Children and Karate
Some martial arts clubs take children from a very early age, even pre-school age. Sandokai Karate does not generally take children as students until they have reached the age of eight.
Though, in principle, we believe that Karate is for all ages, almost without exception every Psychological theory of child development agrees that it is about the age of eight that a child can think in the abstract. What this means is that they can understand the ramifications of their actions; in other words, they know that Karate is more than a game!
Karate techniques, practiced properly, can be extremely damaging to another person. A good Karate student knows that it is timing, skill and accuracy that causes maximum damage and not brute force. Even a six year old can hurt another person, be they adult or child, with the right technique. We don't want one of our students "playing" Karate in the school playground and breaking the jaw of another child with a well delivered kick!
Also, children learn at a slower pace and in a different way to adults. Not many young children take to the Karate regimen immediately and get frustrated when older students progress at a faster rate.
Having said that, we have had six and seven year old students who have been very advanced for their age, but they are the exception rather than the rule. If your child is under eight and you think that Karate is for them have a word with your local instructor.
When a parent is considering enrolling their child or children into a Karate class, they have to consider both their motivation and the motivations of their child. In order for a child to learn to love and stick with Karate training over a long period of time, they have to share common goals with their parents, and most of all, the parents and child all have to enjoy it.
If a parent's goals aren't being met, then they may feel they aren't getting their money's worth. If a child's goals are not being met, then they will feel like they are being forced to train, and will never give 100%. Consider why you want your child to train, and have a talk with your child about whether they really are interested in classes, and what they hope to learn or do in class.
The following are some of the most common reasons given for joining a Karate class.
Just like adults, one of the most common reasons for enrolling a child into a martial arts class is fitness. The fitness needs of a child are different from the fitness needs of an adult though, so they should train differently.
For example, a child's bones are soft and pliable and excessive stretching exercises can cause the bones to deform before they have had time to ossify (harden) at about the age of 18.
Another popular reason for enrolling children in the martial arts is to develop "life skills". These skills include discipline, self control, patience, confidence, courage, etc.
Ideally karate classes reinforce what is already being taught at home. Karate classes can be a valuable tool for helping to drive home the points you make at home in a very real way.
One method humans use to learn is by observing others' behaviour, and placing your child in an environment of calm, discipline, respect, and (self) control promotes important life skills.
Self defence is the most obvious reason that should come to mind when considering enrolling a child in the martial arts. The focus of a good children's martial arts class, while still teaching self defence movements, should be on conflict resolution, personal responsibility and avoidance of potentially threatening situations.
In that respect, attending a karate class would benefit both the bully by teaching him/her to respect others as well as their own power, and the bullied, by teaching how to avoid/calm a situation or defend oneself if there is no other option.
Many parents turn to the martial arts when their children are acting out in school and at home. This is tied in to the life skills reason, but is very specific in what the desired outcome is. These parents are looking for help improving attention span, respect, demeanour and self control.
The structure of Karate classes can greatly aid in these areas, however results will really vary and depend on the relationship that is built between the child and the instructor. If the instructor has a good method of communicating with the child, is firm but friendly, and most importantly, is very consistent, then the child can really get a lot of out Karate training.
However, Karate classes aren't a "cure" for behaviour issues. The lessons they are presented with in the Karate class should also be the lessons they are taught at home. Karate is an adjunct to good parenting and not a replacement.
Safe, after-school activity
Many parents are just seeking a safe, wholesome, useful activity for their child to occupy some of their free time. These parents don't want their child to sit at home all evening, or want them to get involved in something that makes them set and follow through on goals. Karate training will certainly help in that respect.
A karate club can become a second home for many children. The relationships built between classmates and with an instructor can last a lifetime and have a huge positive impact on a child's life.
As well as the positive physical and mental aspects to Karate classes, it is important that you have fun whilst training (both adults and children!). Karate is an enjoyable activity that gets children away from the television, game consol and street corners and doing something constructive whilst still having fun! If nothing else, if you enjoy going to a Karate class you will want to go again, and again ...
Five year old black belts may look cute in the local newspaper, but can a five year really understand what it means to be a black belt as opposed to wearing a black belt?
Our philosophy with children is that they should enjoy their karate, grow as an individual and develop valuable life skills. We don't encourage children to take grading examinations at every opportunity. We nurture them at their own rate and only put them in for a belt examination when they are ready to pass.
In the belt examinations children have exactly the same requirements as an adult. We don't have "tabs", "junior" belts or "cut down" versions of the exam. Someone who holds a Green Belt in Sandokai has fulfilled the same requirements as every other Sandokai Green Belt - irrespective of age, or gender.
As a rule of thumb, young children will take about two belt examinations per year.
Whatever reasons you have for considering a Karate class, be sure to discuss your goals with your child, and come to an understanding that will make both of you happy. A one-sided arrangement in something with an investment of time, energy and money really will not work out to anyone's benefit.