7 Best Martial Arts For Kids To Learn in 2022 (And Why)
Why your kids should be doing martial arts in 2022.
November 14, 2023
Topics we will cover:
- What are martial arts and why are they good for kids?
- 6 benefits of martial arts for kids
- 7 best martial arts for kids in 2022
- Choosing what the best martial arts for your kids are
- How to find martial arts for kids near me
Martial arts are an excellent way for your child to learn discipline, build strength, confidence, as well as make new friends and develop new interests. In 2022, there are so many options to choose from. Picking the right martial art for your kids can be difficult - but no stress. We’re here to help, and we’ve done the research for you!
I’ve been practicing martial arts for over 12 years. I started as a young kid and worked my way up to achieving a black belt in traditional Judo and I continue to learn as I progress in my journey. In fact, at URSOR we are all martial art practitioners and enthusiasts! We’ve picked out the best martial arts for children, with a list of benefits, and honest truths about the skills that they will learn along the way!
What are martial arts and why are they good for kids?
Martial arts simply put are ‘classified systems and traditions of combat’, practiced and developed for a number of reasons, amongst which self-defence, fitness, and even meditation! The origins of martial arts are highly debated and have diverse and scattered roots in various regions of Asia. This has led to the creation of over 170 martial arts. You would have heard of a few household names such as karate, Jiu-Jitsu, and Taekwondo, while others are rarer, and harder to come by.
The beauty of each martial art is that they each have their own history, traditions, and styles that can be applied differently. However, this is often why it can be difficult for parents to choose what's best. When choosing what is the best martial arts for your kids it is great to keep them involved in the decision when weighing up the pros and cons.
6 benefits of martial arts for kids
Starting martial arts at any age, especially for young kids, is a fantastic and influential method to develop life long skills and interests that can serve them well in their adult life. We’ve come up with these 6 key reasons why learning a martial art is great for kids (and adults alike):
1) Regular exercise (Physical development)
Martial Arts provide a full body workout and are a fantastic way for your kids to stay active, healthy and fit while having fun! The learning structure of most martial arts also make it a great alternative for kids who don’t enjoy other sports. It helps your kids improve their coordination, develop flexibility, endurance, balance and agility. The physical benefits of martial arts go well beyond just training in the dojo. It helps kids stay fit, feeling better during the day, and more focused during learning time, providing more energy for other activities. Also a huge plus at bed-time!
2) Making friends and developing social skills.
To say you make friends in martial arts is an understatement. In my experience and many others I've known, your teacher, fellow practitioners and the community, become your friends and extended family. Your children will meet other kids along their journey of learning the art, and they become a close part of your kids' trust circle. This is important because they will be there to motivate them, encourage them to continue working hard, be there for council, and be there for them through thick and thin.
3) Respect, Mental and Spiritual Development.
Martial arts are as much about the mental challenge as they are about the physical one. Overcoming fears, exercising patience, and learning hard lessons, are all great contributors to a child’s mental and spiritual development. The immeasurable benefits on the mind that martial arts are known to have are absolutely true. Your child will grow to be a well-rounded person and learn fundamental life skills like humility, respect, mindfulness and compassion. In many cases, it can even help them with persevering through difficult situations, listen better, and feel calmer outside of the dojo.
A go-to reason for learning Martial art is for self-defence. The primary synthesis of the ‘martial’ art is to learn techniques that will teach your children how to protect themselves, an especially useful skill for the world we live in. Being a parent comes with the weight and worry of your child’s safety. At all times, but doubly when you aren't present to keep them safe. The skills, stamina and awareness your kids will develop while learning martial arts will give them the skills and confidence to handle dangerous situations which sometimes find themselves in. That however, doesn’t always mean they’ll have to kick the butt of everyone who physically threatens them. Oftentimes the best way to defend yourself is to walk away, and martial arts will give them the calm and stillness of mind to do so.
5) Tradition and culture.
As martial arts are steeped in the traditions of the country they come from, your child will learn about the language and etiquette of the culture the martial arts come from. In Judo for example, they will learn the language and etiquette of Japan. They will learn the names of various moves, how to bow and show respect to their Sensei (Teacher) and their opponent. Whether it's Japanese bowing, learning Korean, wearing traditional attire or demonstrating Kata. Adopting, respecting and preserving a nation's intangible cultural heritage will be a wonderfully enriching part of their journey.
6) Self esteem and confidence.
An accumulation of some of these skills and lessons we’ve mentioned can do amazing things for your child’s confidence. Classes focus on teaching the importance of personal growth rather than competition, and the belt structure of martial arts creates actionable goals of progress and self-reflection for your child to work towards. Building confidence, reassurance and self esteem along the journey will happen naturally as they repeat the simple action of showing up. They will naturally progress as they attend more training sessions.
