People often ask if their child is ready for karate. My husband and I have been heading up East Valley Martial Arts for nearly 20 years. We teach traditional life protection arts with moves that work. We help community members learn to protect themselves and others. Thus, the techniques can, and will, hurt people. So we have the moral obligation to make sure we are teaching students who have the ability to control themselves. And also the ability to weigh their decisions. We think it very wise to first consider whether your child is ready, before enrolling them in karate. And we are happy to be a part of the decision.
I have talked to prospective karate parents with children as young as 18 months who they considered for martial arts classes. Other schools may more freely teach toddlers and those with physical self-control issues. They may be more sport-oriented and teach techniques that are less likely to cause harm to both attacker and defender.
We have some basic criteria for considering whether it’s a good idea for any student to train in traditional life protection arts. We base these two requirements on both practicality and decades of experience. A student needs to demonstrate in daily life that they are able to physically control their own body. One way to show that is being potty trained. The other requirement is that the student needs to be able to communicate with the instructor. Mainly they just need to be able to answer the instructor to indicate yes, or no, clearly.
The communication requirement is for safety. In the case of a deaf student, they may answer non-verbally. But much of karate can be communicated with body language. The ability to communicate with karate instructors is an indicator that your child is ready for karate.
THE YOUNGEST AGE WE RECOMMEND TRYING KARATE
If your young child is at least three years old, potty trained, and able to communicate with an instructor, we recommend giving it a try! We have seen many three-year-olds have great success in karate. Some have trained for the long term which set them up for great success in life. Three-years-old is developmentally a good minimum age for karate. At three, most children have the physical and social skills to learn the moves in a group setting.
Some preschool-aged kids may act shy or be very hesitant to join their first class. If this is the case with your child, we recommend that you bring them to meet the instructors and possibly watch a class first. They may even need more that a couple meetings to observe classes until they feel more comfortable with the instructors and dojo surroundings. An indicator that your child is ready for karate includes their willingness to participate.
OTHER CONSIDERATIONS: IS YOUR FAMILY READY?
We recommend attending two karate classes per week consistently to keep your child moving forward and for retention of the material. This sets them up for the greatest success. It not only helps them at the dojo, it also helps them to pick up good karate habits which will help them in other areas of life. Will you and your family be able to support your child’s training by providing transportation to classes every week? (One benefit to our program is that you can come and train at the same time as your child.)
It’s also important for your family to budget for the monetary investment. Valuable things, like karate lessons, have a financial value attached. It’s important to know what your family’s martial arts investment will be. A karate student’s costs may include: tuition, gear (uniform, sparring gear, possibly other gear), and testing fees. Some schools may also require tournaments (which almost always cost to enter) and possibly private lessons.
For minor-aged students it’s important that the family is ready for karate as well as the child is ready for karate.
ONCE MY CHILD’S READY FOR KARATE, HOW CAN I HELP?
Young children do best when parents watch class regularly and reinforce the values taught. You can watch class quietly on the sidelines, or you can be an active participant to know what lessons are taught. You can also encourage your children to do their best and practice at home. Helping them get ready and get to class on time is great too.
If you think your child is ready for karate, it’s time to find a good local dojo! When ready, the sooner they start, the sooner your child can reap the benefits of martial arts. Look for a karate program where you and your child both feel comfortable and the instructors are trained, experienced, caring professionals. And always trust your gut instinct. Karate programs are as diverse as the people in them.