“At what age can a child start karate?” That is one of the most common questions I’m asked about karate. I am an instructor in our Little Dragons early childhood karate program. I’m asked that question by potential dojo parents as well as acquaintances making conversation. Acquaintances, especially those without kids, usually seem to think three years old is pretty young for a martial artist. Most experienced parents agree that three years old is a good minimum age. They realize that young karate kids have a lot to gain from formal training , and can be developmentally ready for it .
Then there are some parents who try to get their younger child into our program. They are very rare, but I’ve had parents inquire about our classes for children as young as 18 months old. I’m sure that toddler was as awesome as his mom said. But we do have three as a minimum age requirement because children’s brains and bodies need to have that amount of development and experience in the world to prepare them to be karate kids.
Two Additional Minimal Requirements for Karate Kids
We also have two additional requirements that indicate whether a child is ready to start karate. They must be potty trained. That’s not so they can keep their white uniform pristine. It is because they are demonstrating a certain level of self-control over their own bodies. If a person cannot control those basic bodily functions, that is a red flag to us that they may not be able to control their punches, kicks, etc. It would be irresponsible to teach techniques that can do harm, to someone who cannot control themselves at a basic level.
The other add-on requirement, which is also true for all of our students, is communication. Karate kids must be able to communicate with their karate instructor. This is for the safety of all involved in classes. All of our students, including our youngest, do some type of partner work. Communication, even if it’s nonverbal for deaf students, is part of keeping everyone safe.
With those basic requirements and a little bit of interest on the part of the student, young karate kids can learn success skills to prepare them for school and for life. In our classes, the youngest students learn to follow directions. They learn to focus and use self control. We reinforce treating others, and ourselves, with respect.
Karate Kids can Gain More
Young karate kids also improve their physical skills including balance, coordination and agility. In addition to all of the physical skills, students learn to defend themselves and eventually protect the lives of others. Our Little Dragons program is based on the traditional karate programs for our older students. The younger students build a good base to do all of the same things as they grow physically and in karate skill.
Karate is a great activity for children of all ages, and that includes three-, four- and five-year-olds. With caring, patient, experienced instructors, young students can build a strong base for their lives. That base will help them be strong, healthy and successful, and therefore happier in their lives.