Family Fun: Martial arts are a great learning tool for kids

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Lukas Saklofske, 12, has been practising karate at Young's Uechi Ryu Karate and Fitness for eight years. He highly recommends other kids try it out, too! - Submitted

“Martial arts is not self defence,” says dad Jon Saklofske of Kentville. “It is an art, and is not about punching, kicking, hurting an opponent or winning a fight. It is about learning unique cultural traditions and becoming self-aware of your body.”

Saklofske’s son, Lukas, has studied karate for the past eight years. Saklofske, who originally enrolled Lukas at age five, felt it would be good for Lukas' focus, discipline and motor skill development. Lukas’ grandfather was a black belt in karate, so it was a bit of a family tradition.

Angel Kozlowski has studied taekwondo for 25 years and now runs Victory Taekwondo with her sister. She believes children should learn martial arts because it teaches them self-confidence, self-control, respect, how to be part of a team and how to problem solve.

“Most importantly,” she says, “it keeps kids physically active and they learn how to do something most think they can’t.” 

Martial arts is also a great way for kids to release some of their energy, she said. What kids learn from martial arts carries over into all aspects of their lives.

Patty Young from Young's Uechi Ryu Karate and Fitness says that through martial arts, children learn to understand what it's like to be rewarded with no actual material gains - just the feeling of accomplishing something through hard work and dedication.

“I have found,” says Young, “that kids who do not fit into organized sports or team sports thrive when they take a martial art because no one is depending on them to perform at a certain level to win the game. It is a very personal journey that you can regulate on your own terms.”

There are many different styles of martial arts. So how do you know which one to pick for your child? As mom Cheryl Bullock of Windsor says, the style of martial arts you choose often comes from the available options. There might be a class that fits better with your family’s schedules.

Bullock also recommends taking advantage of free classes any reputable gym or martial arts school offers. This way, you can see if it's a good fit and if your child knows anyone else there.

“It also gives you, as a parent, the perfect opportunity to see how the class is led and how the other participants and parents feel about it,” she says.  

Young encourages parents to take time and research martial arts schools and their teachers.

“Martial arts teachers should have some kind of lineage to their style that they are teaching,” she explains. 

Go watch classes, ask other parents what they think, she recommends. 

“No martial art is better than the other,” said Young. “It’s the student who makes the martial art good through having good teachers and training regularly.”

Children as young as four can enrol in martial arts. But be sure to check the age requirements of each school. Many schools will also let students sign up throughout the year if there is space in the class.

“There is a basic misconception about martial arts,” says Bullock. “If you're in it you fight, or you could hurt someone.”

In the children's divisions, it is more about respecting others and defending yourself, if necessary. Having said that, however, martial arts is a contact activity where kids will get a few bruises. 

It can help on the playground as well.

“Because it builds confidence and self-esteem, there would be less bullying,” says Young. “Children who bully have low self esteem; a martial art would help the bully and help the bullied.” And that’s good for everyone! 

A list of Valley martial arts schools can be found on the Valley Family Fun website.

Laura Churchill Duke (www.valleyfamilyfun.ca), based on recommendations from friends, enrolled both her sons in karate. There is a remarkable difference in their focus, listening skills and self-awareness. 

Organizations: Valley Family Fun

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  • Fred Williams
    May 08, 2014 - 09:40

    It is important to stress the spiritual aspect of martial arts. The child, (or person), who is trained in this aspect, will be more confident and less likely to start fights or bully others. Focusing on the "Chi" or "Ki" and our connectedness to all that lives, helps centre you, or as they used to say, "keeps your head screwed on right." Most of us will never get into a real fight or have any use for such techniques, but the spiritual value of learning at a good school from a true master is very real and can make a good contribution to the quality of a person's life. Meditation is also essential.