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Beginning Martial Arts for Kids

Anyone have kids in martial arts?

11 year old daughter has expressed interest in taking up martial arts for self-defense and learning how to fight.

She’s mentioned Taekwondo specifically but doesn’t really know the difference the different styles (and I don’t either beyond some Internet searching).

From experience, can y’all tell me what might be some considerations putting a kid specifically a n 11 yo girl in any one style vs the other?

thx

You might get some more response if you posted this in the Combat sub-forum (if you haven’t already).

That said, IMO, self defence and learning how to fight are to very different goals. Fighting is about voluntarily engaging with and beating another person while self defence/protection is about keeping yourself safe. This is primarily accomplished primarily through situational awareness and risk avoidance/deterrence strategies and to a lesser extent the application of extremely simple and vicious physical tactics which render the threat momentarily either unwilling or unable to continue the attack allowing you to get the hell out of dodge.

IMO, most Traditional Martial Art schools/styles do a pretty poor job of this. However, many do a great job at other valuable things like instilling confidence, self-discipline and respect as well as affording great opportunities for sporting competition. So much of it is going to depend more on the individual coach/teacher/school than on the style itself. Taekwondo, for instance, is a blast and a great workout but in and of itself a piss poor system for self defence/personal protection as it really is adapted purely for sport/exhibition.

IMO any classic striking martial is going to be an ineffective personal protection system on its own for an 11 y/o girl given the fact that it is unlikely that she is going to be able to generate enough force to really hurt her likely assailant (i.e an adult male) unless she lands something really clean to a very vulnerable area. On the other hand ripping, biting, gouging, real and improvised weapons etc. will probably get her further than punching and kicking. Ideally she will learn to a.) see the creepy guy before he becomes a problem and b.) not carry herself like prey and she’ll never need any of it. Anyone teaching “self-defence” must genuinely emphasize these elements or they are a fraud IMO.

From a personal protection/safety perspective I think “Reality Based Martial Arts” are generally your best bet. Unfortunately, these are relatively new and extremely in vogue right now and as such vary widely in quality of instruction as everyone rushes to cash in on the latest craze. Many of these schools are absolute crap. As with TMA schools it depends almost entirely on the instructor. Do some research. Ask around locally. Meet with some instructors. Keep you Bullshit Detector on high alert. Depending on your attitude toward local law enforcement, they may or may not be a good resource as to who’s who in your area.

Hahaha… This got moved while I was typing.

I’d recommend boxing, but for some reason people look down on it. I suppose extremely efficient fighting techniques isn’t flashy enough for their taste?

So I’d say judo instead. It has mystique, cause it’s Japanese, and it’s not idolized as absurdly as BJJ is and more practical in actual self-defense. It teaches you a single fundamental technique that everyone should know (how to take a fall without breaking every bone in your body). And, most importantly, it teaches you how to read body movements and react accordingly. With just a year of training, anyone can possibly ruin their assailant’s life with a very simple throw that requires no strength whatsoever!

Not to mention, only in judo can a 5ft 100lb girl effortlessly throw a 200lb man =P (

Pretty much agree with everything batman said with one caveat, while I agree with the clarification between self defense and mutually agreed upon combat, if your daughter is really serious about being able to defend herself physically (and yes, what batman said about trying to prevent the need to do so through cerebral, verbal and postural means is true), then she is actually going to need to engage in some mutual combat (in the dojo/training hall/gym).

Reality Martial Arts systems are indeed going to be your daughter’s best bet, but like batman said, they are not all created equal. If you wanted to you could post links to the places in your area and those of us who are experienced with this type of stuff (well, i will at least) will look at them for you and point you in the right direction.

I don’t have any kids, but I remember being a kid and getting into martial arts for the first time. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s the most fun when you have teachers and training partners who you can get along with. It shouldn’t be a negative, stress-inducing experience.

Martial arts are just like any other discipline; you get out of it what you put in. There are virtues to all types of martial arts training. The “style” doesn’t really make that big of a difference.

That being said… The legend of Wing Chun is that it is named after the first practitioner, a woman who learned it from the nun, Ng Mui, who was one of the “Five Masters” who were refugees from the sacking and destruction of the Shaolin temple.

