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Jiu-Jitsu & MMA



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Wil Horneff
A Message from Professor Wil Horneff, Head Kids Instructor

I’m Wil Horneff, Head Instructor here at Training Grounds Jiu-Jitsu & MMA in Westwood NJ. I have been teaching children for over 13 years and have a passion for seeing life transformation through the martial arts as it did for me as a child. Great parenting can only go so far, and sometimes with the overwhelming and endless challenges that come with raising a child it can be hard to stop long enough to catch your breath, let alone develop a well thought-out plan to teach your child life lessons such as respect, self-discipline, perseverance, determination, and courage. My program will teach your child the life skills they need to succeed in life and the self defense skills they need to walk with confidence.

Select the primary challenges that your child is facing and I’ll show you how my program can help.  After filling out the form you’ll be directed to our online scheduler where you can reserve a spot in a trial class.  I’ll also give you a call so that we can discuss both the challenges they are facing as well as your goals for them in the program because teaching children should never be a one size fits all approach.  I look forward to meeting you and showing you what Training Grounds Jiu-Jitsu & MMA is all about.

Wil Horneff
Do You Feel Overwhelmed by The Challenges Of Raising A Child?

You may be overwhelmed with the prospect of your child being bullied. They may have attention issues such as A.D.H.D which can further put them at a disadvantage. Naturally, you may be stressed because you want the best for your child. The good news is that our program is designed to instill in your child over 26 life skills and core values as well as bully proof them by learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu & MMA. Our program focuses on life trajectory transformation though the martial arts.  Our instructors know how to empower your child to become resilient, confident, disciplined and to respect themselves and others.  However, unlike some other martial arts schools, the medium we use to do this is one that will really teach your child how to defend themselves vs giving them a false security that will let them down.

Wil Horneff
Discipline, Confidence, Courage!

Our kids program will give your child the discipline they need to see results. They will develop empowering beliefs about themselves leading to both confidence and courage. This added confidence acts as a shield against bullies, who tend to prey on weaker kids who lack self-esteem. Additionally, our classes are fun!  We realize the importance of keeping children engaged and focused on learning.  That’s why we put great care into developing curriculums that are both challenging and fun.    The best way to see what our program is about is to come and and try it out.  If you select the challenges your child is facing below, will show you how our program can help.  After filling our one of our trial forms you will be directed to our online scheduler where you can reserve a trial class.

Select the Challenges Your Child Is Facing
 two kids in white uniforms at a kids martial arts class and practicing a headlock escape

The Best Martial Art For Kids Is In Bergen County Is Jiu-Jitsu, Not Karate Classes

Often times after a bullying incident or out of a desire for their child to increase their self esteem, parents seek out Karate classes for kids or another type of traditional martial arts like Taekwondo. Everyone knows The Karate Kid! However, if the last 15 years of martial arts competition have taught us anything, it’s that the best martial arts for kids is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu hands down. It’s the best chance your child has to stay safe and defend himself against a larger, stronger opponent. Don’t waste years of precious time and money doing something that increases your child’s confidence but doesn’t protect them in a comprehensive way.

girl and boy taking the jiu jitsu class for kids at training grounds in westwood nj

Our Kids Martial Arts Classes Teach Self Control

Kids need a way to positively channel their energy. Our kids martial arts classes are energetic, high paced, engaging and fun!! Your child will learn to positively control their energy and behavior. Our instructors are very experienced dealing with children and know how to reinforce the positive behaviors you would like to see them develop. Your kids will learn how to control their impulses and channel them effectively. We have a zero tolerance policy towards bullying in the school. There is nothing better than martial arts for kids who are starting to exhibit bullying behavior. Often times children bully other children because they lack self confidence and discipline. Bullies soon see the error of their ways as they learn that the way to be respected is to respect others first.

two girls facing off against eachother in a kids martial arts class about to do a sparring match

Kids Martial Arts Teaches Them How To Focus

In life it's important to know what to focus on, and what to ignore. Your child will learn both the skill and philosophy of focus. In class they will need to practice the skill of focus in order to learn martial arts. We realize that each child is at a different stage in their ability to concentrate so our goal is to meet them where they are and help them take the next steps. Additionally, children need to know how to focus on empowering thoughts and actions in life and to ignore what holds them back. This will be constantly reinforced in our Life Skills Program. A decent school will teach kids self defense. However a great martial arts school for kids is one that prepares them both and physically and mentally for what they will be facing in life.

two kids bowing before taking a martial arts class in westwood nj

Our Kids Martial Arts Program Teaches Respect

We teach our kids martial arts students to respect themselves, their parents, and their teachers. Kids who display a lack of respect in these three areas often face challenges in their relationships and fail to succeed in life. Respect is integral to the Training Grounds Jiu-Jitsu & MMA kids martial arts program and is reinforced every day that your child steps on the mat. However, this is not a one size fits all approach. Our instructors apply a “connect before you correct” approach to mentoring your child and prefer to work closely with parents in order to achieve our common goals.

kid looking confident and determined during a kids a self defense class

Martial Arts Gives Kids Confidence & Pride

Your child gets to be the champion of their life as they realize their full potential under the watchful eye of our highly qualified instructors. Kids martial arts classes have been shown to be very beneficial to a child’s psychology. Our mission is to inspire, mentor and challenge each child with the aim of making them confident, assertive, and resilient in order to deal with the social and societal challenges they are going to be facing in life. You don’t have to feel overwhelmed by the the constant negative social pressures that they may be facing. Let us partner with you in giving them a positive self identify backed up by real world self defense skills in our martial arts classes for kids.

