Parents are constantly searching for ways on how to improve their child’s emotional en physical wellbeing. There are many ways that might help, but there is one method that very few people actually consider.
And this method is karate or partaking in martial arts.
Karate schools or classes have so many benefits and it was hard for me to find anything negative. This will also depend on the instructor that will teach the child some of the foundations of life and how karate will play a role.
Karate and almost any form of martial arts is not just a system that teaches a person how to defend themselves but also a way of life.
It will teach you how to think, react, and also how to see the world.
The core fundamentals of what karate will teach are discipline, respect, responsibility and also how to be stronger to name a few.
History of Karate
First, let’s cover some of the histories of karate in order to understand its origins.
To tell you the truth, the true origin of karate is a little bit obscure and very little is know about the early development phases of karate.
All that I do know about the earliest stages of this type of martial art is that the English word “karate” comes from the word te (手) or “hand” in Okinawan.
Another small piece of history that most people miss is that of Bodhidharma who was an Indian missionary and warrior caste who was a monk that introduced the fighting arts to Japan.
Karate started to become popular when it was brought to the small island named Okinawa which is a small island located somewhere inside of modern-day Japan.
Today there are currently 4 main styles of Karate in Japan which includes the following:
The 4 main styles
The first form of martial arts started to become more popular due to Kanryo Higaonna who started a dojo from 1853 up to 1915. His student Chojun Miyagi then later renamed this style Goju-Ryu. This style mainly focusses on circular blocking movements which are then followed up by a counter attack.
The second form of martial arts was originated by Kenwa Mabuni who was active from the year 1889 up to 1952. The word “Shito” comes from the combination of characters from Mabuni’s teachers’ names. These schools focus heavily on a large number of Kata (which are a sequence of movements).
The third style was formed by Gichin Funakoshi in Tokyo during the year 1938. In the year 1936, he opened his own dojo which was called Shotokan. This style is heavily focused on strong stances and very powerful strikes.
This style was founded in the year 1939 by Hienori Otsuka which is a combination of karate and Brazilian Jujitsu. This style has very soft movements which are a very well know characteristic of Jiujitsu.
Karate Training (The Fundamentals)
The training of karate is divided into 3 parts which will form the foundation of every person that wishes to participate in this art.
These 3 parts will include the following:
The 3 Parts that forms Karate
Kihon as at starting point and will form the foundation on which the Kata and Kumite will be built on. Kihon will include the basics of blocks, strikes, kicks, and stances.
These basic movements will be practiced on a daily basis and which must become second nature. It is very important to learn the correct technique right from the beginning and will become more advanced as the student progresses.
I can still remember the days when I had to practice kata. This form teaches you a sequence of defensive and offensive movements that was taught from Kihon.
Some karate styles will have up to 50 different Katas.
These sequences will act as a model which will represent a simulation in order to teach the person how to perform the sequence of movements from second nature. Each time when you have to progress to the next belt color, you will have to demonstrate the kata in front of your instructor.
Kumite is just another word for sparring which has many different levels of contact. You will start with “soft contact” where the students will have to wear gloves to help build confidence and develop their style.
After that, you can progress to full contact Kumite which can also be called Kyokushin. Also called “knockdown” karate is used to bring an opponent to the floor while using full powered techniques.
Another form called K-1 which is a kickboxing variant can also be used where a simple knockout is preferred. Sparring in armor which is called “bogu kumite” can also be used which will provide some level of safety.
11 Ways it Develops Mental and Social Capabilities
When I have to compare myself to my friends that continued martial arts at the age of 10, I wish that I did not have to give it up. I did 2-3 years of karate and ended up with only the yellow belt.
While some of my friends continued up to brown (one even reached black belt), I noticed a considerable difference in both psychology and confidence. I was constantly bullied during my first 2 years of high school and started to get back on my feet after taking part in MMA (mixed martial art).
