Martial arts is an excellent way for your child to build up fitness, self-discipline and socialisation skills. A good age to start is by seven as your child should have more than enough muscle and motor skill control to handle all the necessary techniques that will be learnt.
Still not convinced that martial arts bears great benefits?
Here are six reasons to learn martial arts:
1. Builds him up
One of the core values inherent in all forms of martial arts is a focus on self-discipline. It is also a great way to boost your child’s self-confidence and self-esteem.
He will also learn the virtues of humility and be taught not to misuse or abuse his training.
Those “tough guy” characters belong in the movies, not in the real world, and every martial artist ultimately learns true humility and to respect his fellow humans, which stems from confidence in his ownabilities.
2. Great physical and social activity
With the alarming problem of childhood obesity, martial arts offers an alternative to be active in sporting activities and is an excellent way to get an extra dose of physical activity.
It also provides him with plenty of opportunities to socialise with other children of various ages.
It is known that executive functions such as self-control, working memory, cognitive flexibility, focused attention and creative problem-solving are better among those who are physically active.
3. Setting and achieving goals
Most martial arts measure the competence and capabilities of the practitioner based on a ranking system of coloured belts that signifies the wearer’s mastery level.
This allows your child to learn how to set and reach his goals as he works toward achieving each new ranking with a different colour belt. Upon achieving this, the child will have confidence and feel joy.
4. Learning to take instructions
Part of the challenge of mastering any martial art lies in being able to correctly grasp the technical skills that are being taught to him. This means that he will have to learn how to pay attention by listening to the instructor/coach.
5. It’s all about focus
Martial arts will help your child to sharpen up not just physically, but also, mentally.
During training sessions, he will learn to master his body by performing certain movements or routines, and this will teach him to maintain his focus as his body is being challenged.
As he progresses in this journey through his training, he will gradually attain a greater melding of mind and body. This is achieved via a finely-tuned awareness, which happens after countless hours of physical and mental training.
6. Learn to roll with it
Learning martial arts involves more than just learning how to hit things (or other people).
The other half of the equation involves taking blows, which can come in the form of actual hits during training (you can’t learn how to hit without learning how to block or defend).
This helps teach resilience, which is necessary for your child to learn how to get back on his feet.
Learning to roll with it early will also help him to respond better in martial arts and in life.
Martial arts in Malaysia
The next step would involve selecting a martial arts school for your child.
There are numerous options available with various martial arts from different parts of the world.
You may want to opt for a local flavour by searching for a local silat master for your child to learn from.
Alternatively, you may want him to learn karate or taekwondo instead.
Then there’s BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu), wushu, silambam, capoeira, aikido, judo, and even muay-thai.
These are the older and more established forms of martial arts; newer “versions” such as kickboxing and MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) also exist, but they tend to cater more to the physical aspects of martial arts, i.e. the actual fighting techniques themselves.
Do note that the availability of training centres for some martial arts may be difficult to find, such as Shaolin kungfu, so you may want to shortlist two or three diffe-rent martial arts, rather than selecting only one.
Once you and your child have decided which martial art to learn, it’s time to find out where to go for classes.
You can ask around your community, friends, family, or even his school (many schools will have a silat, karate or taekwondo club).
After you have found a place where he can learn martial arts, the next move is to sign him up for classes.
Some places may allow your child to try out one or two classes for free, but this is not a standard practice.
Upon signing up for classes, you will most likely be asked to drop off your child and not hang around during the class – this is the norm, so don’t worry about it. Your child needs to learn to mix around with fellow martial art friends and build-up self-confidence too.
When to start
While there is no “best time to start martial arts”, it is better to start your child at no younger than seven years old.
Some martial arts schools will accept younger children, but it will be entirely at their discretion.
The main point here is to get your child moving and focused. You can do your part by “interviewing” the instructor/coach when you approach him or her to ask for more information. A good instructor/coach will have a sense of purpose and be able to impart both the drive and discipline to his or her students.
Dr Mahenderan Appukutty is head lecturer at the Centre of Post Graduate Studies, Faculty of Sports Science & Recreation, Universiti Teknologi MARA), Shah Alam, Selangor. This article is courtesy of the Malaysian Paediatric Association’s Positive Parenting programme in collaboration with expert partners. For further information, visit www.mypositiveparenting.org. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.