Seeing your kids doing flying sidekicks, breaking boards or even sparring can strike fear into the heart of even the bravest parent — especially if you think your furniture might be up next in the board-breaking bonanza. But the discipline and focus required to advance in martial arts training can yield many benefits in everyday life, too. Although many of the benefits of martial arts for kids remain anecdotal, a few have been subjects of clinical analysis, while others can be generalized from the benefits of martial arts for adults.
There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence of the benefits children can get from studying martial arts: Discipline, respect and concentration, along with better strength, endurance and balance, just to start. But science is beginning to document these benefits and more, including improved resiliency and reduced symptoms of autism.
Martial Arts Promote Resilience
Consider the iconic scene in the 1984 movie “The Karate Kid,” in which the heroic young martial arts student Daniel LaRusso finished his championship fight in a martial arts tournament despite having an injured leg. Although it’s a dramatic Hollywood scene, the resilience depicted can be a very real benefit for children practicing martial arts.
This is borne out by a study published in a January 2019 issue of the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, which explored how a 10-week martial arts program might help children who were subject to bullying.
Researchers found that the martial arts intervention had a significant effect on the study subjects’ overall resilience and on their academic, social and emotional self-efficacy — improving their ability to cope with the effects of bullying. And though the goal is to avoid situations where a child needs to use self-defense tactics, taking a martial art gives your children the tools to defend themselves — or others — if necessary.
A Source of Superpowers?
OK, maybe martial arts won’t really give your kids superpowers. But they might feel that way as they learn the skills to emulate some of the moves they see their favorite action heroes using in movies or video games. Perhaps more important to you as a parent, your kids will also be building strength, endurance and balance through their martial arts training — maybe even without realizing it.
Although they haven’t been scientifically verified, many martial arts teachers, students and students’ parents can verify anecdotal evidence that the discipline, focus and respectful behavior cultivated by a diligent martial arts practice transfer well to other areas of life, too — which is pretty powerful itself.