of age, before enrolling them in that particular type of program.
Depends on your Child
Child development doesn’t occur at the same rate for every child. Some develop very quickly, while others are late bloomers; there’s nothing wrong with that. Some children may enjoy a martial arts class at the age of 4, while others may not like it until they’re 10. Before the age of 6 though, the most important thing is that the child is having fun. At that age, it’s likely too early for other school teachings they will be learning later on, such as how to resist peer pressure.
Children at this age may not have the motor skills to perfect their hook kicks, but they can still experience great lessons, get some physical activity, interact with other kids, and have a blast doing it. You can always experiment with a few classes, see what your child and the instructor think, and then make a thoughtful decision.
Depends on their Instructor
The biggest value your child can receive from an early start in martial arts is the life lessons it can teach you. There’s a reason why people so often speak about the benefits of martial arts for kids. Make sure you’re able to meet with the instructor who will be teaching your child, before signing up for a membership. If they speak more about the needs of your child than the details of their program, you should be off to a great start. Not every instructor is going to be a good fit for teaching kids classes; something both parents and school owners need to keep in mind.
Don’t let your desire for seeing your child as the next Olympian cloud your decisions. Their immediate and long-term well-being are important to note, along with their overall happiness. Communicate with your child on a regular basis, to get an unbiased and honest assessment of the classes they are taking. Feeling too much pressure to compete could turn them off of martial arts and sports for a long time; the focus should be on having a good time, while developing and nurturing their discipline and philosophies.
Whatever age you decide to start your child’s journey in martial arts, make sure to get them a physical examination, to make sure everything is okay for them to start training. Your family doctor should be able to give you more advice, to help you make the right decision for your family. Check out our infographic on the 12 benefits of martial arts for kids, to learn more about what it can do for your children.