The exact number of benefits is hard to count up when referring to the practice of a martial art. Each individual tends to gain something slightly unique from the experience.
Just like other team sports, a good martial arts program can help instill a sense of purpose and belonging that is really difficult to measure. On top of that we have the individual improvement aspect in which each person separately, has to learn and refine several new skills in order to be promoted to a higher rank. This can enhance one’s ability to focus on reaching set goals. For kids that sense of purpose and belonging combined with a good structured environment that teaches how to set and achieve goals can make a big impact.
Over the years that I've been practicing TaeKwonDo, I have always considered those within the program to be part of my extended family. I am sure this feeling or sense is also experienced by many others in all disciplines of martial arts. Now, aside from those un-measurable benefits, let’s look at some of the more specific ones associated with these types of programs.
Martial arts can encourage kids to become more involved or engaging, while learning in a structured environment that may help them socially, in groups or as individuals. Many learn how to focus their energy better, stay fit, respect others and also how to set goals such as working for their next belt level. These are just some of the things that they will carry with them throughout their life.
Kids as well as adults who get involved in martial arts can profit from many different benefits which tend to carry over into a lifestyle. Let me quote some non-numerical findings from Chuck Norris's very own KickStart Kids Program which teaches character through karate in middle schools. According to there statistics page, they have hired an outside consultant since 1992 to evaluate the program. What they found was:
Better Grades / Higher GPA
Students in the program have significantly higher GPA's than their peers.
Higher Attendance / More Focused
Students in the program are more diligent in their attendance, more punctual in their timing, and more committed to their tasks.
Self Control / More Disciplined
Students in the program exhibit greater self discipline and resiliency to drugs, gangs, and other harmful influences.
Greater Ambition / More Confident
Students in the program have a much more positive view of themselves and have a deeper confidence in their ability to achieve their goals.
Lets take a look at some of the specific benefits individually.
FITNESS IS A BIG FACTOR
Exercise and staying fit while practicing is very important in almost all martial arts. Therefore when a child is enrolled in a martial art, they are almost guaranteed to have plenty of physical exercise. Warm-ups are a normal part of every class and include many different activities such as sprinting, jumping, push-ups and crunches along with many other more specific drills that are crucial for learning complex movements. This fitness factor can instill the importance of physical activity in daily life and show how hard work pays off both physically and mentally.
RESPECT MAKES A DIFFERENCE
As soon as someone enters the training area called the dojo or dojang, respect must be shown by bowing. This is a typical etiquette of many martial arts. Every block, every punch and every kick that will be taught that day comes second to the showing of respect.
Kids learn this in part by bowing to instructors, masters and while entering the room combined with the need to be still at times and wait for the next command before proceeding.
It is from this practice that participants learn to respect themselves, the instructors, the masters, their peers, the uniform they have on, the equipment used each class and even the place in which they learn. Respect is also of the utmost importance when it comes to the hierarchal ranking system which in itself teaches respect by associating those with higher skill and knowledge with higher belt levels.
Students also learn to treat other students as they wish to be treated while working together in a structured manner.
Good martial arts instructors and other high ranking students press upon the respect issue regularly and instruct students to practice it at every opportunity.
DISCIPLINE IS IMPORTANT
Martial arts can help instill mental focus in children, giving them the ability to concentrate on a task and see it through to its conclusion. This can potentially become second nature and a great asset to them. The discipline that is taught in the class with regard to etiquette, uniforms, customs and techniques often translates into other areas of life, including school, household chores and general work ethics.
CONFIDENCE IS A BOOST
Kids involved in martial arts can gain loads of confidence in themselves while working through a belt ranking system that gives measurable goals to follow which are realistic to attain. Training regularly and achieving that next belt promotion or mastering a new technique can give kids a wonderful sense of accomplishment that they will carry throughout their life.