a martial arts teacher helping two kids who are in a fighting stance and smiling

Martial Arts Leads To Better Performance In School And High Grades

Our kids martial arts program emphasizes education and rewards getting good grades in school. Focusing, studying and excelling become habitual for our martial arts students. We like to tell parents that education and succeeding in life is the goal, and children’s jiu jitsu is the method. The lessons of consistency, discipline, focus, and a non quitting spirit that they learn on the mats is something they will apply in school. We routinely have students who go from struggling in school to receiving top honors within a year.

kid looking determined during his martial art class

Our Self Defense Classes For Kids Trains Them To Have A Non Quitting Spirit

Our Kids Martial Arts will teach your child the most effective form of self defense for kids. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu teaches kids how to handle adversity, to show courage and never give up, to keep going when things get tough, and to keep trying until they succeed. We call this the “meta skill.” By learning this skill in our self defense classes they are able to learn every other skill that will help them succeed in life. Your child will learn to see to see failure as a positive learning experience from which to motivate themselves vs something to shy away from. As we walk them through this process they will develop an empowering identity and see themselves in a new light. They will develop a resiliency and stick-to-it-ness that will help them break barriers, not boards, for the rest of their life.

Kid crying while two bullies laugh and point at him

Bullying Creates Both Internal And External Scars

Bullying leaves scars that last a lifetime. And oftentimes kids who are bullied become bullies because they suffer from low self esteem. Sure you may get over it, but those experiences echo for the rest of your life. The low self esteem, depression and anxiety that bullying inflicts on your child will last a lifetime. Today more than ever, social pressures seek to negatively influence your child in ways that prohibit their development into healthy young adults. Bullies tend tend to prey on kids who lack confidence making them an easy target. When you enroll your child in our jiu jitsu classes for kids we take that target right off their back and equip them to deal with every form of bullying whether it be physical, verbal, or emotional.

two special needs children standing together smiling

We Provide Special Needs Children With Structure, Support, And A Positive Sense Of Self

Our kids martial arts instructors have experience working with special needs children and can provide them with the help they need. We have worked with kids who have ADD, ADHD, Low Muscle Tone, as well as kids who are on the spectrum. Developmental and coordination issues can make kids feel marginalized and discouraged and may even lack socialization skills. In our kids martial arts classes your child will receive the affirmation they need to know that they can achieve anything they want in life as well as the structure and feedback to develop focus and control. Our environment is safe and supportive and we love working closely with parents on a week by week basis to ensure their child is progressing in a positive manner.

a group of kids raising their hands to answer a question in a martial arts class

We Will Help Your Child Become Self Motivated & Disciplined

Does your child start things but lose interest or lack the follow through necessary to get the results they need? Do they struggle with being self disciplined? Aside from bullying, this behavioral challenge has the potential to do the most damage. Our kids mixed martial arts program is designed to teach and reward 26 integral life skills to help them succeed in life including Honesty, Integrity, Respect & Self Discipline. These qualities will become habitual for your child as you partner with us and we mentor them in our youth martial arts program. Kids tend to become like the group of peers you surround them with. In our kids martial arts classes you’ll find a group of highly motivated, disciplined, over achievers who put most adults to shame.

an unhappy obese child frowning

Obesity Leads To Body Issues And Low Sense Of Self Worth

Your child doesn’t need to develop the health problems and self esteem issues that obesity brings. Martial arts training can help them lose weight, develop strength and increase their self esteem. Over the years we have seen scores of overweight children come into our program and not only lose weight but develop a new identity for who they are and what they can accomplish in life. Get your child started today on a new path!

two girls in pink uniforms smiling and training in a kids martial arts class

We Teach Your Kids To Love Exercise

Kids develop attitudes to exercise, effort and fitness early in life. They will get used to and enjoy wherever they spend the most time whether that be an Xbox or something healthy and empowering like a kids martial arts class. Once those attitudes and associations are set its hard to change. By getting them involved in martial arts and self defense early on in life you can change the entire trajectory of their lives, impacting not only their self esteem but their long term health.

Frequently Asked Questions

My child has attitude and temperament problems. What can martial arts do for them?

To be a kids martial arts instructor you need to be able to see beyond the behaviors. We follow of principal of “connect before you correct.” We try to connect with our students so that they want to behave correctly. At the same time we have a zero tolerance policy for bad behavior. We reward and reinforce the behaviors that your child will need to thrive in their lives and we discipline the behaviors that are disempowering to them. It’s all part of the program.

How does your martial arts program help my child do better at school?

Self motivation and self discipline are skills we consistently reinforce in our kids classes. They are the “meta-skills” that will help your child learn the other 24 life skills we teach. We coach children in a holistic fashion and by placing equal emphasis on character we ensure they they will be a success both in life and on the mats.

I’m afraid taking martial arts will make my child more aggressive with friends and siblings. I don’t want them getting into fights. Do I need to worry about that?

While that concern is understandable, the reality is that martial arts training actually makes kids less aggressive by giving them a positive outlet to channel their energy. Additionally, the increase in self esteem makes them more caring towards their peers. Our kids martial arts program teaches that the proper place for practicing self defense is at the academy. Our student know that martial arts is to be used as a last resort. This type of training makes kids more self aware and confident. Confident kids don’t bully!

My child is a little shy and timid. Can martial arts help this?

Absolutely! Timidity or being afraid is all about confidence. The self confidence your child develops in our program will lead to personality changes. They will become bolder and sure of themselves in their social interactions.

My child doesn’t like sports. Will martial arts be any different?