As soon as I stopped again (because of financial issues), I soon realized the implications of martial arts on the mind, body, and soul.
In this section, I am going to talk about the mental aspects of karate and most other martial art disciplines.
1. Improved self-confidence
This is a huge benefit that you will benefit after a couple of weeks of training. The self-confidence will mainly be built around how you feel about your body and your development of emotional intelligence.
Martial arts have a huge role to play in your physical strength and conditioning which will have a direct impact on how you will look. Kids will very soon notice a slight six-pack or a better-looking physique after a few months of training as martial arts is heavily focused on core exercises.
The belt system which helps to identify the phase of your development will also play a critical role in your development in self-confidence.
I can still remember the day when I was not a while belt anymore and I must say that it is a pretty good feeling. Martial arts can also help against bullying which has its role to play in personal development.
2. Develop self-respect
This is one of the hardest things to do and kids even adults will have this problem of self-respect. This is definitely not something that can be developed overnight as it can take months or even years to develop self-respect.
A person’s level of self-respect is reflected by the choices that he/she makes. You can also clearly see the level of respect that they have for themselves by the way they treat other people.
Respecting for oneself and self-confidence often go hand in hand. So how does karate or martial arts teach you self-respect?
First of all, it teaches you how to respect your body by caring for it with exercise and training. It will also teach you self-discipline which is an element that you need in order to respect yourself.
Self-respect always starts with self-love which will be followed by your value system in which your discipline will determine how well you execute the process on how to respect yourself.
It is very important to start with this process as early as possible especially during childhood.
3. Keeps them out of trouble
I think that every parent can agree with me when I say that if you give your child too much time where they have nothing to do, then they will find something to do which might not result in something positive for them and the parent.
There is a long list of things that are not good for your child’s development which can be replaced with doing karate and I will list some examples below:
- Doing drugs.
- Compulsive eating.
- Watching age restricted media.
- Playing too many violent video games (I was very guilty of this one).
- Too much time spending on negative thoughts.
I can understand that doing karate every day of their lives is not always optimal or realistic but at least 2 to 3 days a week can do wonders.
4. They will become tougher
Believe me when I say that I am not just talking about physical toughness.
Emotional toughness is something which every kid must start to develop as soon as possible. This will have an impact on how thick their skin will become to what life will throw at them.
The way on how Karate or martial arts will influence both physical and emotional toughness is by placing the child in an uncomfortable situation where they must overcome the obstacle.
This can be in terms of physical exercise, taking a hit from sparring partner, learning their first kata, learn basic self-defense moves and ultimately letting go of the building up of emotions. Sometimes all you need to do is to just let go.
5. Will learn how to focus and build self-discipline
Focus and self-discipline cannot go without one another. Focus is the act of spending your time and thoughts on only one objective at a time. Self-discipline is the act of moving past laziness and negative self-talk in order to strictly stick to your schedule or to do what is necessary to achieve a goal.
Can you see how focus and self-discipline cannot go without each other?
Martial arts teaches you how to focus on one thing and not to get distracted otherwise you might slip a punch. It also teaches a child how to repeat a specific task to perfection which is sometimes a necessary component of discipline.
6. Learn the correct way how to handle conflict
This is something they must learn from a very young age. As an adult, you will face conflict at your workplace or in your family. Most adults will let their anger take over control which might result in something that could be avoided.
Standing up for yourself is something that most young adults do not even grasp. When a child does not learn how to control their anger or how to stand up for themselves, then they will either land up in jail or become everyone’s punching bag.
7. Building the right belief system regarding failure and success
This is just so important. Most people do not realize that failing once in a while will eventually lead to success. Just as long as you are learning from your mistakes in order not to do them again.
Another way to think about it is that in order to become successful in something is to become good at it. When some people are not good at something, they will need to practice (which includes a lot of failures).
Even in karate, you will be taught this valuable lesson. You will not be able to execute the kata on the first try and will most likely fail.
