Karate is an ancient martial arts style that was developed in the Ryukyu Islands in Japan. It grew into one of the most popular forms of martial arts worldwide several decades ago and still continues to be a favorite, especially with children. Along with teaching your kid self-defense and performance skills, it can help build your child’s self-esteem in the early formative years.
Karate and self-esteem
Self-esteem is the idea or “picture” we have of ourselves – who we are, what we’re capable of, and what we can be. It is built over time as we get to know ourselves through experience and feedback. It needs to be nurtured from a very young age for a kid to be able to grow into an adult who believes in himself or herself. Parents should take steps to ensure their children develop a positive self-image and self-respect. One of the most fun and effective ways to help children – even pre-schoolers – to develop a healthy level of self-esteem is through challenge and achievement in a structured physical and mental activity such as martial arts.
Karate has levels or ranks represented by belts of various colors and other uniform insignia. Each rank typically has a number of moves that must be learned to proceed to the next level. Forms (movement patterns) challenge students to memorize a sequence of techniques, targets, and direction changes at each rank. Free sparring or controlled combat against similarly-sized training partners (as well as seniors and teachers) helps students to fine-tune motor skills, reflexes, and strategic thinking.
This process of learning, practicing, competing with, and showcasing karate skills – starting at an early age – can have a tremendously positive effect on the self-esteem of practitioners.
- Testing and advancing through ranks can be a memorable, confidence-boosting ‘personal victory’.
- Praise and attention from instructors helps them feel good about themselves and their abilities to learn and achieve.
- Not advancing in rank following an unsatisfactory testing performance (i.e. receiving a “no change”) encourages children to try harder and work to reach goals.
- Scoring points or winning a free sparring bout gives students a sense of security and self- protection.
- A properly executed form reinforces the self-esteem gained from incremental learning.
All this eventually leads to a better self-image and a positive attitude that endures throughout childhood, adolescence, and into adulthood.
Other benefits of karate for pre-schoolers and older kids
Besides helping build self-esteem and self-defense skills, karate can help nurture “tiny tots” in a number of other ways to help them become healthy, self-reliant, and responsible young people. Martial arts practitioners are known to improve these traits and others:
- Physical fitness
Despite the popular misconception and hype portrayed in popular cinema, the martial arts are not strictly about violence. In fact, most martial artists learn to restrain their tempers and refrain from unleashing their powerful physical skills. Rather, martial arts offer a treasure trove of life lessons and tangible benefits for most students that reach far beyond the training facility to improve the lives of those who train and the lives of those around them.