The interesting thing we have noticed is that sometimes kids who are not interested in other sports or who perform poorly with sports that require hand/eye coordination such as baseball tend to enjoy and perform well in Jiu-Jitsu. Moreover, we make learning martial arts fun! Your child will be challenged, but will also receive positive reinforcement whenever they are exhibiting mental toughness and a non quitting spirit.

My child is overweight. Will they be able to keep up?

Absolutely. All beginner level classes are designed to allow anyone to participate no matter their skill or athletic ability. Additionally, our instructors are focused on both the physical and psychological well being of the students. They know both when to push and when to praise.

My child struggles with attention issues. Is that going to be an issue in class?

Our instructors have tons of experience teaching kids with ADHD as well as other challenges. We do not apply a one size fits all approach to coaching. This is why we like to partner with parents who are invested in their child’s development. We will help your child develop the focus and behavioral habits they need to succeed. And if we feel that they aren’t ready yet we will let you know.

My child is shy and struggles socially. I’m afraid they are going to feel abandoned or left out?

No child is left behind or ignored. While our kids martial arts program is designed to teach focus and self motivation, each and every child gets equal personal attention. We hold ourselves to the highest standard each and every martial arts class we teach.

My child suffers from low self esteem. Will training martial arts help?

Yes. Each and every class your child will grow in their self esteem as they are challenged and come out victorious. They will develop new references to support an empowering belief in themselves. Our program is about total life trajectory transformation! Your child will develop a strong sense of identity that will empower them in every other area of their lives.

How does learning martial arts help my child learn self discipline?

Learning martial arts requires that they focus and repeat the moves over and over. Additionally, they will be taking direction from coaches who will adjusting their technique. In order to do this well they will have to learn how to focus and control their bodies.

How can my child learn respect from your martial arts classes?

Respect is a core value of our program. Our students are taught to respect themselves, their family, and other students.

My child is starting to bully other children. Will learning martial arts help him stop?

Yes. Children tend to bully others due to feelings of inadequacy and/or fear. By learning martial arts, your child will develop a new identity and sense of self worth. They won’t feel the need to assert their dominance over others. Confident kids don’t get bullied or turn into bullies!

Will martial arts help my kid lose weight?

Our classes are energetic and fun. They will burn a ton of calories and help build your child’s core strength. It's vital that kids develop a passion for fitness at a young age.

My child has problem with motor coordination. Will they get hurt?

No. Our kids martial arts instructors are experienced working with children of all types. They have experience working with kids who have both physical and mental disabilities including low muscle tone, a.d.d, and Aspergers. Coaching is not a one size fits all approach. Our instructors know how to get your child where they need to be through incremental, achievable goals.


Secure your spot & get started today with our EXCLUSIVE online offer!

  • Lauren and her two kids smiling before their kids class

    “We pass by many schools much closer to home. They just don’t compare to the experience that is offered here.”
    - Lauren Wright

  • Vanessa burt and her children talking after training in our kids martial arts classes in westwood nj

    “I wanted my kids to develop courage, self esteem, and discipline. That’s exactly what what Training Grounds delivered.”
    - Vanessa Burt

  • Marisela martinez a parent at training grounds

    “My son has become more self confident, more responsible, kinder and more respectful.”
    - Marisela Martinez

  • Rebekah and her son Ami after getting out of his class at our westwood location

    “Our commute to Training Grounds is one hour each time. That should tell you something.”
    - Rebekah Mally

  • Charmaine and her four children on a couch

    “I speak for all of the kids when I say we really love it here. Such a great atmosphere.”
    - Charm Mastro

  • the yurista family at a restaurant smiling

    “It has improved his self esteem, his discipline and his perseverance all the while teaching these awesome life skills that they have.”
    - Lee Lenoir Yurista

  • chris fontanetta and his wife at a benefit attended by all parents whose kids are in the martial arts program

    “The kids have so much confidence now and it's backed up by real skills too, not some false confidence.”
    - Chris Fontanetta

    Marisela martinez a parent at training grounds
    Marisella Martinez

    My name is Marisela Martinez. I enrolled my son Andy in the kids martial arts classes here and I couldn't be more happy. He's become more self confident, more responsible, kinder and more respectful. I found that he is more focused in school and goes out of his way to do things that he knows will please me and his martial art instructors. He helps me with the chores, shares with his brother, helps clean the table; so many things that I didn't realize would come along with a kids martial arts class. It's benefited us in so many ways that go beyond merely self defense. The atmosphere is so nice. It's not overly competitive. Us parents get to hang out and watch their kids train martial arts. As long as this academy is open I am going to send my child here. I really think it takes a village to raise a child and I want influences like this in my son's life.
    Haworth, NJ

    max paparazzos father jake
    Matthew Paparazzo

    This kids martial arts program so greatly exceeded every expectation and they were already high as I’ve been around many martial arts schools in my life. I was initially concerned my son Max was too young but Professor Wil made me feel comfortable enough to give it a shot. Wil was confident that he would be able to engage Max. All I can say is thank God that I did because Max is thriving in Professor Wil’s kids class. Not only is he learning great self defense but the life skills Professor Wil teaches are priceless. I really got so much more than I ever thought I would out of a kids martial arts class.
    Closter, NJ

    a picture of lisa marinkovic from her facebook smiling
    Lisa Marinkovic

    We just wanted to get our son Mark involved in something fun. However what we got out of it was so much more than you would expect from a kids martial arts class. His self confidence has gone up. The discipline at home is greatly improved. He used to throw temper tantrums every time I said “no”. Now he listens to me. The first thing out of his mouth when I pick him up from pre-k is "Mommy do I have training today?" Coach Wil is so over the top encouraging, but if they are not paying attention he calls them out on it and teaches them that there are always consequences. It's a wonderful kids martial arts school. As much as Mark loves coming here and as much fun as he has, it is about the discipline, the paying attention, and training the moves as well. It's been fantastic and I am so grateful that I found the Training Grounds Jiu-Jitsu & MMA kids martial arts program
    Haworth, NJ

