Benefits of Martial Arts
If you’ve ever seen The Karate Kid, you know practicing martial arts is more than just a sport. According to a 2004 study in The Sport Journal, published by the United States Sports Academy, martial arts can help kids improve their physical fitness, including coordination, flexibility, and strength, but the practice can also help reinforce some of life’s valuable lessons, such as perseverance and self-control.
“When people think of karate, they think of fighting and self-defense, and you are learning self-defense, but I think it’s really about learning responsibility, respect, discipline, and how to control yourself,” Schatzberg says.
Her children’s instructor, Arnold van Deuren, Ph.D., owner of the Workout Place and an adjunct professor of anatomy and physiology at Dominican College in Orangeburg, agrees with Schatzberg and adds that practicing martial arts also helps prepare kids for success in school. “As an educator for the last 40 years, I see it as a classroom situation,” he says. Karate gives kids a chance to work for belts. They have to learn a curriculum, prepare for and take a test, then use the analysis of their test results as a basis for continued improvement. “The process builds self-esteem and confidence and contributes to a child’s willingness to participate in further learning.” Additionally, van Deuren says, karate helps kids develop listening and attention skills that are essential in the classroom and beyond.
Kim Gold, a martial arts and yoga instructor at Aikido Westchester in White Plains, says martial arts has benefitted her two daughters, ages 8 and 12, in different ways. Her younger daughter, who has ADHD, has been training since she was 5 years old. “Martial arts has helped with her focus and her ability to handle frustrating situations,” Gold says, adding that patience and focus are two main tenets of Aikido Westchester’s youth program, which places particular emphasis on helping kids apply what they’re learning in martial arts to their schoolwork. The sport has also been a positive thing for Gold’s older daughter. “She’s developed a lot of confidence, especially when dealing with boys on the bus. She stands up for herself. She’s a skinny little girl, but she has a lot of confidence when she says ‘Take your hands off my friend.’ That comes from her training.”