Martial art’s – a parents guide

The family that trains together...

By Jason Smith

It’s a sunny Thursday afternoon and a mother takes her 6 year old son to a local martial arts school for the first time. The child steps through the door and is over come with a feeling of energy and excitement as they see the apparatus, equipment, other students and of course, the master.

Delighted to see her child swept up in this whirlwind of excitement, she is happy to let the child kick off his shoes and take part in his first class, embarking on the magical journey of the martial arts, and yet something is missing.

In over 2 decades of being involved in martial arts I don’t believe I’ve ever heard any body ask for a form of certification, proof of first aid or what more a police check, or child safety notice. It appears that the wearing of pajamas and a belt seem to be qualification enough to many parents to expose their child to the teachings of a stranger.

When your child is approaching school age, there tends to be an intensive period of looking into schooling. Which school is the right one for my child, which school provides the best facilities, echo’s the values you believe in, and of course is the best value for money. However when it comes to after school activities, there appears to be a significant drop in responsibility.

Principles and values:

In the past few years martial arts schools have received some bad press due to issues of street violence, bullying and of course the zero tolerance policies in schools.

There will always be bad apples, but this does not mean that martial arts have little value, in fact it’s quite the opposite.

The general misunderstanding is that martial arts makes kids violent, or provides them with the tools to become more dangerous in physicality. However, if taught correctly the focus in the teaching of martial arts is around core values and principles, such as perseverance, courtesy and self-control. In addition to this it also addresses areas of cognitive development, fine and gross motor skills, and creative thinking.

It’s these values that define a martial art as well as it’s practitioners, and therefore if the parent does not find out what the values of what their child is learning hour after hour each week the results can be confronting. I know of many martial arts school’s who prohibit parents from watching classes, although I know that  not all the reasons for this are negative, it still doesn’t build confidence.

As a parent I strongly recommend watching your child train, not only does this provide you with the skills and knowledge to assist your child in their development in their new activity, but also give you a greater understanding of what your child gains from the training.

For those parents willing to take the extra step, I strongly recommend training along side your child. This not only provides you with first hand experience of what your child is learning, but gives you high quality structured parenting time, as well as provides them with and exemplary role model that few children seem to have today, a parent that leads by example.

I receive many call’s from parents asking what martial art is best for their child, my general response is “it’s doesn’t matter, if it is taught right”. The same analogy can be said in reverse, as you could find the best martial art for your child’s body type, but have a terrible teacher who has questionable values. Much like at school, a great teacher can produce a great student, but you have to find them, and this often involves looking around and seeking references.

We are fortunate to have some great martial arts school’s on offer in the Northern beaches, many offering family classes, so do your research.

As a parent seeking to have your child take part in a martial arts activity or school my advice is the following:

Speak to instructors regarding the values and principles taught.

Talk to parents who have children training at the martial arts school.

Ask if the school is accredited and or certified.

Syllabus structure.

Check that there is a first aid box and trained first aid staff.

Martial art is in essence a way of building character through physical training. Bullies have always been around and do not need to have trained in martial arts to be effective. But “ Good” martial arts training can save your child from being bullied.

As I say to my students, “Wearing a black belt does not make you a good person, but being a black belt does”.

For further information in regard to martial arts school’s and their benefit for your child email

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