Does karate promote violence? Will my teen learn self-defense skills? How likely is my teen to get injured while doing martial arts? These are only a few of the questions many parents have when they consider signing their teen up for karate lessons.
Karate, like other forms of martial arts, can be really good for teens. But there are several things you should consider before signing your teen up for classes.
Forms of Martial Arts
Before you sign your teen up for any type of class, make sure you and your teen have a basic understanding of that particular style of martial art. Find out what your teen hopes to gain and try to understand their expectations to find the best fit.
More than 6.5 million children in the United States participate in some type of martial art.
Here are the most popular martial arts:
- Karate – Karate is a stand-up martial art that involves punches, kicks, and open hands to block strikes.
- Tang Soo Do – this is the style taught at American Family Martial Arts. It is a Korean style of martial arts with a strong Japanese influence. LEARN MORE: What is Tang Soo Do?
- Tae kwon do – Tae kwon do involves 80 percent kicks and 20 percent hand techniques. Training involves blocks, punches, and open-hand strikes.
- Judo – Judo is about using an opponent’s energy against them. It involves takedowns to the ground and submission holds.
- Muay Thai Kickboxing – Muay Thai kickboxing involves kicking, sparring, and punching with boxing gloves. It’s performed with different levels of protective equipment.
- Kung fu – Kung fu is a stand-up martial art, known for its powerful blocks.
- Mixed Martial Arts – Mixed martial arts may involve a combination of boxing and wrestling with a variety of submission holds and takedowns.
- Aikido – Aikido teaches a non-aggressive form of self-defense. It involves joint locks, restraints, and throws, rather than kicks and punches. It is not a competitive sport.
- Jujitsu – Jujitsu allows smaller fighters to overcome larger opponents. It’s a grappling style martial art that incorporates karate, judo, and aikido.
Also make sure your teen knows that competition may or may not be part of the class. Teens who have seen someone perform Tae kwon do in a movie or who have watched a Mixed Martial Arts fight may expect to compete right away.
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How Martial Arts Benefits Teens
Whether you want your teen to gain some basic self-defense skills, or you’re hoping she’ll learn self-discipline, martial arts can be a great teaching tool.
Here are a few of the physical and mental health benefits of martial arts:
- Improved muscle strength
- Better balance
- Enhanced flexibility
- Higher self-esteem
RELATED ARTICLE: How Karate Builds Character in Young Adults
Martial arts may be a great physical outlet for a teen who isn’t interested in traditional sports, like baseball or soccer. Your teen won’t be cut from a team and martial arts don’t require any prior experience or specific skill set. At American Family Martial Arts, there are no bench warmers.
Your teen can set goals for herself, such as earning the next color belt or mastering a new move. Over time, she’ll learn to see how her effort can help her accomplish her goals. One of the things American Family Martial Arts karate program does is teach students to set small achievable goals.
The Most Common Injuries From Martial Arts
Like any other physical activity, martial arts pose some risk of injury. Here are some of the most common injuries your teen may experience while participating in martial arts:
- Fractures (from falling)
- Hyperextension of the joints
While less common, participation in martial arts may put your child at risk for more serious injuries, such as head or neck injuries. Many of these injuries can be prevented with appropriate precautions.
How to Reduce the Risk of Injury
- Talk to the instructor first. Call the school and speak to an instructor (American Family Martial ARts is 225.272.5425) and ask questions about training, experience, and philosophy before signing your teen up for classes.
- Take our 2 week trial program. A low cost trial program lets both teen and parent figure out is a school is a good fit for them. American Family Martial Arts offers several trial programs from 2 weeks to a punch card system.
- Start with lower contact forms of martial arts. Look for a martial arts class that supports age appropriate contact. At American Family Martial Arts, our classes are divided by ages. Students in the Extreme Rank (ages 10-14) or Traditional (ages 15+) are the only groups that practice sparring on a regular basis. Typically, children under age 10 are still developing motor skills and emotional control and are not ready for intense sparring.
- Talk to the instructor about safety equipment. American Family Martial Arts requires students in our Extreme & Traditional classes to purchase and wear approved sparring gear.
The Emphasis Should Be on the Art, Not on Violence
Many parents are hesitant to enroll a teen in a martial arts class due to fear that it will promote violence. It’s an important consideration. After all, you don’t want your teen practicing his roundhouse kicks and karate chops on his little brother.
You also don’t want your teen to become a bully merely because he knows some basic martial arts moves. And you certainly don’t want him starting fights just because he thinks he can win.
When taught appropriately, martial arts aren’t about promoting violence. Instead the practice of martial arts is about learning self-discipline and self-defense.
A true martial artist should want to avoid unnecessary conflict. But that’s not to say martial artists don’t ever fight—they reserve fights for causes they believe in.
Studies have found that, overall, teens who participate in martial arts don’t become any more aggressive than teens who are involved in team sports. They may (or may not) show more externalizing behavior—such as aggression, bullying and conduct issues—than teens involved in other individual sports, like swimming or golf.
Which is “The Best” Martial Arts
Some martial arts are better choices for teens than others. Some studies show significant differences between the types of martial arts and the amount of externalizing behavior. For example, teens taking karate or Tang Soo Do lessons are less likely to become aggressive when compared to teens taking judo. Not only is it important to take the kind of martial art into account, perhaps more important is the role played by the instructor, whose teaching interpretation can influence different styles within a single martial art, as noted in one review of the psychosocial effects of teens training in the martial arts.
The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages youth participation in mixed martial arts. The risk of injury is much higher in mixed martial arts than in other contact sports, including collegiate football. Teens who participate in mixed martial arts are at a high risk of concussion and asphyxia, due to chokeholds and hard blows to the head. Lacerations, upper limb injuries, and fractures are also common.
Professional mixed martial arts has become sensationalized in the media. Reality shows and movies about mixed martial artists may make it seem like fighting is easy. Such shows often glorify violent moves, like choking someone out or kicking an opponent in the head.
There isn’t one martial art that is the best or better than all the others. It comes down to individual choices. We at American Family Martial Arts encourage you to try our trial program and give us a test drive.
Encourage Your Teen to Participate Under the Right Conditions
Overall martial arts can be an overwhelmingly positive activity for teenagers. So if your teen is interested in signing up for karate class, it’s most likely something you should encourage. Just make sure you find a good class with an excellent instructor-like those at American Family Martial Arts.
If your teen has a history of physical aggression or he has a mental health condition, talk to a mental health professional before enrolling your teen in a class.
There is some evidence that martial arts can be good for kids with ADHD and other behavior disorders, but it’s important to discuss your child’s situation with a mental health professional.
One of the best things about karate lessons or Taekwondo class is that it is suitable for people of all ages. A martial arts dojang (training center) may offer classes the whole family can join.
RELATED ARTICLE: Your New Family Activity: Martial Arts
Of course not all teens want to take martial arts with their parents. But if you have a shy teen or one who is reluctant to get involved in physical activity, joining together may be a way to encourage participation in physical activity.
Based on an article by By Amy Morin, LCSW https://www.verywellfamily.com/risks-and-benefits-of-martial-arts-for-teens-4118105#citation-5