Martial arts have extraordinary effects on the physical and mental health of both children and adults. They teach your children important life skills such as personal development, teamwork, self-defence, discipline, and confidence, and they're also just a lot of fun.
If you're still unsure whether enrolling your children into kids martial art classes is worth it, don’t be! It's an amazing and life long investment in your child's education, perspective, and physical and mental development.
7 best martial arts for kids to learn in 2022
When should my kid start martial arts?
First off, a common question many parents ask is “how old should your child be when they start martial arts?”. Schools and classes vary in starting age. Some accept kids as young as 3, but it's recommended that children start martial arts around 5 or 6, as martial arts do require a minimum of attention and ability to focus. But it is never too early or late to start.
What type or style should they learn?
There are many different types and styles of martial arts to choose from, and we are going to break them down into a few clear styles that will help you make a choice. Ultimately, the best martial art depends on what you want your child to get from the art and which one they are most excited to learn.
Here is our list of the best 8 martial arts for your kids to learn. We’ve split them with different categories and have a few pros and cons for each to help you make your decision.
Judo, which literally translates into “the gentle way” is a traditional Japanese martial art that stems all the way back to the martial arts of Samurai who used old Japanese jujutsu. It is also by far one of the best Martial arts for kids to learn. Judo is a grappling art, and consists of throwing, takedowns, ground submissions and pinning of their opponents. It is a physically and mentally challenging sport, but there is no direct striking involved, which makes it very safe for them to practice. Judo is a holistic, full contact self defence art, it’s a core part of police training and is one of the few martial arts to be taught in schools all over the world. The list of mental and physical benefits Judo provides will cover everything we mentioned above, but some of the key unique benefits of Judo for kids is that it teaches them how to safely play with others. Learning respect and discipline is a huge part of it, and it makes it one of the most popular martial arts for kids. Children will develop strength, gymnastic flexibility and agility, as well as quiet mental toughness. Interestingly, it is also one of the most popular Olympic sports, with over 400 competitors from over 120 countries participating in the event every 4 years.
This is what you can expect a judo class for kids to consist of for kids and what a more advanced session for teens or adults would look like (bonus content, we would highly recommened this channel and website for more information on Judo).
Judo clubs can be found across the world, use this to find judo for kids near me.
Advantages of judo for kids
- Includes standing and groundwork
- Physical and mental focus
- Safe and applicable for self defence
Disadvantages of judo for kids
- Less well-rounded - it does not include striking
- Variations of styles between countries and schools
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (also known as BJJ) is another one of the best martial arts for kids. Stemming from judo, BJJ is a relatively young martial art. It has been adapted over the years, and focuses more intently on competing on the ground through grappling and submissions. The rationale behind this decision, is that most fights that may occur in real life, will inevitably end on the ground, and BJJ is optimised for this.
Because students have to figure out how to avoid being submitted while trying to tap out an opponent or training partner (an expression used to refer to the moment your opponent surrenders in a contest), BJJ helps your kids develop patience and problem-solving skills.
Advantage of BJJ for kids
- A very safe yet very physical martial art for kids
- Practical Self Defence Techniques
- Up and coming sport which means theres lots of opportunities and schools
Disadvantages of BJJ for kids
- Some schools do not offer striking
- BJJ can sometimes be expensive compared to other martial arts due to its popularity
Karate is one of the most well-known and practised martial arts in the world. Originating from Japan, Ka-ra-te translates to the ‘empty-hand’ or ‘weaponless’ style. It's a striking martial art for teaching your kids self defence skills that utilises kicking, punches and defensive blocking with arms and legs holistically. It emphasises both physical and mental development. Physically it gets kids to perform full body moves, object striking, developing tactics for counter striking opponents, and deflecting strikes that come their way. Spiritually and traditionally, Karate believes the one-self is the real enemy, so teachings have a strong focus on spiritual development, self-control, patience, and discipline to help master a kid's mind. Depending on your school, age, and style, there are many instances where karate is non contact - which removes the sparring element of self defence. Although this can be a good thing depending on what you are after. Being one of the most well practised arts, Kids Karate classes can be found pretty much anywhere, so you will have a great variety to choose from. Use this to find Karate for kids near me.
Advantages of karate for kids
- Simple and safe striking for self defence
- Great physical and mental lessons and development
- Opportunity for competitions
- Does Not cover grappling techniques or ground work
- Some schools don't offer sparring or physical contact
- Some training techniques are less applicable and efficient
A popular art on top of most parent’s lists for martial arts for kids. Taekwondo, a striking art originating from Korea, is characterised by punching and kicking and fantastic gymnastic techniques. From emphatic head-height kicks, to jumping spinning kicks, to fast kicking, it develops muscle strength, flexibility, and balance. There are many similarities between what taekwondo and karate offer, with similar physical and mental benefits, but taekwondo's greater focus on full body contact and “sport”, make it great for kids to learn more about competition, and it's a more applicable martial art than Karate.
