Health and Fitness

Why Should I Sign My Kid Up For Martial Arts?

August 2, 2023

"My kid is not athletic and prefers art/chess/theater."

a young boy dipping a paintbrush in a cup of water

You  know your kids. You have observed one child's attention constantly being caught by music, another absorbed for hours fascinated by worms and grasshoppers, and yet another who hasn't met furniture that isn't a climbing wall or obstacle course.

The desire to nurture our children's natural interest can make us forgo activities they reject. After all, there are so many options, why insist on forcing them to do what they dislike?

Here are a couple of thoughts about that:

1.  Being active is necessary for all kids, not only those who are "athletic".

Following our children's curiosity is a wonderful thing, but so is making sure they are active regularly. When these two intentions don't coincide, i.e. a child wants only to draw and nothing else, we need to step in even if it means resistance from them.

Yes, I do know how hard this is. Yes, I have thrown in the towel a number of times. It is so much more rewarding to see our children's enjoyment in their chosen activity than to nudge and prod and cajole them to do something that don't interest them. And yes, I want to assure you that the towel that had been thrown in is still there and you can pick it up again.

baby wearing glass in front of a laptop

a boy fallen down on a field
baby wearing glass in front of a laptop

Here is another reason kids consider themselves non-athletic

Kids sort themselves and their peers into hierarchies. It is inevitable. It doesn't help that they are often told what they are by well-meaning adults: smart, clumsy, funny, slow, musical. Labels, especially at the young age, play a huge role in how kids view themselves.

  • "I am supposed to the smart one so I can't let anyone know that I don't understand this."
  • "I am clumsy, so what's the point of trying out for track and field?"
  • "I am the funny guy, not the smart guy, so of course I don't get this stuff. I don't need to. I can just make people laugh."

This phenomenon is especially troublesome in the field of athletics because it carries so much more weight than other criteria do, such as how caring a kid is or how well they solve problems. Take a look at a metric that measures the relative values society places on these traits: compare the average salaries of professional football players, social workers, therapists, and engineers.

( I realize that this is a massive over-simplification. Engineers don't have the monopoly on problem-solving skills; football players need them too. Social worker and therapists aren't the only career paths for caring souls. The point is that our society places a very high value on athleticism. )

Why is it so bad that kids consider themselves non-athletic?

Because they don't like doing what they are not good at. Children who believe they aren’t athletic avoid athletic pursuits and gravitate towards what what they excel in. Who wouldn't choose enjoyment over frustration, embarrassment, and shame?

old photo, color faded, of about 30 boys and girls of Chinese descent in front of a lake

I would and I did.

Beginning in elementary school, I came in last in most races and was teased for being chubby and slow. Being the only four-eyed in the class didn't help.

This is a picture of my 6th grade classmates. I am that one with the glasses trying to look smaller by slumping and hiding. Trying to be inconspicuous did nothing good to the way I looked or felt.

Fortunately,  athleticism did not reign supreme where I grew up. There were other things that gave me confidence and cred. Naturally, I spent more time and effort on those and in doing so, became better and better.

It took me a long time to realize that

  • I “wasn’t good in sports” and “was good at academics” because of the time and effort I’d put into each, not only because of my talent or lack thereof;
  • being slow and chubby did not prevent me from becoming an athlete;
  • becoming good in any field, athletic or otherwise, takes more than just innate traits. It takes skills.

And skills can be trained.

Michael Phelps may have extraordinary wingspan and Usain Bolt may have a much higher percentage of fast twitch muscles in his legs. But they didn’t get to where they did without professional guidance, intense work, and mental training.

Away from the world of super athletes, the principle is the same:

We become good at what we do often.
We do those things we are good at more often.

Rinse. Repeat.

drawing of muscles and joints in legs

All of that just to say: a child who "prefers" something else over athletics doesn't have to give up being active.

There is a good chance that they feel this way because of negative experiences that had led them to believe they are not good at it

Here are a few more reasons that feeling non-athletic isn't a good reason not to consider martial arts:

  • Being physically active is not the same as excelling in sports. Every kid needs to be active, not just the supposedly talented ones.  
  • Children' don't have to specialize: they can be both artistic and active.
  • There are many, many options. Kids who worry about letting their team down can choose individual sports. Kids who don’t like to memorize dance routines can run cross-country.

Tae Kwon Do at Axon Academy offers an ideal solution

collage of 3 kids, one kicking, another in a strong stance, a third, holding a bo staff

The subject
Martial arts is a vast field. No one trait can dominate.

Those who are strong may find that they need to improve their balance. Those who are fast could work on precision. Those who are flexible may work on muscles that support their end-range strength.

Similarly. who consider themselves inflexible, uncoordinated, slow have found meaningful progress and excellence.

At the initial stage of learning anything new, students need to feel a level of success so they’d feel safe and not worry about failing or being embarrassed.

There are so many ways for someone to feel confident in their ability to pursue martial arts. An experienced and perceptive instructor can play to the strengths of each student to help a hesitant new student gain confidence.

The instructor
Before I was a martial arts instructor, I taught piano  teachers how to teach.  I was fortunate to have been mentored by a visionary who saw the need for a process to train pianists who wanted to teach. She created a Master's program that has become the model for similar programs all over the world.

In addition to studying theories on learning and practice, I was observed every week and got detailed feedback. My three years of apprenticeship made me a firm believer of "those who can, teach." Knowing how to do something doesn't automatically qualify someone to teach.

Teaching martial arts is no different than piano because teaching has always to do with the learner much more than the subject. The knowledge and experience I had been garnering for the past 30 years are relevant no matter what I teach.

picture of Asian woman Tae Kwon Do uniform

I am dedicated to making sure that my students discover and develop their potential, no matter how talented or untalented they think they are. Because I know martial arts to be an excellent pursuit with invaluable benefits, I want everyone to have a chance to experience the life-changing practice.

Please don't let notions about your child's physical abilities or Tae Kwon Do classes prevent them from finding something that can change their lives. Give me a call and let's chat about your children's physical development.