As instructors, we are often asked by parents how martial arts can benefit their kids. I have seen my own daughter’s self confidence soar by being involved in taekwondo. Aside from the obvious health benefits from the cardio workout, taekwondo offers powerful life skills that she can take into adulthood. Here are some less obvious, but nonetheless powerful benefits that I have seen develop:
Peer Trust – in class, students often work with partners or in small groups to learn kicking and other striking techniques. In order to make this skill seem more real, the kids wear chest and leg protection and actually strike each other (after a very careful rundown of safety procedures and an explanation on the importance of self control). This kind of activity promotes trust, mutual vulnerability and empathy – counter intuitive to what you might think would happen in this situation. When you are kicking a person, you know is going to kick you back – trading blows – to learn a technique, you go about as easy or as hard as you would like to get hit in return; that is, you probably won’t hit someone harder than you would be willing to get hit yourself. In addition, most kids are extremely empathetic about their partner’s well being and in 99.9% of cases will fall all over themselves to make sure that they haven’t hurt their partner. These exercises teach important lessons about give and take, boundaries and limits.
Public Speaking – at the beginning of every kids’ class, we have students volunteer to recite the Tenets and Oath for our Club. We will also have kids come up and lead the group in certain exercises. They are required to count in Korean (the nationality of taekwondo). These skills develop from attending regular classes and are required to pass from white belt to yellow belt. In our club, everyone gets a chance to volunteer – from white to black belt.
Confidence – my daughter carries herself differently from when she first started. It is kind of like she has a super power. She has a very specific and special skill that very few other people have. She began studying taekwondo not believing it possible that she could do a tornado 45 kick or a spinning hook kick and learned, not only that she can do both of those things, but can also break a board with her bare foot!
Kenney Myers has written a great article on the 10 Reasons Martial Arts Benefits Kids. Check it out!