Use this to find Taekwondo for kids near me.
Heres a video of what a kids taekwondo class would look like.
Advantages of Taekwondo for kids
- Explosive and gymnastic techniques
- Traditional art with lots of history and culture
- Great for confidence and agility
Disadvantages of Taekwondo for kids
- Does Not cover grappling techniques
- Overall style is less well rounded and limited for self defence
Wrestling is one of the oldest martial arts in the world, and hugely popular around the world, from the US to Russia. Traditionally also called Greco-Roman wrestling, it is fundamentally focused on various takedowns, throws, locks, and pins. Wrestling is great for kids, as children of any height and size can be involved. There have even been incredible wrestlers with disabilities! And because wrestling stands as one of the toughest sports to train and compete in, your kids will develop unmatched physical and mental conditioning and confidence. The variety and quality of wrestling schools will differ depending on where you live which could be a disadvantage of taking your kids to wrestling classes.
Use this to find wrestling for kids near me.
Here’s a video of what a kids wrestling class would look like.
Advantages of wrestling for kids
- Very physically and mentally demanding art which develops a lot of growth
- Develops a lot of control and drive.
Disadvantages of wrestling for kids
- Depending where you are based, It can be difficult to find a good wrestling school
- Inconstistency of quality
Muay Thai, sometimes referred to as "Thai boxing", has a reputation for being one of the best striking martial arts in the world, but also one of the most violent. As a martial art and combat sport it uses stand-up striking along with various clinching techniques combining the use of fists, elbows, knees and shins. However, until kids develop into their late teens, schools have a strong focus on reinforcing skills that they should learn and develop for self defence, not violence. Muay thai uses the whole body as a “tool”, and that's why it has coined the nickname “the art of eight limbs”, referring to each use of points of contact used to defend yourself (2 feet, 2 hands, 2 knees, 2 elbows). Alongside punching and kicking, muay thai uses sweeping and basic grappling techniques which makes it an overall well rounded martial art for kids to learn.
Use this to find muay thai for kids near me.
Heres a video of what a kids muay thai class would look like.
Advantages of Muay Thai:
- One of the stricking martial arts for self defence
- Very well rounded and modern
Disadvantages of Muay Thai:
- For some. striking can be scary and intimidating benefits of martial arts for kids
- Less traditional then most old school martial arts
Aikido is a completely non-violent martial art for kids, so if you are looking for something that develops mental toughness through peaceful, but energetic exercise, then Aikido is definitely one of the best martial arts for kids to learn. It isn't very powerful however, and isn’t as effective as others in the list when it comes to self defence, especially against other people with experience in other martial arts. It is however very useful against attackers that are aggressive, but unskilled people who lack self-control due to its strong focus on wrist locks and controlling arm direction. It’s definitely a good option for young kids starting out on their martial arts journey, especially if they lack the ability to focus on more complex martial arts. Aikido is often recommended as a supplementary martial art, to be learned alongside one of the others on the list, so as well as control, balance, and discipline, kids can learn more self defence later in their journey.
Use this to find aikido for kids near me.
Heres a video of what a kids muay thai class would look like.
Advantages of Aikido for kids
- Rich with history and traditions
- Extremely safe with good general application and techniques
Disadvantages of Aikido for kids
- As a form of self-defence, its regarded as not very effecient
- Depending on where you are, it can be hard to find good schools
Finally, what if I’ve tried one before and it wasn't right?
Most classes offer trials before committing to lessons. If you went to one and it wasn't the right art or class for you and your child, don't be put off - try another one because when you find a good one, it's worth it! Make sure to explore the options in your area so you can find the school that best supports your child's growth.
You can search for Martial Arts for kids Near me, and that will often bring up all the schools and classes in your area.
Notable mentions of martial arts for kids that didn't make the lists are mixed martial arts (MMA) for kids, Tai-chi for kids, and Capoeira for kids, which we recommend you look into if you are curious.
How do I make sure my kid continues doing a martial arts?
Start a martial art with them!
We would recommend you join your child on their martial art journey. Practicing a martial art alongside them can be a great bonding experience, and will encourage them to continue after they start. It’s also a great way to develop, have fun if you are an adult, make new friends, and stay fit! All the benefits of martial arts for kids extend to grown-ups too!
Help kids learn about martial arts at home
Learning to love martial arts goes beyond the dojo. Try to find good youtube videos they can watch in their spare time. Maybe learn about a new move to practice in the living room, use a translator to learn a little bit more about the language they learn during training, or read up about the history of the specific martial art. If you want them to do that independently, why not use a safe search engine and browser for kids? At URSOR we’ve got you covered, we’re developing a safe search engine and browser for kids age 6 to 10 that doesn’t track them, serve them ads, or take their data. Give it a go!