The popularity of martial arts in mainstream entertainment has led to an explosion of martial arts schools. There are so many different styles of martial arts and various teaching methods that it's difficult to choose the right type of school for your child.
As in all things, you need to know what you want in order to receive it. While martial arts training may encompass many kinds of skills, it is in essence about fighting and self defense. If your child wants to learn how to do back flips and other acrobatic maneuvers, gymnastics may be a better fit.
Graceful movement and flexibility is taught with greater emphasis in dance classes, while mental discipline and meditation is better taught by yoga instructors.
However, if your primary motivation is to have your child learn self-defense, then martial arts training is the right choice.
What are some of the types of martial arts that are appropriate for children?
This is a popular Korean martial art that emphasizes kicking, and has a wide variety of spinning and jumping kicks in its repertoire. Because of the large number of immigrants from South Korea in the U.S., most major cities and suburbs have a preponderance of taekwando schools, even if some have the word "karate," which is a Japanese martial art, emblazoned on the front of their school.
Before kung fu movies of the 1970's brought martial arts to the mainstream public, karate was the most familiar martial arts term to the average American. If you want your child to learn karate, be sure that the school that you choose actually teaches it.
This is a general term for many sub-styles of Japanese martial arts. Karate training place emphasis on hand strikes but includes a wide arsenal of kicks and throws in its instruction.
This is also an all-encompassing term for various Chinese martial arts styles. Northern Chinese styles, such as Tien Shan Pai, emphasize the flowing circular movements and mobile stances seen in older martial arts films, while southern styles, such as Choy Li Fut, prefer wider stances and strong hand strikes.
Judo and Aikido
These Japanese styles use techniques such as throws and joint locks to immobilize opponents. Judo, like taekwando, is an Olympic sport, and is more popular as a competitive sport, while aikido is a purely defensive martial art which attempts to stop atackers while causing them as little harm as possible.
Teaching styles of martial arts schools in the United States
While some schools have a strict no-nonsense traditional teaching style, some schools have embraced American culture and are more laid back and emphasize training over military style discipline.
The age of your child is important in choosing a martial arts school. Younger children will be taught with greater emphasis on discipline and the proper use of martial arts training. Older children will actually engage in sparring (mock fighting) and competitions.
Most schools will allow you to observe classes to see if their school is a good fit for your child. Many offer special rates for introductory classes before requiring a commitment.
The most important aspect to remember about enrolling your child in martial arts training is that your child is being taught to fight and will occasionally be hit or kicked hard enough to come home with a black eye or other injury if they pursue training to a certain level. Martial arts are based on military training, so don't let the word "arts" convince you otherwise.
That being said, martial arts training can be both fun and useful, and just the temptation to pry your child away from video games and cell phones. For more information, visit http://www.aikidonorthshore.com or a similar website.