Despite the modern conveniences that kids enjoy, childhood today isn’t any easier than it was for their parents. The media often paints a bleak picture of youth, with reports of childhood obesity, ADHD, and bullying. What if there was something that could change that, courtesy of your local martial arts studio? At Venture Martial Arts we want to tell you how this fun activity can change so much for your child!
Although martial arts are often associated with fighting and violence, given its prominence in movies and video games, that’s only one side of it. For kids, martial arts can fill gaps in physical activity, improve health and behavioural problems, and even reduce the amount of violence among youth.
STRENGTHENING THE BODY
Inactivity is one of several contributors to childhood obesity, which often leads to many other issues, such as long-term health problems into adulthood and lowered self-esteem. Children today are considerably less active than their 1970s counterparts, who were more likely to walk to school and weren’t as absorbed in electronic entertainment.
Activity Guidelines recommend adults get 150 minutes of physical activity per week, while for children the recommended amount of exercise is almost triple—60 minutes per day (420 minutes per week). But, according to a recent report, 40 percent of kids are getting 180 minutes per week or less—less than half of the recommended amount.
Regular and consistent Martial Arts for Kids can go a long way toward filling the widening gap in physical activity in which active play is supplanted by time spent in front of a screen. This can apply to most extracurricular team sports, but in terms of total caloric expenditure, a student training in martial arts can burn off 10 to 20 percent more calories per hour than playing football or basketball.
More often than not, traditional sport programs cater to the more elite athlete that can score more. There are no benchwarmers in martial arts.
In addition to improved physical benefits and inclusion, martial arts are often safer than other sports. A 2009 literature review suggests that, despite the potentially dangerous skills learned in martial arts, it is safer than football and basketball, attributing this advantage to proper instruction and a controlled training environment.
SHARPENING THE MIND
Martial arts are good for the developing mind and can be beneficial to children who have disciplinary problems at school or have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A 2012 study evaluating a specialized 20-week martial arts program that incorporated meditation and cognitive behavioural therapy found that youth aged 12 to 18 who were diagnosed with learning disabilities (some with ADHD or anxiety problems) showed improvement in social skills, attentiveness, and decreased anxiety levels.
Other studies show more significant improvement in young boys than in girls who study martial arts, which may be notable as boys are three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. Study authors suggest more research should be undertaken to confirm the use of martial arts as a treatment for ADHD, however.
While martial arts instill fighting and combat skills, a two-year study of 14 karate students and nine judo students (all boys aged 10) reported no increase in levels of aggression and, in the case of the nine judo students, found a decrease in anger levels. The study authors suggest this might be due to the practice of meditation, common of many martial arts.
In addition to encouraging movement, calming the mind, and curbing aggression, martial arts instruction can play a role in reducing bullying, which goes beyond teaching a child how to fight back.
A 2008 study evaluated a martial arts-based intervention program known as The Gentle Warrior, which not only reduced aggressive tendencies in the elementary school-aged participants but also improved the behaviour of bystanders, who were more likely to aid victims of bullying, rather than condone it through inaction.
Martial arts can be vital in shaping the leaders of tomorrow. Martial arts programs are excellent at actually teaching life skills rather than just sport skills. The ultimate goal of martial arts schools should not be to produce the next world champion, but to produce the best possible people who can benefit the world.