HELP TO STOP BULLYING AT THE SOURCE AND BEFORE IT EVEN BEGINS
Before I go into how martial arts can potentialy help to stop bullying, lets look at the current definition of bullying and the statistics regarding it from the National Statistics section found on the government website stopbullying.gov. The following information is taken verbatim from that source:
In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Department of Education released the first federal uniform definition of bullying for research and surveillance.1 The core elements of the definition include: unwanted aggressive behavior; observed or perceived power imbalance; and repetition of behaviors or high likelihood of repetition. There are many different modes and types of bullying. The current definition acknowledges two modes and four types by which youth can be bullied or can bully others. The two modes of bullying include direct (e.g., bullying that occurs in the presence of a targeted youth) and indirect (e.g., bullying not directly communicated to a targeted youth such as spreading rumors). In addition to these two modes, the four types of bullying include broad categories of physical, verbal, relational (e.g., efforts to harm the reputation or relationships of the targeted youth), and damage to property.
Bullying can happen in any number of places, contexts, or locations. Sometimes that place is online or through a cellphone. Bullying that occurs using technology (including but not limited to phones, email, chat rooms, instant messaging, and online posts) is considered electronic bullying and is viewed as a context or location. Electronic bullying or cyberbullying involves primarily verbal aggression (e.g., threatening or harassing electronic communications) and relational aggression (e.g., spreading rumors electronically). Electronic bullying or cyberbullying can also involve property damage resulting from electronic attacks that lead to the modification, dissemination, damage, or destruction of a youth’s privately stored electronic information.
Some bullying actions can fall into criminal categories, such as harassment, hazing, or assault.
Between 1 in 4 and 1 in 3 U.S. students say they have been bullied at school . Many fewer have been cyberbullied. See more prevalence statistics.
Most bullying happens in middle school. The most common types are verbal and social bullying.
- Risk Factors:3
Young people who are perceived as different from their peers are often at risk for being bullied. See more on who is at risk.
Bullying affects all youth, including those who are bullied, those who bully others, and those who see bullying going on. Some effects may last into adulthood. See more on the effects of bullying.
- Group Phenomenon:4
Bullying is not usually a simple interaction between a student who bullies and a student who is bullied. Instead, it often involves groups of students who support each other in bullying other students.
- Changing Roles:5
There is not a single profile of a young person involved in bullying. Youth who bully can be either well connected socially or marginalized, and may be bullied by others as well. Similarly, those who are bullied sometimes bully others. Youth who both bully others and are bullied are at greatest risk for subsequent behavioral, mental health, and academic problems.
- Disconnect Between Adults and Youth:3
There is often a disconnect between young people’s experience of bullying and what the adults see. Also, adults often don’t know how to respond when they do recognize bullying.
- Promising Prevention Strategies:6-11
Solutions to bullying are not simple. Bullying prevention approaches that show the most promise confront the problem from many angles. They involve the entire school community —students, families, administrators, teachers, and staff such as bus drivers, nurses, cafeteria and front office staff—in creating a culture of respect. Zero tolerance and expulsion are not effective approaches.
Bystanders who intervene on behalf of young people being bullied make a huge difference.
Studies also have shown that adults, including parents, can help prevent bullying by keeping the lines of communication open, talking to their children about bullying, encouraging them to do what they love, modeling kindness and respect, and encouraging them to get help when they are involved in bullying or know others who need help.
See evidence-based programs .
Approximately 30% of young people admit to bullying others in surveys.3
70.6% of young people say they have seen bullying in their schools.3
70.4% of school staff have seen bullying. 62% witnessed bullying two or more times in the last month and 41% witness bullying once a week or more.3
When bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57% of the time.16
9% of students in grades 6–12 experienced cyberbullying.2
15% of high school students (grades 9–12) were electronically bullied in the past year.16
However, 55.2% of LGBT students experienced cyberbullying.17In one large study, about 49% of children in grades 4–12 reported being bullied by other students at school at least once during the past month, whereas 30.8% reported bullying others during that time.
Defining "frequent" involvement in bullying as occurring two or more times within the past month, 40.6% of students reported some type of frequent involvement in bullying, with 23.2% being the youth frequently bullied, 8.0% being the youth who frequently bullied others, and 9.4% playing both roles frequently.3
The most common types of bullying are verbal and social. Physical bullying happens less often. Cyberbullying happens the least frequently.
