Martial arts can instill good habits that will last a lifetime: concentration, self-responsibility, self-discipline and respect. But with different martial arts-Judo, aikido, tae kwon do, karate, mixed martial arts-and approaches to teaching, how to choose the correct art for your child? The best way, watch classes at different schools and investigate.
For instance, aikido is a very traditional Japanese martial art. "We teach students how to neutralize an attack, how to protect oneself without hurting the other person. Instead of kicking and punching, aikido stresses joint locks and throws," says Dianne Costanzo, sensei (teacher) at One Point Center Aikido Dojo in Oak Park.
"Because of its nature, aikido teaches students actually to get out of the way of an attack and not to engage more than necessary. In many ways, aikido is a very subtle art," Costanzo says. "Also because we are cooperative rather than competitive, we do not give out trophies. We feel that becoming the best person possible is the prize."
Another direction is to choose a martial arts school that combines several styles. "We teach an integrated discipline of a variety of martial arts known as Mu Yae Do, or Total Martial Arts," says Master E. Wilson, the early childhood and beginning student instructor of Master S.H. Yu Martial Arts. "Grand Master Yu, our founder, teaches students to build a healthy foundation of basics: stances, flexibility, blocks and kicks. Once the foundation is built, the mind and muscles are more receptive to more advanced combinations."
If your child is competitive and wants to challenge him/herself against others, a good option can be trying karate through the Illinois Shotokan Karate Clubs, which hold classes through park districts and other venues throughout the state, as well as sponsoring competitions both local and worldwide.
Most schools will allow you and your child to watch classes or even to take a free class before committing or buying any expensive equipment or uniforms. Some schools start children as young as 4 or 5, with very basic exercises, while others wait until age 6 or 7 to be sure children can focus enough to absorb the specifics of the art.
See more of Bronwyn's stories here.