[quote]SteelyD wrote:
Anyone have kids in martial arts?

11 year old daughter has expressed interest in taking up martial arts for self-defense and learning how to fight.

She’s mentioned Taekwondo specifically but doesn’t really know the difference the different styles (and I don’t either beyond some Internet searching).

From experience, can y’all tell me what might be some considerations putting a kid specifically a n 11 yo girl in any one style vs the other?

thx[/quote]

I have no children.

I have however taught children martial arts, so I take a stab at this.

First, batman and Sento have done a pretty good job of fleshing out the whole self defense vs fighting thing. Considering your daughters age I think a grappling art, BJJ or Judo, could pay real dividends. They tend to be more physical than the “average” gi wearing/belt ranked systems also marketed for children.

Additionally, while a “sport” oriented grappling class is not the be all/end all for the type of training batman and Sento do, a good grappler will have a leg up if they ever do decide to go the RMA route. As far as “fighting” and kids go holding someone down, and maybe hitting them, or not being held down and hit tend to define a lot of the “fights” that kids get into (at least that I have seen). BJJ or Judo have plenty of application there.

Having said all that for many of us the “best” is more a choice based on geography than theoretical options. I don’t know what is available to your daughter where you live. If she has her heart set on taekwondo, than that may well be the best choice.

What follows is a way to conduct a quick and dirty screen of a martial arts class for kids.

  1. First, try to watch two classes. Watch the class your daughter would be taking, and try to catch either an advanced class(if applicable) or even better, and adult class. What you want to look for is similarities in the skills/movements being taught. Children and adults learn differently, but if they are both learning/getting rank in Tae-Kwon-Leap than they should both have skills in such. If you are watching an advanced class, than can you make out any similarities/commonalities with what was taught in the beginer’s/kid’s class? If you can’t that may be a flag. If what is practiced in the youth class isn’t at least a foot in the door to the “real” deal, than what the hell is it?

  2. In your daughter’s prospective class, there are going to be 1 or 2 really, REALLY impressive kids. That is normal. The top 10 percent pick up on things quick. They are the naturals. Ignore them. Their abilities may have little to do with the class. There will also be 1-2 kids who are basically soup sandwiches. They are the other end of the spectrum. Recognize that in an open enrollment class the instructor can’t cut the completely un-athletic, unlike a sports team. The sensei has to find a way to get these students to improve as well.

  3. Look at the “distribution” of skills in the class. Does it follow the rank system? In general, the belts go from lighter/colorful being novice to darker colors being more advanced. Higher rank should equate to higher skills, and likely a more serious attitude about training. If the apparent abilities seem random and not associated with rank, then we need to ask ourselves what the fuck does the rank signify? Again, the top 5 percent kids may be phoning it in and getting away with it, so look at the rest. On the other hand, if one of the “soup sandwiches” is doing there damndest to learn, then it might be a good sign if they look to have advanced in rank a bit.

My personal position is that children should be congratulated/rewarded for their accomplishments. The practice of martial arts is about continual self improvement. This requires an honest and unflinching appraisal of your own faults and weaknesses as well as a willingness to change. If the school is operating under an “everyone gets a trophy” or a “just show up” style of ranking than they are making that process harder/impossible.

I hope at least part of that is helpful. I haven’t had any coffee yet, so I really shouldn’t be allowed to write/talk/make decisions.

Regards,

Robert A

NOTE: Tae-Kwon-Leap was not a pejorative to TKD. It was a refference to this skit. Which is awesome.

And for batman and Sento, here is some REAL, reality martial arts(I need coffee. You were warned.)

I have two small kids in Taekondo. I can honestly tell you the best martial art is the one that is available. I know other folks are recommending MMA training but depending on where you are from for every reputable gym there is 10 shade tree own some videos and think you are an MMA trainer types.
TKD has been a very good experiance or my kids.

It has taught them awareness, self disipline, and against your average Joe they could hold their own or better. For an 11 year old girl especially I would highly recommend TKD. The advancement through the first couple belts is fairly fast so there is some early accomplishments for a young kid. Also you will find most TKD gyms have been around for 20-30 years so you can check up on who you putting your kid in contact with.