According to one large study, the following percentages of middle schools students had experienced these various types of bullying: name calling (44.2 %); teasing (43.3 %); spreading rumors or lies (36.3%); pushing or shoving (32.4%); hitting, slapping, or kicking (29.2%); leaving out (28.5%); threatening (27.4%); stealing belongings (27.3%); sexual comments or gestures (23.7%); e-mail or blogging (9.9%).3
Most bullying takes place in school, outside on school grounds, and on the school bus. Bullying also happens wherever kids gather in the community. And of course, cyberbullying occurs on cell phones and online.
According to one large study, the following percentages of middle schools students had experienced bullying in these various places at school: classroom (29.3%); hallway or lockers (29.0%); cafeteria (23.4%); gym or PE class (19.5%); bathroom (12.2%); playground or recess (6.2%).3
Only about 20 to 30% of students who are bullied notify adults about the bullying.13
POTENTIAL OF MARTIAL ARTS TO COMBAT BULLYING
Now that we have a definition to give us an idea of what we are dealing with and we have some statistics to show how widespread this issue is, let's take a look at the multi-angle approach quality martial arts programs naturally take. Enrolling a child in a good quality martial art program can be one of the best ways a parent can help prevent bullying before it even starts or stop it once its begun. How you ask?
By providing opportunities to build a child's confidence and reinforcing discipline through these structured programs, bullying can be averted on several levels. I'm not talking about just giving a speech about how bad bullying is and to not do it. We all know that speeches alone don't really do much. Quality programs in martial arts however, reinforce mutual respect, instill self-respect, build confidence and encourage courtesy as a everyday way of life.
No single program though is going to be a "magic bullet" for preventing all bullying, but just as stated above; creating a culture of respect is one of the best methods to address the problem. And... providing the opportunity to be in a culture of respect is the first step.
Kids at risk of being victims of bullying become less likely candidates for bullies when they are not perceived as weaker, unsure of themselves or easily scared. Quality programs in martial arts will work to build a person's confidence in themselves and their abilities which typically translates into ones feeling of self-worth. When kids and adults have self-worth and feel confident in themselves, they are not percieved as weaker or easy targets, period.
Kids, who may engage in acts of bullying, learn to respect others and focus their energy in a more productive way so they never begin to bully in the first place. This is where opportunity strikes. When there are choices, such as being involved in a positive setting that fosters good behavior and being involved with a group that rewards good behavior, chances are interaction between individuals will be improved. Not just in the classroom but everywhere.
These programs work as a double edge sword to tackle both sides of the bullying equation, but it's important to understand that no one program or effort can prevent or stop bullying altogether. It's a collaborative effort by the community in which that child, teen or adult lives which will foster good character in that individual to prevent the feeling, want or desire to engage in acts of bullying. Parents need to work with children to reinforce the concepts and disciplines learned through martial arts, otherwise the two efforts will not work as well. The earlier a child starts a martial art program the better. The older we get the harder it is to break habits we pick up so getting involved sooner can make a huge difference.
SELF-DEFENSE CAN BE VITAL
The ability to defend yourself against an attacker can be an empowering feeling. The very feeling of confidence to defend yourself may even make the difference between success and failure. Those who participate in a martial arts program may not only have a physical skillset to use in self-defense but also a mindset for survival.
Most martial arts systems are entirely based on some form of self-defense and though the methods will vary from discipline to discipline, you can be certain that with regular practice, kids will learn to defend themselves in a variety of different ways.
Many martial arts schools not only teach traditional skills but modern street smart skills to help kids avoid potentially bad situations before they happen.
Through the martial arts, young kids and teens will be able to channel their energy into productive goals. Kids will have the opportunity to learn an art form, remain active while improving their wellness and be taught discipline, perseverance, respect and humility. In addition, many schools require students to take part in a variety of volunteer programs that teach how to give back to their communities.
