Your guide to pre-school martial arts classes

Martial arts like Judo and Karate can be a fun way for your little one to learn respect and discipline, as well as keep them fit and alert

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Age suitability 

Whether it‘s Judo, Karate or Tae Kwon Do, most martial arts clubs will only allow children to join in with classes once they’re 4 years old at the earliest, with 5 being the most popular joining age. Some individual clubs may offer a pre-training course for very young children.

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What your child will do 

Martial arts in general will equip your child with certain life skills, as well as giving him or her an opportunity to take part in an exhilarating and enjoyable contact sport with supported training.

Contrary to popular belief, martial arts training actually works to help children avoid conflict, and many of the various martial art styles work on a principle of respect, honour and friendship.

Some martial arts clubs will have their own individual classes and programmes for young children, before moving onto a class that includes actual martial arts training. Here, they’ll be introduced to activities that will help develop certain physical and mental skills, such as goal-setting, discipline, focus and balance, that are needed for mainstream martial arts classes.

Judo

Judo consists of lots of grappling and throwing techniques, similar to wrestling, which are scored by a referee. For young children, a more play-based version of full Judo is normally introduced with a focus on learning basic techniques and skills such as falling. This will help teach your child the basics of Judo as a sport and aid them if they decide to progress and work towards grading.

Judo is a very physical and safe activity, with lots of movements so attending a class will allow your child to learn the sport in a safe and controlled environment. Training will also focus on mental development and instilling moral codes within your child.

Tae Kwon Do

Literally translated as ‘the way of the foot and the fist’, your child will be encouraged to learn the basics of Tae Kwon Do by practising kicks and footwork. Young children work on non-contact sparring techniques and fitness levels.

Patterns of movement will also be taught which will allow your child to perform moves solo or with a group of fellow students. Classes will be a balance of fun and discipline, and will be dynamic to meet the attention span of the average pre-schooler. Games will also be included to help the learning process.

Karate

Karate lessons usually start with children entering the training venue quietly and sitting down to await and follow instructions. This is part and parcel of Karate training, which has an emphasis on discipline and respect.

Basic skills are taught either through traditional methods or through games. Your child will be introduced to kata (a Japanese word meaning choreographed patterns of movement) and some pad work. Non-contact sparring (with safety equipment) can also be included in the training sessions but are usually for older children.

Physical training will be varied and dynamic building on existing skills and introducing new ones to keep a young child’s attention and interest. This will be interspersed with more general teachings on safety and moral conduct, which in turn teaches your child not to use his developing Karate skills against others or for bullying.

How will your child benefit

Judo

Junior Judo classes will increase your child’s levels of stamina, strength and fitness. Judo is as much about a way of living as it is a sport, and it can help your child follow a healthy lifestyle and promote activity. It can also help develop your child’s confidence and mental agility.

There is a set of moral codes tied to Judo which are re-enforced through the sport itself and which can help your child develop certain values as they grow. These include politeness, courage, sincerity, respect, honour, self-control, modesty and friendship.

Tae Kwon Do

Like other martial arts, Tae Kwon Do can offer your child a thorough grounding in both physical and mental development. Given the complicated moves that define Tae Kwon Do, your child’s capacity to concentrate and remember will be increased. Physically, he or she will learn to be in control of their body, as well as develop fitness levels, strength and flexibility.

This will all lead to improved health, and your child will be exposed to rules and learn how to follow commands. Other socio-emotional benefits include respect and politeness as children learn to respond and adhere to instructors and classmates accordingly.

Tae Kwon Do also places great emphasis on working together as a team, which encourages social and relationship skills. This in turn can lead to developments in self-respect, self-confidence and esteem.

Karate

Karate will develop your child’s overall physical health as it provides an all-round workout. Posture and core balance will also benefit. Your child’s assertiveness and self-confidence will be encouraged as he or she progresses through training. You will also see improved alertness, focus and concentration.

As with Tae Kwon Do and Judo, your child will develop certain social skills including respect for others, teamwork and self-discipline.

Likely cost

Most classes are offered by martial arts clubs for the different styles with age specific classes for young children. Cost per class tends to range from around £4 to £6 per class, depending on your location. In addition to a weekly class fee, expect to pay for kit and tournament costs.

When you’re selecting a martial arts school look out for good standards of hygiene and that the equipment and venues being used are age-appropriate and safe to practice with. Also check that you feel comfortable with an instructor’s teaching style and that your child would enjoy attending these types of classes.

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In summary, martial arts classes are a great way for all the family to get fit and participate in a common activity and sport.

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