Martial arts are a great activity for kids for so many reasons. As little as one martial arts class per week can provide your child with everything from physical activity to a positive community environment. The benefits of martial arts training for kids include increased fitness, improved focus, self-discipline, conflict resolution and self defence skills, and more. (For more information on just how much martial arts can do for your child, check out our blog posts “Why Martial Arts Is Great For Kids,” and “The Benefits of Martial Arts Training For Girls.”)
This might be enough to tell you that martial arts training is right for your child, but some kids might need some more convincing. While some kids take to martial arts immediately—and some might even be the ones pleading with you for lessons—other kids might require a little more encouragement. This blog is for the parents of the kids who need that gentle nudge.
Here are 7 ways to get your kids into martial arts. Or at least consider a trial class.
Lead by example.
The easiest and most effective way to inspire an interest in martial arts is through real life role models. If you train—or if you used to take martial arts lessons when you were younger—you can be that person for your child. Talk to your kid about your time in martial arts, what you loved about it, and what you learned from it. And be available to answer any questions that they have.
If you have no background in martial arts, you have a few other options that might work. If you have family or friends who are martial artists, ask if you and your child can pick their brains about it for a while. And if you can’t find any of the above, you could always try a few classes for yourself first. Seeing you try something new could be exactly what it takes to make your kid want to do it, too.
Make it a family affair.
If your child is shy, or gets nervous about trying new things, they could benefit from having a buddy to accompany them to their first martial arts training sessions. This could be a friend who is interested in starting martial arts lessons, too, or a sibling or relative who’s willing to give training a shot. It could also be you! Look into the training options that are available near you and see if there are any family classes, all ages training options, or even open mat times available and make a plan to go together.
If it’s within your budget, you might also want to consider booking a private training session for your family. Having a familiar face around could be the thing that transforms martial arts from an intimidating and strange activity to a fun new prospect.
Kids can be influenced by their peers for better and for worse. Here’s an opportunity to use that power for good. Talk to your kid and find out if they have any friends or classmates who participate in martial arts. If they do, ask your child what they think about it. If they express any interest or curiosity, you can follow up on that by suggesting that they take a trial class. If you know their friend’s parents, you might even be able to arrange for your kid to take a trial class at their gym.
Take them to see a fight or a tournament.
Sometimes seeing martial arts action in person can trigger an interest in trying for yourself. If martial arts have always been more of an abstract concept to your kid, having the chance to see people do it right in front of them can make it feel more real—and more attainable. It’s no longer something that other people do. It’s something you can do, too.
Taking them to a professional or semi-professional fight night can help them to see what’s possible in martial arts. And taking them to a local tournament can show them all of the fun and community you can enjoy when you’re just starting out.
Try pop culture.
The parents of today’s school-aged children should already be familiar with pop culture’s ability to turn delighted young viewers and readers into aspiring martial artists. We’re the generations who grew up with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 3 Ninjas, and reruns of classic Kung Fu and Bruce Lee films, after all.
If you can’t find real life martial arts examples that inspire any interest in your kid, you could try turning to movies, TV shows, and comic books. Watch and read martial arts-themed art with them. Talk about how cool it looks, and how interesting you find the techniques behind these stories. Ask them what they think about it. If anything clicks, you can follow up on that spark with some local options so that they can train like their new favourite hero or cartoon turtle.
Relate martial arts to their interests.
If it’s still not clicking, you could also try a personal approach. Think about your child’s interests and hobbies. Then think about the ways that martial arts training could apply to the things they’re already passionate about. If you have a mini scientist or mathlete on your hands, talk about the technical aspects of martial arts training, the theory behind training, and how techniques are carefully crafted and refined over the years. For budding historians, you can talk about the rich legacy behind different disciplines. For young artists, talk about how martial arts can also be a form of expression. Show them everything from martial arts-influenced stunt work to Wuxia performances and Karate Kata demonstrations to illustrate your point.
If you can make martial arts relevant to their interests, you might have a better shop at making martial arts part of those interests.
Try this at home.
If it’s the idea of a new environment and new people that’s making your kid hesitate about trying martial arts lessons, you could try eliminating those barriers by bringing beginner’s training techniques home.
Invest in some basic martial arts training gear like a set of mats. If your kid is more inclined toward striking-based arts, you could also consider a heavy bag or focus training equipment and a pair of boxing gloves. If they’re more intrigued by the grappling side, you could purchase or make a grappling dummy. Then you can put together some basic drills—nothing too fancy, let’s keep the more serious techniques for trained professionals—and work on them together from the comfort of your own home.
Even if your kid never reaches a point where they want to try martial arts training in a gym environment, you’ve still found a fun and enriching activity that you can do together!