Martial arts schools are one of few places where every race, nationality and even religion come together, as fellow students, to learn. It is a place where everyone has the same goal of improving themselves in one way or another. Its for all these reasons MARTiAL YOU exists and has a mission to promote martial arts as a beneficial activity for kids to participate in, study and practice.
Some other good reading about the positive effects martial arts has on kids below:
Though we are siting these articles as a good reference, in no way are we affiliated with or endorsing the content.
Better Homes and Gardens - The Benifits of Martial Arts for Kids by Nancy Christie
Parenting - Karate Kids: The Benefits of Martrial Arts by Alison Hendrie
Boxing Scene - Benefits of Martial Arts Training For Kids by Laura Saunders
Statistic Sources sited by stopbullying.gov
1 Gladden, R. M., Vivolo-Kantor, A. M., Hamburger, M. E., & Lumpkin, C. D. (2014). Bullying surveillance among youths: Uniform definitions for public health and recommended data elements, Version 1.0. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and US Department of Education..
3 Bradshaw, C.P., Sawyer, A.L., & O’Brennan, L.M. (2007). Bullying and peer victimization at school: Perceptual differences between students and school staff. School Psychology Review, 36(3), 361-382.
4 Espelage, D. L., Holt, M. K., & Henkel, R. R. (2003). Examination of peer-group contextual effects on aggression during early adolescence. Child Development, 74, 205-220.
5 Bradshaw, C.P., O’Brennan, L. & Sawyer, A.L. (2008). Examining variation in attitudes toward aggressive retaliation and perceptions of safety among bullies, victims, and bully/victims. Professional School Counseling, 12(1), 10-21.
6American Psychological Association Zero Tolerance Task Force. (2008). Are zero tolerance policies effective in the schools? An evidentiary review and recommendations. American Psychologist,63(9), 852-862.
7Espelage, D.L., Green, H.D., & Polanin, J. (2012). Willingness to intervene in bullying episodes among middle school students: Individual and peer-group influences. Journal of Early Adolescence, 32(6), 776-801.
8Farrington, D. P. & Ttofi, M. M. (2009). School-based programs to reduce bullying and victimization.Campbell Systematic Reviews, 6.
9Boccanfuso C. & Kuhfeld M. (2011). Multiple responses, promising results: evidence-based nonpunitive alternatives to zero tolerance. Child Trends. http://www.childtrends.org/Files//Child_Trends-2011_03_01_RB_AltToZeroTolerance.pdf. Published 2011. Last accessed September 2012.
10Waasdorp, T. E., Bradshaw, C. P. & Duong, J. (2011). The link between parents' perceptions of the school and their responses to school bullying: Variation by child characteristics and the forms of victimization. Journal of Educational Psychology, 103(2), 324-335.
11Waasdorp, T. E., Bradshaw, C. P., & Leaf, P. J. (2012). The impact of School-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS) on bullying and peer rejection: A randomized controlled effectiveness trial. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 116(2), 149-156.
12Polanin, J., Espelage, D.L., & Pigott, T.D. (2012). A meta-analysis of school-based bullying prevention programs’ effects on bystander intervention behavior and empathy attitude. School Psychology Review, 41 (1).
13Ttofi, M.M., Farrington, D.P. (2011). Effectiveness of school-based programs to reduce bullying: a systematic and meta-analytic review. Journal of Experimental Criminology,7(1), 27-56.
14Waasdorp, T. E., Bradshaw, C. P., & Leaf, P. J. (2012). The impact of School-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS) on bullying and peer rejection: A randomized controlled effectiveness trial. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 116(2), 149-156.
16Hawkins, D. L., Pepler, D., and Craig, W. M. (2001). Peer interventions in playground bullying. Social Development, 10, 512-527.
17 Kosciw, J. G., Greytak, E. A., Bartkiewicz, M. J., Boesen, M. J., & Palmer, N. A. (2012). The 2011 National School Climate Survey: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in our nation’s schools. New York: GLSEN.
18Robinson, J.P., & Espelage, D.L. (2012). Bullying Explains Only Part of LGBTQ–Heterosexual
Risk Disparities: Implications for Policy and Practice. Educational Researcher, 41, 309-319.