    Mike Grey and his son smiling after class
    Michael Gray

    I train here myself in the adult program but they also offer martial arts for kids. I started my kids training here since they were 4 years old. Wil teaches a style of Jiu Jitsu that’s effective not only on the mat but also in your daily life and he teaches that to the children. Not giving up when you are in a bad position. Not quitting. In Jiu Jitsu you have to learn to adapt to get yourself out of a bad position and that is also true in life. These martial arts lessons are important to learn as an adult and also as a child. Training Grounds Jiu-Jitsu & MMA is a warm and inviting atmosphere for my kids. The children all listen, they are disciplined, they do their drills and help encourage each other. It's really something special here.
    Ridgewood, NJ

    ed sullivan and his son
    Ed Sullivan

    My name is Ed Sullivan. I have been a police offer for 20 years and have trained with some of the best instructors in the world and I consider Professor Wil to be one of them. I don't trust anyone with my kids but I would drop them off at Training Grounds Jiu-Jitsu & MMA anytime and feel comfortable coming back after their class is done although I love watching it. I know my kids are going to be well taken care of. I wanted my kids to join a kids martial arts school for self defense, discipline, and fitness. I’ve seen big strides in their self confidence and motivation as well. The environment is friendly and it's easy for the kids to learn because of how engaging Professor Wil is.
    River Edge, NJ

    salome kim and her family after their son joey’s martial arts class in westwood nj
    Salome Kim

    I can’t say enough about the kids martial arts program here. They focus equally on the physical and personal development aspects of training a martial art. Both of my sons love coming to the kids jiu jitsu class each week. They are challenged yet encouraged and it’s so awesome to see both their skill set and confidence develop each week. We are fortunate to have Professor Wil and the other coaches around to be such positive role models in our kids lives.
    Emerson, NJ

    signed her son up for kids martial arts to prevent bullying
    Miriam Yu

    My son is small so I knew I wanted to sign him up for kids martial arts to prevent bullying. A friend said specifically to chose kids brazilian jiu jitsu vs taekwondo or karate because it was more effective for real self defense. The first thing that you notice is how absolutely amazing Professor Wil is with children. My son walked out feeling confident and happy unlike other kids martial arts programs we have tried where we had to force him to go. I’ve noticed my sons personality blossom. He used to be more shy and reserved and now he’s friends with everyone in his class. He smiles more, speaks louder and with more confidence. I really can’t say enough about their program. Would recommend their kids classes to any parent who wants a comprehensive solution to make their child more disciplined, courageous and confident.
    Cresskill, NJ

    blake barba with a medal around his neck and another student with after winning a kids jiu jitsu competition
    Bret Barba

    My son has been taking the kids jiu jitsu classes at Training Grounds for a year now. Leading up to this he had been asking us to take him to a “karate class.” But I knew if he was going to do anything it was going to be brazilian jiu jitsu based upon its proven efficacy for self defense. In determining where to send my son I had some concerns. I have been a school teacher in NYC for the last decade and had concerns that my son may be too young to grasp the concepts. Additionally, what I noticed after trying out a bunch of other programs is that you either had school that was geared towards adults and they didn’t know how to properly teach kids or they had a fun kids martial arts class but they weren’t good practitioners themselves. I didn’t just want blake going for the entertainment value of it. What I found was that Training Grounds was the best of both worlds. Not only is Professor Wil an accomplished bjj black belt under ralph gracie but is a real master educator when it comes to not only teaching entertaining kids martial arts classes but also when it comes to communicating how to learn it. He has the exceptional level of patience required to work with kids of varying ages, skill levels, maturity levels. It's pretty obvious he loves what he teaches and it manifests itself with successful students. If you compare his kids martial arts classes to others I’m sure you will come to the same conclusion I did.
    Dumont, NJ

    Rebekah and her son Ami after getting out of his class at our westwood location
    Rebekah Mally

    My five year old goes to Training Grounds. He loves to “punch and kick,” as he says and that’s initially why I was looking for a kids martial arts class. I also wanted him to find an appropriate channel for his energy vs the playground. Professor Wil is so great and I could not have asked for a more understanding and sensitive instructor towards my child. He really is so kind to them and really makes them feel special with the one on one attention that they so crave at this age. I LOVE the life skills that they teach!! This last month's theme was Discipline. I had no clue about this element to their program when he joined. We couldn’t be happier, and most importantly my son loves it!!
    Montvale, NJ

    aviva weiss and her daughter arielle after a fun martial arts class
    Aviva Weiss

    My daughter’s two friends invited her to try out the kid classes and she loves it. She is much more courageous and disciplined and I have noticed a real change in her self esteem. It's really been amazing to watch and we couldn’t be prouder of her accomplishments in this program. She has even been student of the month. These coaches are always putting in a huge effort with the kids!
    Washington Township, NJ

    Laryssa and her two sons together outside of the kids martial arts class.
    Laryssa Newsom

