Martial arts are more popular today than ever before. Gyms and Dojos of every shape, size and brand seem to pop up almost everywhere. We all want our children to be safe and able to get themselves out of trouble in an increasingly dangerous world.
With the proliferation of options available to parents, it’s a challenge to know which option will be the most effective in giving your kids the right skills, in the unfortunate case that they are ever needed. I thought it might be useful to provide an overview of some of the more popular forms of martial arts for kids:
1. Krav Maga
The revolutionary real-life discipline used by the Israeli Military is as tough as it comes. A friend of mine from Australia sends her 8-year old son to a gym that has developed a specialised children’s program for Krav Maga in Melbourne and swears by it.
Krav Maga also teaches how to disarm a weapon-carrying attacker, spatial awareness, threat detection, ways to draw attention to or escape the situation so that hopefully your child will be able to avoid a physical confrontation from the outset.
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2. Kyokushin Karate
Founded by the late Masutatsu Oyama, Kyokushin (Japanese for “Ultimate Truth”) may well be the toughest form of karate there is. That’s great if you want to make sure that your kids have real skills. However, beware: Kyokushin is full contact definitely not for the faint-hearted. If you don’t mind your kid coming home with the odd bruise and scrape, it is worth researching.
This trendy Brazilian “martial art” has grown immensely in popularity in recent years. With its spectacular choreographed flips and acrobatics, integration of music and song and captivating rhythms it certainly makes an impressive sight.
If you want your children to learn new dance moves, sample Brazilian culture and get fit, Capoeira is wonderful. Unfortunately, if you want them to be able to defend themselves from assailants, Capoeira is almost entirely useless. You wouldn’t send your kids to Latin dance classes to learn self-defence. Nor should you send them to Capoeira.
The national sport of Korea has also found wide acceptance internationally and has been an Olympic sport since 2000. With its focus on high-kicking techniques, it is certainly a powerful skill to master. However, as a practical self-defence technique for real-world situations, its usefulness is probably somewhat limited.
5. Muay Thai
Muay Thai burst into the public consciousness in the 20th Century, when exponents defeated numerous fighters from other martial arts. The balance of striking techniques utilizing elbows and knees, as well as punches and kicks, makes the “art of eight limbs” a formidable proposition.
Muay Thai is physically very demanding, and parents should be extremely cautious that over-eager students not misuse the skills that they learn as they are capable of inflicting serious damage if employed as an offensive rather than a defensive weapon.
Also See: 5 Benefits of Muay Thai Boxing for Women
These related, but distinct grappling techniques are popular with parents as they emphasize throws and locks to incapacitate an attacker, rather than striking to inflict pain.
The differences between these techniques are too complex to fully describe here. However, in short, you could say that Judo is more a sport, with a focus on competition, while Aikido and Jujitsu are more combat focused. Jujitsu strikes more of a balance between aggressive and defensive techniques, while Aikido is more heavily defensive in nature.
I hope this helps clarify the area for you somewhat. Of course, there are other styles that we have not covered, so we’d love to hear your feedback on these or any other arts you have tried.