Will TKD make her an all around MMA fighter no probably not. Will it make her more aware, able to defend herself, more coordinated, more disiplined, and have more self respect hell yes.

Good points by Robert as always.

Another relevant couple things to notice are:

  1. How long does it take for the average student to reach black belt? TKD is unfortunately notorious for basically rushing students through the ranks. Good business model for making lots of money, but poor model for producing quality black belts. IMO, if it takes anyone (even the most athletically gifted) anything less than 6 years (assuming that they weren’t already at black belt level in other relevant systems) to teach black belt, then that should be a red flag. And that is for adults, children should in all likelihood take longer to get there.

  2. How old do students have to be to test for black belt? If it’s less than 18 (some schools offer a “junior black belt” rank to those deserving who are under age, which I am fine with, just as long as there is a distinction and a real black belt test once they become of age), then that should also be a red flag IMO.

And btw, I also teach martial arts to both kids and adults and what Robert said about them learning differently, and about the top and bottoms of the athletic spectrum is spot on. And while everyone should enjoy their training enough to want to continue, a good instructor should still expect everyone to do their best in class and should try to motivate them to do so.

Good luck.

Thank you for the responses so far.

Steely, here are some other relevant things to consider.

  1. being a young female the most important things that your daughter should learn in regards to self defense are how to carry herself/conduct herself in a way that broadcasts that she will not be easy prey for would be predators and how to effectively be able to set boundries when needed. These include things like always being aware of her surroundings (not walking around in a day dreaming haze all the time), trusting her gut about people and being willing to say no to things if she doesn’t feel comfortable with them, and confident body language and tone of voice.

There was a study conducted a while back in which researchers asked convicted serial rapists, murderers, and other sexual predators to watch videos of people walking down the street and mark whether they would target them as victims or not. The traits that were least likely to be targeted were:
-confidence
-a sense of purpose (in other words they seemed like they were actively involved in their life, not just drifting through it)
-awareness of their surroundings

Realize that generally speaking criminals seek out those who they perceive as being easy prey. Make sure that whatever school your daughter goes to they address cerebral self defense, verbal self defense, and postural self defense on at least a semi-regular basis.

  1. Contrary to what a lot of people (and martial arts systems) believe, most attacks on women are not conducted by some random bad guy hiding in the bushes somewhere, but instead by people who they know (often intimately such as boyfriends, husbands, family members or friends). This means that although things like not going into bad parts of town alone at night are still good common sense methods of avoiding trouble, for women’s self defense they will not be enough.

Also most of the types of violent assaults that she is likely to encounter will be of a different type that the ones men are likely to encounter. Many of them will be at very close range (which makes the suggestion of grappling arts a logical one, Wing Chun makes sense for this reason as well) so long range kicking skills (like those commonly found in TKD, Tang Soo Do, and some forms of Karate) should not make up the brunt of a woman’s striking training. Close range striking skills, grappling and anti-grappling skills, and viscous types of attacks (eye attacks, rakes, bites, nerve attacks, and improvised weapons skills should instead be the focus of her physical martial arts training. She should also (this actually goes for men as well) should be taught that the goal is to do enough damage to escape and then try to get to safety as quickly as possible and she should actually be training this instinct into her nervous system on a regular basis. There is an old adage in the martial arts that “you fight how you train”, and for the most part it holds true.

Again, good luck.

No kids but I took martial arts as a kid myself. Many years of training in Goju-ryu karate, and being a I was always the smallest guy in class and what not, I got in a lot of scraps when I was young.

If she wants to learn how to fight, let her learn how to fight. Skip all the mcdojos and the stupid belts and the bowing to foreign flags and bring her to a boxing gym. That old school mentality of “We don’t train girls” doesn’t really apply anymore, and she’ll learn simpler, more realistic physical skills in a boxing gym then she will at nearly any dojo. The mental preparedness aspect can be learned through reading books and applying it to every day life.

Honestly, the older I get, the more angry I am that I spent so much time in dojos learning useless, ineffective hand strikes and weak stances that barely transfer power. A couple years in a boxing gym will make her tougher than any guy who will ever come at her.