In order to succeed in this, you need to work hard and practice until you get it right. This is a valuable lesson for kids to learn.
8. Helps to release excess energy
I do not know why, but little children are like a little powerplant that is constantly reaching its power capacity. If they do not have something to do with that energy, then they will drive you crazy.
This is especially true for kids with ADHD who are being overstimulated.
One session of karate lessons will most likely drain most of that energy to give the parents a time to breathe as well.
9. Teaches responsibility
One big problem that I see in today’s era is that some young adults still do not know how to take responsibility. This is something that you eventually need to learn.
In most martial arts classes, there will be small activities where the children will learn responsibility. These activities might include things such as cleaning up after themselves.
They will also learn one very important law which states that for every action there is a reaction which is why it is important to be responsible for every action that you take.
They will also learn that their progress in the chosen martial art is totally up to them which in return teaches responsibility.
10. Teaches respect
Martial arts have several ways in which it teaches a person respect. The 2 components on how it teaches respect are through engagement and humility which is a huge one.
When pupils engage with each other, they will need to learn how to get along in order to share the space in harmony. These actions will largely contribute to respect as well.
Being humble is an integral part of being respectful. When you lose a match against an opponent, it is important to be humble.
11. Improves social interactiveness
One of the best ways to teach a child how to be more social is to actually put him/her in a situation where they are among other people preferably in their own age group.
When they are with other pupils they will have the opportunity to teach each other, praise each other and also support each other.
The physical contact will also help them to be less shy.
9 Ways it Improves Your Child’s Health
In the 4th section, I will cover some of the important health benefits for your child when doing any form of martial arts or karate.
1. Helps with depression and stress
Depression can strike at any age and is very often accompanied by stress. Because karate classes can help with a person’s self-esteem and confidence, it will indirectly help with depression.
Exercise is a fundamental aspect of any type of martial arts and can, therefore, increase endorphins which are feel-good chemicals for the brain. Excercise also supports nerve growth in the hippocampus which in turn can relieve depression.
2. Coordination and balance
Coordination and balance are one of the many skills that you will start to develop while doing martial arts. By practicing how to stand and move correctly it will have a significant impact on balance.
There will also be a lot of exercises which will help to improve your balance. Coordination is the ability to move different parts of the body at the same time which is something that is very well practiced though Karate.
I do not think that there is a better way to improve any of these in a better way than karate or martial arts.
3. Improves memory
I already mentioned before that exercising will help to stimulate nerve growth which in return will influence memory. Memory is also something that needs to be practiced in order to be developed or maintained.
Karate has a great way to stimulate those brain muscles where memory will constantly be practiced. Some of the movements which will be used in correlation with each other such as the Kata will be a great way to improve memory.
Other than practicing memory, the exercises that come with karate will also improve blood flow to the brain which will play a role in memory as well.
4. Builds strength and conditioning
With karate, the whole body will get a full workout. There are some groups of muscles that will get more attention than others.
The muscles that will get the most attention is the core (which includes the stomach muscles) and the hands. When you want to become a good martial artist, you need to have strong hands and wrists.
Hands will get conditioned by hitting through planks and some exercises. Other than these, I can promise you that your child will become stronger by taking karate classes.
5. Improves motor skills and reflexes
Karate has a great way to develop both gross and fine motor skills and reflexes. When you look at motor skills, you have to take muscle and nerves into consideration.
The only way to improve motor skills is to constantly practice specific movements. These movements will strengthen the muscles that are being used and will also improve the nerve function.
Gross motor skills do not take up as much neural power such as fine motor skills which needs much more concentration.
The only way to improve reflexes is to constantly use it. Muscle memory and reflexes walk hand in hand which will improve the signaling of messages from your optical nerves (eyes) to your muscles in order to improve reaction time.
6. Better cardiovascular health
Along with diet and stress, karate also has a large role to play in cardiovascular health. Martial arts has a lot to do with cardio health such as raising your heart rate, lowering cholesterol and also lowering blood pressure.