    My son enrolled in the training grounds kids martial arts program a few months ago and he loves it. We love it to because we see the progress in his focus and discipline. He’s also more independent and assertive. For example he will just take charge and partner up with kids that he doesn’t know in the class. He genuinely loves going.
    Park Ridge, NJ

     malissa and her two boys after training
    Malissa Wright

    My two boys are in the kids program and LOVE it. My four year old struggles with his speech and can be hyperactive so I wanted to put him in a program that could help. Professor Wil teaches in a way that helps my children retain what they learn. It's a really good balance of fun, discipline, and respect.
    Northvale, NJ

    gerard and his wife
    Gerard Dargan

    My son told me that he was interested in learning martial arts so I began to ask around and do my own research on the best fit for us both in terms of style and school. My experience with the training grounds kids martial arts program has been outstanding. Professor Wil does a great job with the kids and his wife makes customer service pleasant and effortless. I would highly recommend the Training Grounds kids program
    Paramus, NJ

    Charmaine and her four children on a couch
    Charm Mastro

    Three of my children take the kids martial arts classes. I even take the self defense class. The instructors are very patient with all of us. Professor Wil does a great job with one of my kids who has special needs. I speak for all of the kids when I say we really love it here. Such a great atmosphere.
    Westwood, NJ

    Pat carozza at his business called freak strength talking about the benefits of kids martial arts
    Pat Carozza

    I have my own business called Freak Strength which focuses on making high level athletes through sport specific training. I knew exactly what I was looking for in a kids martial arts program for my son. I initially was here for myself in the adult classes. What I can say is that they give my 6 year old son the same level attention they give me in the adult program. It really is a unique place.
    Hohokus, NJ

    brett and his family at their home in westwood nj
    Brett Thompson

    Professor Wil is an incredible teacher and the students at the gym are always looking to help each other improve. After attending classes for several months I signed up my 10 year old son for the kids martial arts classes. I highly recommend checking out TG if you want your child to learn BJJ, self defense and gain confidence.
    Westwood, NJ

    the yurista family at a restaurant smiling
    Lee Lenoir Yurista

    My son Dean is in the kids class. Professor Wil calls him “Dean The Machine” because of how good he has become. He looks forward to his Jiu Jitsu class every week. It has improved his self esteem, his discipline and his perseverance all the while teaching these awesome life skills that they have. Things like honesty, integrity, selflessness, and focus. It's a comprehensive solution for a child’s development. It's one of the best gifts I could ever give him. Thank You!
    Norwood, NJ

    chris fontanetta and his wife at a benefit attended by all parents whose kids are in the martial arts program
    Chris Fontanetta

    These guys do an incredible job with my kids. They really drive home the importance of responsibility, respect, school, self discipline, and manners. The kids have so much confidence now and it's backed up by real skills too, not some false confidence like you might get with kids karate classes or taekwondo. The adult class that I take is great. Solid group of friendly guys. It's the best kids martial arts program in the area in my opinion.
    Paramus, NJ

    sasi shalom
    Sasi Shalom

    My name is Sasi Shalom. I am a real estate developer and Jazz musician. Many schools in the area that I looked at for my kids and myself concentrate on the ceremony as opposed to the technique. What I like about Training Grounds Jiu-Jitsu & MMA is that the ceremony is less important but the technique is super serious. Master Wil makes sure that you learn things that you can really use if you get into a situation or if you want to get into competition. Wil's enthusiasm and seriousness, yet relaxedness of his approach to teaching and the school itself makes for a very inviting environment. It feels very homey. When we moved here and began looking for Kids Martial Arts Classes In Bergen County we looked for an environment that was very welcoming to kids, creating discipline but with self respect. We wanted a place that would engender a love for the study of martial arts. Master Wil is doing all this and then some.
    Ridgewood, NJ

    Martial Arts vs School Sports for Kids - Which Option Builds More Confidence?

    If you want to raise happy, successful kids, you must instill a sense of confidence in your child. Physical activities and challenges such as school sports and martial arts for kids are crucial tools for developing self-confidence.Unfortunately, kids have limited time available for any given activity. This constraint forces us as parents to decide between martial arts or school sports for our kids.
    In terms of martial arts vs school sports for confidence, we firmly believe that martial arts are superior to most school sports activities. The following article lays out our rationale for putting your child in a martial arts program for kids. Our primary focus in this discussion is developing confidence. Hopefully, by the end, you will have an understanding of why martial arts are better than school sports for confidence.

    What is Confidence?

    Confidence is an incredibly common term. Discussions of child-development and helping kids succeed in life frequently stress the importance of confidence. But what does confidence actually mean? According to Psychology Today, confidence in children revolves around an internal belief that the child can succeed in a given activity. A child with well-developed self-confidence “displays a belief in his or her own abilities.”
    We can develop self-confidence in children through the following:
    • Mirroring and encouraging our children.
    • Making a child believe that you trust them.
    • Helping children see their own skill development.
    Any child can develop this sense of self-confidence. As parents, our job is to guide our children towards activities that further this goal. We also must provide mirroring and encouragement as they engage in these activities. Do not focus on how much is the cost of martial arts classes for kids. Remember that it is a minimal price to get incredible benefits for life derived from a skill such as confidence. Your kids will grow to depend on themselves and understand the importance of self-confidence.

    How Martial Arts Build Confidence

    a girl with her fists up looking tough with her martial art uniform on
    In life, we are all faced with constant challenges, both large and small. Overcoming these challenges over the short and long term ultimately leads us to grow and flourish. While no individual’s personal challenges will be the same, we must cultivate the confidence in ourselves to attempt these challenges. Confidence lies in both the feeling that you can overcome an obstacle as well as the willingness to accept that you may fail along the way, but you will try again despite this ‘failure.'