A good second choice is BJJ, because it’s fun, it’s a great workout, and she can compete without getting knocked around.

I agree with most of the feedback here. I don’t have any kids but studied several martial arts as a kid; karate, judo; and then joined my wresting team in high school.

I think the grappling art are great for that age, especially judo and BJJ. I would list wrestling as a great option as well, but since she is a girl that probably wouldn’t be an overly positive experience for her with some of the sexism that pervades the sport.

If she has her heart set on a striking art, boxing or Muay Thai would be a great option. One of the great things about Muay Thai is that she will learn how to throw some highly effective inside strikes like elbows and knees and learn some great sweeps and throws from the clinch.

I like the idea given earlier about observing both adult and kid classes at several different gyms. A lot of parents seem to have a prejudice against starting young kids in Muay Thai or boxing, but they tend to base it mostly on misconceptions. In most of the classes I’ve observed the kids tend to take very little, if any, damage - especially the ones that don’t compete - and they get excellent feedback from the instructors and have a ton a fun.

[quote]FightinIrish26 wrote:

she’ll learn simpler, more realistic physical skills in a boxing gym then she will at nearly any dojo.
[/quote]

Sorry but for a woman this is simply not the case. As I said, the attacks that a woman is likely to encounter are entirely different than those that a man is likely to encounter. You being a man and for the most part unfamiliar with teaching women self defense and talking with those who have been victims and involved in the women’s self defense movement for years are understandably addressing this topic from your own experience (which is valid experience, but simply not directly applicable in this case).

Tell me what skills have you learned in a boxing gym for defending yourself against someone much bigger and stronger than you who is laying on top of you, holding down your arms and trying to date rape you?

Again, you are addressing this from a man’s standpoint, not a woman’s. I’ll agree that boxing can help prevent spousal abuse if the woman achieves a high level of skill, but as that thread about size and it’s relevance to fighting stated, a 120 lb woman trying to box a 220 lb man is going to be a rough time no matter how good at boxing she is. Not saying that it wouldn’t help, but let’s be realistic. Statistically though, she is much more likely to be the victim of an attempted sexual assault by someone she knows and most of those situations are going to result in positions that boxing just simply has no answers for. Someone below mention Muay Thai, which would be a better option due to the clinch work, but still has no answers for the ground.

Actually that’s probably the best option of the Sport Martial Arts systems due to it’s close proximity and ground fighting focus (which in all likelihood will be the range she will find herself in when having to defend herself). If she can find a good Gracie Jiu-Jitsu or authentic BJJ (not purely sport or MMA based) school where they also teach close range striking, “dirty” fighting tactics, and cerebral, verbal, and postural self defense that would be even better.

[quote]Sentoguy wrote:

[quote]FightinIrish26 wrote:

she’ll learn simpler, more realistic physical skills in a boxing gym then she will at nearly any dojo.
[/quote]

Sorry but for a woman this is simply not the case. As I said, the attacks that a woman is likely to encounter are entirely different than those that a man is likely to encounter. You being a man and for the most part unfamiliar with teaching women self defense and talking with those who have been victims and involved in the women’s self defense movement for years are understandably addressing this topic from your own experience (which is valid experience, but simply not directly applicable in this case).

Tell me what skills have you learned in a boxing gym for defending yourself against someone much bigger and stronger than you who is laying on top of you, holding down your arms and trying to date rape you?

Again, you are addressing this from a man’s standpoint, not a woman’s. I’ll agree that boxing can help prevent spousal abuse if the woman achieves a high level of skill, but as that thread about size and it’s relevance to fighting stated, a 120 lb woman trying to box a 220 lb man is going to be a rough time no matter how good at boxing she is. Not saying that it wouldn’t help, but let’s be realistic. Statistically though, she is much more likely to be the victim of an attempted sexual assault by someone she knows and most of those situations are going to result in positions that boxing just simply has no answers for. Someone below mention Muay Thai, which would be a better option due to the clinch work, but still has no answers for the ground.

