Martial arts is not for kiddos, I am not a big believer in teaching kids martial arts.
Being in Aikido for such a long time, I do get friends with kids asking me if this and his art is suitable for his/her children. If Aikido is recommended. To which I only ask one question.
“Does your daughter/son wants it?”
More often than not, the parents don’t know if their kids wants to do martial arts or not. They as parents observed that their kids are kind of active, so it might be a good outlet for them to learn a punch, roll, or two, and learning martial arts is good for ‘self defence’. Learning martial arts is always a ‘good thing’.
So unless your children specifically wants to take martial arts, and shows, at a very young age, some talent and affinity for martial arts, don’t waste time and money on a martial arts school, just because your children is active. Well most kids are active, and there are other activities for active kids to participate in instead of marital arts. The motivation must come from the child to learn a martial arts, and not driven (pun intended) by the parents to go to a martial arts school.
Outcome driven approach
Martial arts is a learning journey, and there is very little reward getting into one. It is not like you will get a certificate at the end of it and ‘graduate’. Martial arts is a serious journey that needs a lot of commitment and time. If you are not sure your children is able to walk this journey that will last their life time, don’t commit wasted time. Martial arts for kids is not a very rewarding journey, there is no definite outcome. Even as an adult, it is difficult for me sometimes to understand this journey I am in, since there is little outcome to say that you have ‘learned’ something in martial arts, which is sufficient to satisfy an outcome driven style of parenting. In short, you give a lot to martial arts, and often you don’t get a lot back.
The Karate Kid hype
More often than not, martial arts is about doing the same thing over and over again, and it will be boring for kids, some kids are not up to it, as it is not novelty. Martial arts is not a cool thing to do, and parents should not be watching too much Karate Kid thinking that their kids can be one. Those who romanticizes The Karate Kid movie, they need to watch the first part where the protagonist got beaten up. Get your kids beaten up first, then you’ll see if there is any ounce of martial artist in the child.
And, no, learning martial arts does not prevent your child from being bullied. Sorry to break that piece of news. There are so many kids who learned martial arts, and still gets bullied. Learning martial arts does not automatically instills that kind of confidence in children, it is a sales pitch. Confidence comes from overcoming a difficult situation, despite of being afraid. You do not need to go to a martial arts school to learn grit, confidence.
Kids do not understand martial arts
Are children able to learn the philosophy behind martial arts? Will they understand Aiki(合気)? Can they understand what is Bunkai (分解)? What is the spirit of Kumite(組手)? What is Budo(武道)?
They also do not understand that in martial arts, you are expected to get hurt, being hurt and getting injured is part of the hard gritty journey of being a martial artist. If parents send their kids to martial arts school, not expecting them to get hurt, well, then they better find a more staid activity.
In Singapore, the martial arts culture is well, not so ‘martial’. We do not have a strong martial arts identity, and many of us, takes it like it is a part-time, interest group level commitment. That said, not many teachers out there, teaches martial arts for the spirit of the martial arts. While this comments might seem scathing, we need to search deep in our psyche, if we are really attempt to embody martial arts as a way of life, a way of living.
While I have 2 kids, I don’t teach them ‘martial arts’ I teach them fighting, and they need to learn the basic punches, kicks, and take downs, of course the tactical reality of being beaten up, and the ability to beat back. If there is any ‘Budo’ (武道) it will be in the spirit I want them to embody, if they ever gets into a fight, never back down, and be the last person standing, we will talk more about that later.
Martial arts for kids= child-care centre
The true reality is, martial arts for kids in Singapore, is more like another avenue for parents to throw money into kids’ ‘enrichment’ courses, and of course help them get away from their children. It is a perfect excuse/ reasons for parents to bring their children to a martial arts class, for an hour or two, while the parents themselves trot off to have some ‘me’ time. At the end of the day, the children do not learn much martial arts, because they are simply just wearing a gi, prancing and jumping around, with no clue as to why they are doing what they are doing.
Too serious about it
Well, pardon me if this seem too serious; as martial arts is a serious matter to me. I don’t harbour hopes that my children will be able to pick up martial arts like I did, just simply sending them to an Aikido school, or me teaching them Aikido. If they are keen, I will always be there for them to show them the way, if they are not, it is like bringing the proverbial horse to the water, and you know the rest.