    The Goals of Martial Arts

    Martial arts is fundamentally about overcoming difficult challenges in the face of adversity. Controlling another human being via our own physical abilities and knowledge is a serious physical challenge. As we find success in the dojo and on the mats through our skill development, we become more confident overall in our ability to face adversity and emerge stronger at the end.When it comes to martial arts for kids, your child will be faced with adversity in the dojo early into their career as martial artists. There is no way around the fact that all martial artists will face humbling, difficult ‘defeat’ against those with more experience. In fact, for most of us, this reality is persistent regardless of how long we have been training martial arts.
    The advantage of developing confidence in children is that adversity in the dojo is carefully controlled to ensure that your child remains as safe as possible in the wake of physical challenges. The child can be progressed through calibrated difficulty via training partner selection. On the flip side, your child's involvement in a semi or full-contact martial art does have a chance for injury and greater uncertainty in the outcome of winning or losing.
    The acknowledgment of risk and the completion of a task in the face of this risk in itself builds a massive amount of confidence and self-belief. This may simply a matter of your child getting through their first martial arts tournament or earning their first promotion. Both are big milestones in early development as a martial artist. As with all great things in life, martial arts rewards those who are dedicated and disciplined. Training martial arts guarantees your child the feeling of accomplishment from serious training.

    Why Martial Arts are Better Than School Sports

    Hopefully, by now you are convinced that martial arts for kids are excellent for building confidence. However, you might wonder “don’t traditional school sports have the same effect?” The answer is yes… sometimes. School sports can certainly develop your child’s confidence and ability to work with others cooperatively to achieve a common goal. Nevertheless, there are some downsides and missing components when it comes to traditional school sports for children. These downsides make martial arts for kids better than school sports for developing confidence.
    a line of children with their backs turned at the start of a kids martial arts class

    #1 - School Sports Reward Athletically Gifted Children More Than Less Athletic Kids

    While competition can be an important aspect of self-development, in traditional sports, it’s incredibly common for non-athletic children to get far less play time than their more talented peers. Often, the children who get the most kudos from team sports are naturally faster, more coordinated, and physically talented. The less athletic kids are then relegated to being bench-warmers and backups. Many may not even step foot on the field come game-day.
    Compare this to martial arts for kids. Even a non-athletic kid placed in martial arts at too old of an age to be a 10-year-old prodigy will still receive the opportunity to compete against a child of similar skill. Due to the individual nature of martial arts, kids are (usually) not blamed for the team’s loss, nor will they be benched simply because another kid is better at the game. Even at the lowest level of competition, children get to be in the spotlight and receive social acknowledgment and reward. Be sure to mirror the accomplishment to your child for showing up to compete and putting it all on the line against the opponent, win or lose.

    #2 - Martial Arts Develops a Real Life Skill

    Most of us in the first world can acknowledge that we live in some of the statistically safest times in human history. Sure, there are bad neighborhoods, crime, and wars, but the relative level of violence your average first-world child will experience is incredibly low. Nevertheless, it is incredibly likely that at some point, your child will be faced with a real-life encounter resulting in physical altercation. This could be as mundane as a schoolyard bully encounter, or more serious situations involving violent crime. In either case, the presence of violence or potential for violence is incredibly traumatic, and in a few short moments can change one’s life entirely.
    Of course, we should always encourage our children to walk away, turn the other cheek, and avoid confrontation. However, there may be a time when the fight cannot be avoided. In this case, the ability of children to defend themselves effectively enough to escape may be a life-saving skill.In school sports, the skills themselves are really only applicable during the game itself. Martial arts skill transcends the gym and the competition. The confidence associated with at least knowing the basics of how to fight another person far outweigh the brief rush of a soccer participation trophy (where your child may not have even played in the game!).

    #3 - Martial Arts Teach Kids to Cooperate

    It may seem on a surface level that traditional team sports would be better than martial arts for kids for teamwork and cooperation. After all, in order to get a touch-down or score a soccer goal, the kids must work together and learn to cooperate. It's certainly true that in the context of high-level children’s sports with qualified coaches, the victory will be secured by good teamwork. However, this completely overlooks the fact that at lower levels, one or two athletic kids can dominate a game, score all the goals, and skip over the need to pass the ball or play with the team.
    This take on school sports versus martial arts for kids also shows a fundamental lack of understanding about the dynamics of martial arts training. While martial arts are fundamentally about one opponent versus another, the vast majority of training time in martial arts is spent on cooperative training activities. In order to drill the techniques, students must work together cooperatively to practice the moves and avoid injury.If a kid cannot work with others, they will not be able to advance in martial arts. They will need to develop the interpersonal skills required for cooperative drilling. Even in a sparring context, children must take care of one another. In this way, martial arts are actually better than many traditional team sports settings, where gifted kids can be “ball hogs” and ruin the entire experience for the bench-warmers. Martial arts build confidence in less athletic children. They instill real-world skills learned in quality martial arts programs. Additionally, they instill effective cooperation with others. Collectively these traits make martial arts a better choice than school sports for kids.


    Won’t my child get injured in martial arts?

    Physical altercations, by definition, involve physical risk to the participants. As such you're probably wondering whether your child will be injured during martial arts training. The answer is yes, most likely your child will injure themself at some point during the course of their training. Injuries are a normal part of being human. This is particularly so when participating in any sport.
    We need a discussion of these injury risks in context. Injuries are a reality in all sports. In fact, for the most part, the injury rates during martial arts training are not substantially higher than in mainstream sports. The specific risk and typical injury profile will vary depending on the sport and martial art. Additionally, some martial arts do carry inherently more risk than certain sports or other martial arts. Nevertheless, the risk of injury in martial arts should not be the reason you put your kid in traditional sports.
    Additionally, consider the risks of your child not participating in any physical activity. These include obesity, cardiovascular risks, and ultimately setting your child up for a life of inactivity. The long term risks of this inactivity are far more serious you compare them to the possibility of sprains, strains, and even broken bones.