Actually that’s probably the best option of the Sport Martial Arts systems due to it’s close proximity and ground fighting focus (which in all likelihood will be the range she will find herself in when having to defend herself). If she can find a good Gracie Jiu-Jitsu or authentic BJJ (not purely sport or MMA based) school where they also teach close range striking, “dirty” fighting tactics, and cerebral, verbal, and postural self defense that would be even better.
[/quote]

Eh. I know you like Reality Martial Arts but I don’t share your fondness for them. Most of them, at least. And finding a good one, as opposed to learning from some guy who’s never been in a fight, is really, really difficult, bordering on impossible if you’re not in a very populous area.

When it comes down to it, 90 percent of men are going to beat 90 percent of women to death if they so choose, regardless of training or skill levels. The thing that saves a woman’s life in that situation is either a weapon, or the combination of absolute mental determination and fighting like a wildcat - biting, gouging, ripping, tearing, etc. You don’t need to be taught how to do that.

I suggest boxing and BJJ because they’re physically the hardest and will build the most mental toughness, and I’d say wrestling also if, as someone else said, there wasn’t a sort of stigma to it for women. Most of the “women’s self-defense” classes I’ve ever seen are laughable wastes of time.

We disagree on this one.

[quote]Sentoguy wrote:
Good points by Robert as always.
[/quote]

Admit it, you just like the youtube links.

[quote]FightinIrish26 wrote:

[quote]Sentoguy wrote:

[quote]FightinIrish26 wrote:

she’ll learn simpler, more realistic physical skills in a boxing gym then she will at nearly any dojo.
[/quote]

Sorry but for a woman this is simply not the case. As I said, the attacks that a woman is likely to encounter are entirely different than those that a man is likely to encounter. You being a man and for the most part unfamiliar with teaching women self defense and talking with those who have been victims and involved in the women’s self defense movement for years are understandably addressing this topic from your own experience (which is valid experience, but simply not directly applicable in this case).

Tell me what skills have you learned in a boxing gym for defending yourself against someone much bigger and stronger than you who is laying on top of you, holding down your arms and trying to date rape you?

Again, you are addressing this from a man’s standpoint, not a woman’s. I’ll agree that boxing can help prevent spousal abuse if the woman achieves a high level of skill, but as that thread about size and it’s relevance to fighting stated, a 120 lb woman trying to box a 220 lb man is going to be a rough time no matter how good at boxing she is. Not saying that it wouldn’t help, but let’s be realistic. Statistically though, she is much more likely to be the victim of an attempted sexual assault by someone she knows and most of those situations are going to result in positions that boxing just simply has no answers for. Someone below mention Muay Thai, which would be a better option due to the clinch work, but still has no answers for the ground.

Actually that’s probably the best option of the Sport Martial Arts systems due to it’s close proximity and ground fighting focus (which in all likelihood will be the range she will find herself in when having to defend herself). If she can find a good Gracie Jiu-Jitsu or authentic BJJ (not purely sport or MMA based) school where they also teach close range striking, “dirty” fighting tactics, and cerebral, verbal, and postural self defense that would be even better.
[/quote]

Eh. I know you like Reality Martial Arts but I don’t share your fondness for them. Most of them, at least. And finding a good one, as opposed to learning from some guy who’s never been in a fight, is really, really difficult, bordering on impossible if you’re not in a very populous area.

When it comes down to it, 90 percent of men are going to beat 90 percent of women to death if they so choose, regardless of training or skill levels. The thing that saves a woman’s life in that situation is either a weapon, or the combination of absolute mental determination and fighting like a wildcat - biting, gouging, ripping, tearing, etc. You don’t need to be taught how to do that.

I suggest boxing and BJJ because they’re physically the hardest and will build the most mental toughness, and I’d say wrestling also if, as someone else said, there wasn’t a sort of stigma to it for women. Most of the “women’s self-defense” classes I’ve ever seen are laughable wastes of time.

We disagree on this one.[/quote]

We agree that the resistance experienced in Sport Martial Arts is going to be beneficial and a better choice than Traditional Martial Arts like TKD. If those are the options I’d recommend she pick BJJ, Judo, Sambo, or wrestling (Catch would probably be the most appropriate, but any kind would teach her valuable skills) over TKD, Tang Soo Do, most forms of Karate (but it’s going to depend heavily on the teacher and their style of training in this case), most forms of Gung Fu/Kung Fu, and most forms of TMA.

