An increasingly large number of parents are realizing the tremendous benefits that some type of martial arts training would have for their children. Everyone agrees that the development of physical fitness, as well as the positive character associated with martial arts training, are more important than ever. The conundrum lies in the fact that there are so many options to chose from and most parents really don't know what to begin looking for in a school for their child to participate in.
The fact is, not all martial arts programs are the same, but what is helpful is that most martial arts education in this country can be placed into one of the following three categories:
Performance Based Martial Arts
This school focuses on training for tournaments and the flashy movements that will impress the judges and audience. The students are trained to be show stoppers, to yell loud and kick high. They practice acrobatic movements with precision and flair. The students are usually strongly encouraged or even required to participate in tournaments where these skills can be "shown off" and trophies can be won.
Competition Based Martial Arts
A competition based school focuses on tournament style sparring. Often referred to as "players", these students are trained in how to score points by hitting certain areas on their opponent's body. Strategy is taught along with many kick-punch combinations that can be used to win the match. Again, students here are encouraged to participate in tournaments.
Traditional Martial Arts
Traditional martial arts schools tend to focus more on the original, self defense and self improvement aspects of the martial arts. Perhaps not as focused on showing off their skills at tournaments, these students are taught that their martial arts should be a more personal discipline, not to be flaunted. The character training and discipline in this type of school is often a very high priority, perhaps due to the fact that it is real self defense skills that are being taught. A traditional martial arts student is often taught a depth of the particular art that other schools can often bypass.
Keep in mind that these three categories are generalizations. It does not mean that there is never any crossing of lines between these styles, however, be aware that each school has a specific bend or focus which directly correlates to how a child is taught.
What a parent looking to get their child into a martial arts program must decide is - what benefits do they want their child to gain? Most schools will help a child makes gains in the area of physical fitness, but do all programs really focus on positive character along with it? All martial arts schools will teach kicks and punches, but if you want your child to be able to defend themselves, what would the best school choice be? Gaining confidence is also very important to parents, but some schools may actually take confidence and turn it into cocky; not what most parents really want for their children.
As you visit various martial arts schools, keep these questions forefront in your mind. Then, look for an instructor who is more interested in being honest with you as the parent and finding the right fit for your child, rather than simply signing up a new student. All the gimmicks in the world, free lessons, uniforms, and special deals, are just that — gimmicks. Look past them to what the school really is. It should be professionally run, clean, and safe. Instructors should be well trained not only in the martial arts, but in how to teach them to your child. But most of all, remember, you, as a parent, know your child better than any martial arts instructor no matter how gifted he or she may be. Choose the school that will offer to your child the most benefit for their life.
The martial arts aren't for everybody, but they are for many more than you may think. If you make a wise decision now on where to start your child's training, martial arts may be a catalyst for your child's growth that will be appreciated for the rest of their life.