    Will Martial Arts Make My Child Violent?

    Another concern you may face is the worry that martial arts will make your kid violent. Martial arts certainly give children the tools to really hurt each other badly. However, people commonly become less violent as their skill increases in martial arts.There are many reasons for this happening. These include greater knowledge of the true consequences of physical violence and that the child has less to ‘prove’ on the playground. After all, if they head to the dojo after school, what does a playground fight really prove? A child’s antisocial behavior may be so great that they are simply hell-bent on hurting others. Martial arts is unlikely to make this urge worse. In fact, competitive martial arts might provide a better outlet for aggressive tendencies. If the child is still violent towards others, your considerations are bigger than whether picking between soccer or BJJ.
    Wanna learn more? Read: 12 Ways Martial Arts Can Shape Children's Behavior
    a boy smiling and feeling very confident with his performance in a brazilian jiu jitsu match at training grounds

    Which Martial Art Should I Choose for My Child?

    Hopefully, we've convinced you that martial arts are better for your child than school sports. However, you might wonder which martial art you should choose for your child. We havemany great answers to this question. The most important thing is to find a good instructor. We recommend the following process:
    1. Look up gyms in your area
    2. Read online reviews
    3. Talk to other parents
    4. Check out several gyms and dojo in your area.
    5. Choose the best fit for your child
    The second consideration should be to pick a martial art that involves live training and sparring. There are many options in this regard, the following are our top picks
    • Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
    • Muay Thai
    • Wrestling
    • Boxing
    • Karate
    All of these can be great options if you find a good coach. If your child’s school has a wrestling team this could be a good choice and convenient as well (although it may be plagued by some of the issues with team sports depending on the culture).An additional consideration worth noting is that striking arts typically involve more physical pain and head trauma than grappling arts. With this in mind, starting off with BJJ for kids may be a good option for kids martial arts for confidence. They can branch out later if they are so inclined.

    In Conclusion: Pick Martial Arts for Your Kid!

    two girls smiling at each other a training grounds kids martial arts class
    At this point, we’ve laid out our best arguments for picking martial arts for kids. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t ever involve your kids in school sports either in addition to or instead of martial arts. The most important thing will always be your child’s enjoyment, and forcing a kid to do karate when they really want to play tennis is probably not a great choice.Nevertheless, if your child is a blank slate or is open to trying out new activities, our vote lies firmly in the camp of choosing martial arts for kids.
    Martial arts training is well-known for fostering respect and discipline among long-term practitioners. In today’s competitive day and age, discipline and respect have never been more important for success. When it comes to kid’s martial arts for respect and discipline, there are a number of reasons why we should expose and encourage children's participation in martial arts. Before we dive into the numerous benefits of kid's martial arts for respect and discipline, we should define exactly what we mean when we use these terms and how they are fostered by martial arts training.

    Respect and Discipline

    Respect is a nebulous term. It often means different things to different people. To simplify things, we want to consider the two main forms of respect. All other definitions of respect fall under these categories: self-respect and respect for others.


    Self-Respect is the foundation of all other manifestations of respect. You must respect yourself to have respect for others. Self-respect refers to an acknowledgment of one’s own value as a human being. Self-respect is largely fostered by persevering in the face of difficulty and overcoming obstacles. These obstacles are both small and large. Modern parenting and psychology increasingly focus on self-esteem. However, the fact is that true self-respect must be earned.
    Martial arts training provides a constant opportunity to challenge oneself. The challenges include accomplishing difficult tasks both small and large. This can mean facing a tough opponent in competition. Even simply making it through an intense practice session raises self-respect. Dedicated martial artists consistently have their work ethic reinforced. The constant testing of one’s ego is one of the greatest recipes for developing self-respect over time. This is a reason why kids need martial arts training in today's world.
    an instructor teaching two kids how to kick during their martial art class

    Respect for Others

    Learning to have deference to authority is crucial for success in modern society. Don't get us wrong, unquestioning obedience to authority is not always ideal. However, some people know more than you do, and listening to them may be wise. In many circumstances, it may be unclear to a child why he or she should listen to a teacher or even a parent. Children often feel like the authority figures are just there to harp on them. Martial arts instructors can play a pivotal role in convincing children that someone *might* just know more than they do. Contact martial arts have a serious skill component. The skills themselves are undeniable when displayed by a seasoned practitioner. Children, for the most part, will innately understand that their coach knows something they don’t. A good coach should be able to consistently demonstrate that fact.
    A child must learn that certain adults command respect through real skills and knowledge. Once they understand this, they are more likely to listen to qualified authorities throughout their life. A child receiving quality martial arts instruction from a good coach is likely to experience success by listening to their coach. This success will build self-confidence. It will also help reinforce that coaches can guide them towards success in whatever they choose. Martial arts training will help children understand that achieving success hinges on heeding advice from knowledgeable authorities.


