BY JAMIE LOBER
When you think of martial arts, super powers, extreme strength and incredible flexibility may come to mind. However, this does not have to be the case. Martial arts offer a chance for children to benefit in many ways. “It gives them confidence and builds self-esteem by building themselves up physically and mentally,” summarizes Johnny Ahn, instructor at Ahn’s Fitness Center and Blackbelt in Macon. Over time, popularity among children has increased. “Martial arts has been practiced for over two thousand years and then some, but today’s modern martial arts has evolved into a system that has developed to build children’s self-esteem and confidence in the special ways it needs to be,” reflects Jason Owen, chief instructor at ATA Martial Arts in Warner Robins.
You are never too young to begin. “The benefits for three year-olds are discipline and focus. Balance develops around eight years-old,” says Ahn. Exercising the brain, mind and body are helpful. Children improve motion, learning and memorization, all of which will help with dexterity. Lessons are age-appropriate. “Two year-olds learn about stranger danger, 911 safety, taking turns, sharing, being respectful, answering ‘yes sir’ and ‘yes ma’am’ and learning how to get their mom’s attention,” says Owen. The achievement does not stop there. “There is physical fitness, sharper mental ability, faster reflexes and control of your temper and power,” lists Martin Howard, owner and instructor at Perry Athletic Karate in Perry.
You may notice a positive behavior change when your child’s stress level is reduced. “Students come in after a rough day, normal life stresses or a tough time with bullies or schoolwork and martial arts gives them an outlet to vent some frustration, get great physical exercise, build confidence and feel better about themselves,” shares Owen. You may even want to join your child. “Adults are there to get healthier, lose weight, try something new or learn practical self-defense,” says Owen.
Parents may feel compelled to enroll their child in martial arts as a way of preparing for a life transition. “I get the most calls around April and May with parents sending their daughters off to college. They want them to take a twenty-four hour course to learn self-defense but that never works. It has to be secondary nature,” feels Ahn. It is advised to take lessons over a period of time. “Teaching constant skills has to be repetitious and not something done in twenty-four hours because it will take someone a couple of seconds to think about what to do after I teach them, whereas someone I taught for twenty-four months can do it instantaneously because it is a natural reaction,” explains Ahn.
Remember that martial arts like karate, taekwondo and kickboxing are about keeping your child safe. “There is a program called Kids in Power, which is nationally endorsed by Code Amber. It is a child safety abduction program. You learn about stranger danger, using passwords with parents and how to deal with situations,” shares Owen. It is especially important for girls to become empowered. “Self-protection is the main thing and women need it more than men because women are about eighty-five percent of targets on the streets for robberies, rapes and murders. Martial arts would definitely help them out in situations like that because they would understand self-control and self-defense,” says Howard. Do not overlook the opportunity to get involved. “There are so many positives about martial arts that it is hard to say them all,” reinforces Howard. Make martial arts a family affair. “The family that kicks together sticks together,” concludes Owen.
Martial Arts Goals
• Self Awareness