Simple breathing exercises which will also be incorporated into martial arts will also help to relieve stress which is not good for your heart.
7. Weight loss
I think that we can all agree that there needs to be a balance between the intake of calories and the burning of calories in order to lose weight.
Trying to force a child to burn calories is almost impossible. One very good option is to let them do a sport or activity that they will love which in return will help them to lose weight.
When they start with Karate and they find that they love it, it will become much easier for them to lose weight. It will also not become a chore or some sort of tedious task for them to be more active.
They will spend less time in front of the Xbox with a packet full of sugary treats.
8. Improved flexibility
Torn muscles or ligaments is something that everyone wants to avoid. In order to almost prevent this, you need to become more flexible.
There are several stretch exercises that will be done at the karate class in order for the student to become more flexible. Flexibility is needed to prevent injuries and to have a wider range of movement.
9. Helps to fight diabetes
Diabetes can strike almost anyone at any age and it is far better to prevent it than treating it.
Exercise from karate has the ability for the muscles to use insulin and absorb glucose more effectively which in turn will put less stress on the insulin-producing cells.
Because the muscle cells will need more glucose in order to fuel the mitochondria during exercise they will adapt and absorb the glucose more effectively and in return will lower your risk of developing diabetes.
As you have seen, karate has a lot of benefits other than teaching a person how to defend themselves. There is a lot of misconception in regards to how people think that karate is teaching people how to become violent.
I have seen a lot of very violent children and teenagers that were partaking in fights at school almost every week.
Then after a couple of weeks of partaking in karate, they started to calm down. In some cases, you might find a worsening effect, but most of the time the problem lies much deeper than you could ever imagine.
Please do not forget to leave a comment below if you have any questions.
Thomas S. says
I actually took a year of karate in college for an elective. Wish I would have taken it at a younger age. If I had kids, I would definitely sign them up. My friend runs a school here in Orlando. They have allot of other great programs they do at these schools such as over nighters for the kids with planned games and activities. If anything, it gives parents a free night!
I wish I could have continued as a kid as well. I would do the same.
Mat A. says
Great article on the benefits of karate school for kids. I thoroughly enjoyed it and got a lot out of your article.
Many of the benefits apply to a variety of activities similar to karate for kids. I’ve got 2 teenage daughters and when they were 7 & 10 I took them to a few lessons. It was interesting because I was in the class with them, it was basically an intro class with parents to be involved. My 7 year old enjoyed but not so much my 10 year old.
My younger one has continued to play sports but my older one has never been so inclined. I totally agree with you on some of the great things it teaches kids such as toughness, respect, and responsibility.
Very interesting page. I am located in Angeles City, Philippines. There are a couple dozen martial arts schools here mainly because a lot of Koreans live here and have brought most aspects of their culture with them. I’ve been thinking about getting my boy enrolled in one of the schools, but I really need to investigate a bit more. They are all teaching Taekwondo, which isn’t exactly what you were talking about. I am perhaps prematurely assuming that a lot of the fundamentals and basic philosophy behind Taekwondo are the same as or similar to Karate as you describe it. Do you have any thoughts? Thanks.
Taekwondo is a handy style and focuses more on kicks. Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do is a hybrid style and also features some Taekwondo in it. If Taekwondo is the only style available then maybe you should opt in as it is not a bad style.
Kerry-Ann Dickinson says
How do I chose a good Karate dojo for my daughter?
Lewis Miller says
You can use Google to find karate schools in your location. That would be a great start.
Alfred, Karate after School Program says
Are you considering enrolling your kids in the martial arts, but don’t know where to start? Well, I would like to help those of you out there that have kids and are interested in enrolling them in the martial arts find a great school. I’ve had the opportunity to train at many schools as well as run my own school for years and would like to give a few tips that can help you make this important decision.