Many parents do not allow their children to learn martial arts because they are concerned about their relationship with violence. Some want their children to become athletes and competitors, while others want them to develop discipline and values. But is martial arts training right for kids? What are the differences in training between an adult and a child? And what benefits can learning bring to children?
Below we will offer our perspective on these aspects, first, clarifying the relationship between martial arts and violence; second, briefly exposing the differences that exist in the learning and training of a kid and an adult and, finally, exposing what we consider to be the most important benefits that martial arts bring to the child.
Martial Arts and Violence
First, are martial arts violent?
Martial arts are related to violence, but they are not in themselves violent. In its origins, all the traditional styles that exist today were designed to optimize combat effectiveness, whether armed or empty-handed. However, today the meaning of martial arts has changed, as the methods of waging war have changed. At present, the main means of warfare is firearms.
Martial arts teach us to deal with violence (with a certain type of violence, since no martial art deals with all types of violence). To do this, we martial artists spend years refining our technique. This means that years pass from the moment someone comes to the martial art to the moment they are prepared to use it effectively, if this moment ever comes. Therefore, someone with an inclination to violence who seeks to cause harm does not resort to a martial art, but to other more immediate means of achieving it, such as having access to a weapon.
Now, can a child develop violent inclinations through martial arts? Of course he/she can, if he is encouraged to do so. As he can also develop them outside of martial arts, if he is also encouraged to do so. Therefore, it is important to find a qualified instructor with good character, who knows what he wants to convey and is able to cut off any violent attitude, encouraging the development of qualities and attitudes contrary to violence. However, most traditional and modern martial arts instructors are calm people and do not allow their schools to become chicken coops.
Even in the most advanced stages of martial learning, which no longer occur in childhood, in which a student tests his skills in front of another student, this must be done in a controlled and safe environment, under strict supervision and always under the mutual acceptance of a series of rules and from a sporting attitude and a friendly predisposition. And of course this must be born of a choice of the student himself and not of an imposition on him.
Differences in training and limitations of the child
Generally, the training methods of traditional martial arts are based on the repetition of techniques over and over again, either in isolation or in more or less long sequences. If this can already be tedious for many adults; how much more for a minor.
Children learn through play, and it is in this environment where they have the opportunity to develop their maximum abilities (even adults also learn a lot through play). Therefore, the training of a kid has to combine discipline and play in a balanced way, and will not be so much focused on technical improvement and application but on the development of certain skills.
This is so, in addition, because although children have a great capacity for learning, they will generally not be able to reach the depth of understanding of an adult. Although the child can perfectly execute the movements of a particular martial art, it is difficult for him to develop a proper and deep understanding of the martial art, since for this maturity and a lot of thought are needed.
That is why Kung Fu training for children is usually based more on the development of motor skills and coordination and on the formation of the body structure necessary for subsequent learning. This is useful for future learning, not only of the martial art but of any other sport or activity that requires coordination and dexterity.
The training also helps the child to develop healthy lifestyle habits, preventing harmful behaviors such as drug use and introducing them to a physically and mentally healthy lifestyle.
It is also worth noting the relationship between posture and mind. A collapsing posture is usually a sign of a defeatist attitude and a reserved, shy and introverted personality. While an upright position denotes self-confidence and security. We believe that training contributes to the formation of the child's body and in this way can influence the formation of mentally healthy attitudes.
Attitudes and values
Undoubtedly, one of the most remarkable benefits of martial arts training is the development of positive attitudes and values, both towards oneself and towards others. Among those focused on oneself, the most important are patience, discipline, delayed gratification, achievement appraisal (vs. prize appraisal), confidence and self-esteem.
As for attitudes towards others, respect, humility and generosity should be highlighted. All these attitudes will facilitate social interaction and the performance of the child in the future in all areas.
However, the process is slow and progressive, and we must be clear that martial arts training is not a magical panacea that produces immediate results. You have to have the necessary perseverance and we believe that it is key that the child enjoys the process.
We also believe that the desire to practice must be born of the child himself and must not be imposed by his parents, since an imposition of this type generates rejection and even aversion to the practice. After all, it is part of the child's free time and the child must be able to at least participate in the decision of how to use it.
We have seen, then, that although martial arts teach us to deal with violence, their training is not violent at all. What's more, over the years of practice, one tempers one's character and we generally become kinder and more peaceful people.
We have also exposed some differences between the learning of an adult and a child, including some limitations of the latter. However, we believe that these limitations are more than compensated by the benefits that learning brings to the child, highlighting the development of motor skills, healthy habits and positive values and attitudes towards oneself and towards others.