Practicing the martial arts provides distinct advantages for older children and adults. Did you know that toddler-age children could also greatly benefit from the martial arts as well? Karate and Tae Kwan Do not only provide toddlers with exciting experiences with other children, but these arts also encourage motor skill coordination, concentration, and self-confidence. Add these skills with a touch of ancient Eastern wisdom, and your toddler will be learning life lessons that will serve him well in the years to come.
I remember when I first saw the movie The Karate Kid back in the 1980′s. When the movie was done, I turned to my dad and said I was going to learn to do what Daniel-san had learned. The next day, I was headed out to the local dojo with my mom. We had come early and sat on a bench while the class started. I had come for the adult’s class (I was all of eighteen years old then), but the class in session was the junior class for kids twelve and under. The smallest members of the dojo, kids as young as four or five, worked just as hard, if not harder, to imitate their older dojo brothers and sisters. Martial arts for children can be a wonderful self-esteem booster and great exercise. It can also help with motor skills and coordination and improve social skills.
Between the ages of two and five, your toddler is growing in mind, body and spirit. These ages are distinctly important, as they set the tone for your toddler’s life pattern of behavior. Childhood development experts recommend that toddlers participate in physical and mental activities to encourage personality growth, physical maturity, and socialization with others. The martial arts effectively provide these experiences in a variety of ways.
While your toddler is growing, his muscles and bones must develop strength and agility. Physical development occurs only when a toddler receives adequate exercise that including stretching, bending and muscle-building movements.
Have you noticed how clumsy toddlers can be? Although they have mastered the fine art of walking, they seem to trip over many things, including their own two feet! The martial arts excel at teaching your toddler motor skill coordination, precision movements that increase hand-eye coordination and foot/leg movements that help him learn balance and move him past the toddler “wobbles.”
How long is your toddler’s attention span? How about his ability to focus on tasks until they’re completed? Is he able to memorize and retain information at a rate appropriate for his age? The martial arts require toddlers to concentrate and pay close attention to the instructions of the sensei (teacher); to be successful in the martial arts and in their lives, toddlers must learn to listen and thoroughly absorb the lessons. Your toddler will also learn to focus and follow through on tasks; dawdling and impulsivity aren’t allowed! The sensei will re-direct your child’s focus to mastering the task at hand; movements that can only be learned by strict focus. Your toddler will be required to memorize the order and types of movements, performing them flawlessly when prompted by the sensei. Thus, when he begins school, your toddler will have a distinct edge in learning language and abstract arithmetic skills.
The best things in life are not free. Hard work and discipline get you what you want and help you reach your goals. Unfortunately, toddlers only know that they want everything now. There is no later; there is no waiting. Right away is all that matters. In the martial arts, toddlers get their first taste of reality and learn self-discipline. They learn that they have to take things step by step and master each step before moving on to the next. There are no shortcuts.
Your toddler will learn that unprovoked aggression is never appropriate. The martial arts are defensive in nature; your toddler will learn that amicably getting along with others results from the self confidence of knowing that he isn’t going to be harmed by schoolyard bullies. As he bows to his opponent, your toddler learns to show respect to others, increasing his own confidence. His mastery of the martial arts also teaches him that he can succeed in life tasks, thus building a confident, intrepid adult.
Your toddler’s sensei will expose him to the enduring wisdom of Eastern philosophy and the ancient world. These are the concepts of avoiding foolish and self-destructive behavior, service to others, tolerance for differences, patience, loyalty and caution.
Most dojos these days offer many programs for all age levels. Childrens’ classes abound in nearly every city, suburb and community center. Take your time to find a school and style of martial arts that fits your child and your budget. Talk to the instructors and the parents of other students, sit in on the classes, and watch how instructors teach. If you find a good school, your child will gain invaluable skills that will last a lifetime.