Do you want your children to learn karate? Originating in the Japanese island of Okinawa, Karate is one of the most widely practised martial art forms in the world. It’s a dynamic form of exercise and self-defence which combines offensive and defensive moves to use the whole body in unarmed combat. Nowadays, Karate is widely practised as a competitive sport. Indeed, Karate will make its first appearance as an Olympic sport at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
Karate for kids is not just about learning to defend yourself, and it has numerous benefits;
Perhaps the most obvious reason for enrolling your child in Karate is to keep them active. However, the importance of keeping active cannot be emphasised enough, at a time when 1 in 4 Australian kids are considered overweight or obese. Obesity is Australia’s second highest contributor to the burden of disease, ahead of smoking, and so children must form good habits from a young age. The whole-body workout that kids get from Karate aids in the development of muscles and helps build stronger cardiovascular systems. Karate is physically demanding but enjoyable and will encourage your child to keep moving. It is also suitable for all age groups, and all year round, so starting Karate from a young age can provide them with good habits and a physical activity they can continue into adulthood.
If you’ve ever watched a martial arts movie, you may be worried that Karate will promote violent behaviour. Especially in this era where violence seems to be glorified in all forms of media, you may be concerned that learning Karate is not the best idea for your child. However, it may surprise you that, contrary to what Hollywood movies may suggest, Karate is very beneficial in teaching kids peaceful, non-violent conflict resolution, and emphasises the importance of avoiding violence. Many teachers will prohibit their students from practising their moves outside the school on family and friends, emphasising that they may only use their skills if they are in danger. The skills learnt from Karate also apply to non-violent conflict resolution. Kicking and chopping in class can also be a safe outlet for excess energy, allowing kids to release frustration or anger, while still practising self-control.
One of the central tenets of Karate is the focus on self-discipline. Self-discipline is the ability to control or regulate one’s behaviour, emotions, desires and impulses. It is a valuable skill to learn from a young age, and to carry through to adulthood. It is often said that young children these days are so used to receiving instant gratification, that lessons in self-discipline are harder to come across. However Karate, teaches that small progresses are made through repeated progress. This teaches children patience and the value of working for achievements, and resisting the desire for instant gratification by prioritising higher and more meaningful goals.
When kids see their skills improve. And, as they master new moves and earn new belts, their confidence and self-esteem will get a boost. This confidence will be present through to other aspects of their lives. Feeling good about themselves sets kids up for success in all areas of their lives, from schooling to friendships. Confidence helps kids to take on new challenges, cope with mistakes and to get up and try again. “People who continue to practice the martial arts for prolonged periods are different from the general populace in these ways: they have lower level of anxiety; an increased sense of responsibility; they are less likely to be radical; they have an increased level of self-esteem; and they are more socially intelligent.” (Source- Psychology Today, May 1985.)
When your child learns Karate, showing their instructors unflinching respect is an important prerequisite. Some children today have difficulty showing respect to authority, which can cause problems at home, school and in adulthood. It is common for instructors to spend time in class discussing the importance of respecting teachers, parents, themselves and each other. Children build relationships with their instructor and do not want to disappoint them with inappropriate behaviour. Experts believe that the respect learnt in Karate can be the most important benefit. Often translating into improved behaviour and grades.
This can be a benefit to all kids. But, may be especially beneficial for kids who may struggle in some social scenarios. Karate allows them to build their social skills in an environment where their peers share a common interest. Kids who practise karate feel a sense of belonging. As well as being part of a larger team, with shared goals and interests.
Karate is based around an accomplishment system of colour belts. These range from white for beginner, to the coveted black for the advanced. This ranking system encourages students to keep striving to reach the next level. Because Karate is all about individual development and not a team sport, it allows children to develop at their own pace. In addition, it maximises their physical activity. Because, they’ll never be ‘on the bench’. The award of different coloured belts as they progress through the levels and advance their skills, boosts self-esteem and keeps them motivated.
Thinking about enrolling your child in Karate? This Winter, ASC is running a special ‘Experience Karate’ holiday camp in Melbourne for the first time (http://shop.australiansportscamps.com.au/). This is the perfect opportunity for your child to get a taste of Karate. As well as deciding if it’s the right sport for them. This will be a fun, interactive, non-contact program, focusing on fundamental skills and applications. Or, if your child already participates in Karate classes, our program will offer these students a great way to brush up on their skills and advance to the next level. Our camps are suitable for boys and girls of all skill levels. Catering for ages 6 to 16 years. Lastly, Goju-Ryu Australia https://www.facebook.com/pages/Goju-Ryu-Australia-Brunswick-Dojo/158394250857216, have a great dojo and welcome beginners to the art.