If she has the choice between a good SMA and a good RMA though, the RMA is going to be the better choice due largely to the addressing of good “pre-active” combat skills (which are completely non exist ant in SMA due to the intended arena of application) and the larger (but all useful) toolbox which will help her deal with a larger variety of situations and positions.

I understand that your experience with RMA has not been positive, and that is unfortunate. I hope some day you get the chance to experience a good one.

[quote]SteelyD wrote:
Anyone have kids in martial arts?

11 year old daughter has expressed interest in taking up martial arts for self-defense and learning how to fight.

She’s mentioned Taekwondo specifically but doesn’t really know the difference the different styles (and I don’t either beyond some Internet searching).

From experience, can y’all tell me what might be some considerations putting a kid specifically a n 11 yo girl in any one style vs the other?

thx[/quote]

Take her to check out a couple of Taekwondo and Judo classes and see how she feels about it. Judo will be great starting point as she can learn some grappling, take-downs, throws and a few self defence moves. In a year or two, if she wishes, she can then move to BJJ or Taekwondo.

I started Judo at age 6 and took it seriously for 10 years before finally being tempted to ‘‘cheat’’ with other disciplines such as BJJ, boxing and Kickboxing. Krav maga came a little bit later, in my early twenties.

[quote]FightinIrish26 wrote:
Skip all the mcdojos and the stupid belts and the bowing to foreign flags and bring her to a boxing gym. That old school mentality of “We don’t train girls” doesn’t really apply anymore, and she’ll learn simpler, more realistic physical skills in a boxing gym then she will at nearly any dojo.

[/quote]

You know how much I love you but this, above, feels like blasphemy to me.

If you were standing right next to me, I’d pick you up and fling you against a wall with all the rage I have inside me.

[quote]Sentoguy wrote:
Steely, here are some other relevant things to consider.

  1. being a young female the most important things that your daughter should learn in regards to self defense are how to carry herself/conduct herself in a way that broadcasts that she will not be easy prey for would be predators and how to effectively be able to set boundries when needed. These include things like always being aware of her surroundings (not walking around in a day dreaming haze all the time), trusting her gut about people and being willing to say no to things if she doesn’t feel comfortable with them, and confident body language and tone of voice.

[/quote]

YES. YES. Fucking YES.

I still agree with a lot of the advice given, though I still think learning arts like Boxing, Muay Thai, or BJJ are some of the best options.

With someone at that age martial arts, if she chooses to stick with them, will be a progression and I think it’s important to develop a solid set of fundamentals. Learning to throw proper punches, kicks, knees, elbows, or controlling someone on the ground is a great start to lead into any reality based systems. From some of the classes I’ve observed with reality based systems, there seems to be too little emphasis on throwing techniques with proper form to optimize force - just lots of arm punching and whatever you would call the equivalent with knees and kicks.

I spent a lot of years grappling and have recently started training Muay Thai with a gym that also puts a heavy emphasis on boxing, and has a great western boxing team. I’ve notice that as my technique and power has improved in my punches, the same has happened with my elbows due to simply learning how to turn my hips and drive into my strikes.

I don’t think anyone has mentioned this yet, but how do you guys feel about the other aspects of boxing like parrying, slipping, head movement, defensive and evasive footwork, fighting off of the ropes, and things like using footwork to get yourself out of the corner? Honestly, whenever I work boxing I feel like punching is the easiest part sometimes - it’s the defensive aspect that always gets me and it seems hugely beneficial to any self defense situation; especially in close quarters. I also don’t seem to ever see these aspects emphasized in most reality based systems.

I didn’t mean to write so much, but on a final note, I’m not opposed to reality based systems but they seem to suffer from the same McDojo syndrome many traditional martial arts suffer from. I just believe starting with a solid set of fundamentals - the kind you can gain from great coaching in boxing, muay thai, wrestling, or BJJ - are a solid start to progressing in martial arts. Oh, and hi everyone!