    Depending on who you ask, the definition of discipline will likely shift slightly. Nevertheless, most definitions of discipline revolve around the same principles. Specifically, discipline refers to the will to accomplish tasks that may be unappealing, boring, or incredibly difficult and long-term. Discipline is the ability to do things you don’t feel like doing at the moment. However deep down you know these tasks bring you closer to your goals.
    The truly rewarding things one can do in life require years, even decades, to accomplish. In fact, the vast majority of major goals and accomplishments in life require repeated efforts over extended periods of time. These goals include getting through high school and college or receiving a black belt in a martial art. Even showing up on time and being mentally present during class are great goals to strive for. This fact becomes readily apparent after just a few months of kid’s martial arts training. Children will soon learn that in order to get better they will have to put their nose to the grindstone. If they want to win competitions, or simply perform more effectively when training, they must get their reps in. Ultimately, the refusal to give up despite initial failures characterizes nearly every success story. The sooner you expose a child to this reality, the sooner these lessons will ‘stick.’ Children can apply the discipline from martial arts to many goals and situations in life.

    Why Kids Need Martial Arts Training In Today’s World for Respect and Discipline

    Respect and discipline are the ever-present traits required for success since the beginning of time. Today, there are so many distractions facing anyone trying to get anything done. As such, discipline is often needed to accomplish day-to-day tasks. This is not to mention the long-term ability to grind required for successful outcomes in life. Martial arts training for children is more important now than it has ever been. In fact, scientists are now promoting many esoteric practices, such as mindfulness meditation, in a concerted effort to combat ADHD in children. Even among children without a diagnosable attention disorder, the ever-present devices are in the pocket of most school-age children. Martial arts can play an important role in fostering the discipline needed to overcome the distractions facing modern children. The focus needed to develop the skill alongside the rewarding nature of physical competency increases a child’s ability to avoid distractions. As such, there is no denying that kids these days require martial arts for fostering the discipline needed for success.

    Do Martial Arts Help Kids Learn To Behave?

    Many behavioral issues in children manifest as a lack of respect and an unwillingness to listen to the adults. There is certainly no “quick fix” for kids with behavioral issues. That said, martial arts play an important role in fostering good behavior among potentially wayward children. There are a number of ways that martial arts can help kids learn good behavior. Often, the dojo itself will foster respect. Children immediately pick up on the overall respect and deference the other students likely have for the instructor. It’s incredibly useful for children to have a respected adult figure in their lives. Especially when this figure is not a parent or a school teacher. Martial arts instructors can certainly fill this role in a child’s life.
    As children train and progress in martial arts, they will learn to respect their training partners and instructors. The ability to “play well with others” is a key ingredient for successful engagement with martial arts. This can involve cooperative drilling or take care of a training partner during live training. In either case, successful socialization is well-fostered by a proper martial arts program for kids. Finally, for children who tend to ‘act out,’ live training and competition provide them the opportunity to express themselves. They can be encouraged and rewarded for aggression, as opposed to being punished for being disruptive. Martial arts cannot, on its own, fix every problem a child may have. However, training can certainly go a long way towards improving a child’s socialization and behavior.

    Is Martial Arts Good For Kids With Anger Issues?

    When it comes to ‘growing up,’ managing emotions such as anger is vital. Sadly, there are many examples of otherwise great leaders known for having serious temper tantrums - or worse. Perhaps these men and women succeeded despite their anger issues. However, there is no denying that children who are constantly overtaken by anger will consistently have a harder time with every step they must take in life.
    Exercise and physical expression can moderate the intensity of one’s emotions. This applies as much to children as it does to adults. The intense physical training in children’s martial arts can reduce the emotional intensity a child feels throughout life. Managing emotions such as anger are vital for success and happiness. Additionally, the competitive aspect of martial arts provides an outlet where children can tap into anger for productive purposes. Anger is a facet of the human experience. When managed and directed properly, anger has its benefits. Learning to control anger and stay disciplined during a physical confrontation such as a martial arts tournament transfers well to other aspects of life beyond the competition setting.
    A child who gives in to anger will ultimately be working against themself. However, if he or she can learn to understand, accept, and moderate anger, it can go from being a massive barrier to success into a facet of human emotion that can be channeled towards productive, fulfilling goals. Kid's martial arts provide this structure for children to control their anger. As such, kid's martial arts for respect and discipline should be a top contender for activities for children with anger issues.
    Wanna learn more? Discover How Martial Arts Can Help Kids with Anger Issues.

    What are the Best Martial Arts for Children?

    Hopefully, we’ve sold you on the benefits of kid's martial arts for respect and discipline. Nevertheless, with so many martial arts available, you may still be left wondering which option will be best for your child. There are a number of good martial arts for kids available. While they may differ in technique and focus, they are fundamentally characterized by one thing: live training against a resisting opponent. No martial art has a monopoly on live training, however, there are trends in the martial arts world that generally favor certain arts over others when it comes to consistently providing the opportunity to spar and compete against resisting opponents. Our top picks are Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, wrestling, boxing, and MMA. Each of these arts has its pros and cons - however, on the whole, they tend to have an emphasis on live training and competition.
    Furthermore, the growing popularity of these arts, in particular Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, has actually increased the overall quality of available instruction. In fact, the emphasis on competition tends to ‘weed out’ fraudulent instructors, as there is ample opportunity to prove one’s mettle - and it is glaringly obvious when an instructor does not back up their claims with physical evidence.

    Finding a Qualified Instructor for Respect and Discipline

    kids sitting on the mats raising their hands acting respectful in their bjj school
    Finding a qualified instructor is vital for ensuring that the martial arts program will foster respect and discipline in your child. There is no one formula for a good instructor. However, there are a few things to think about when it comes to picking your child's martial arts teacher. First and foremost, the instructor should have a good reputation in the community. Usually, talking to other parents or browsing Google reviews will give you some initial insight into the quality of the instructor. If you want your child to compete, an instructor with a competitive record is probably necessary. Your child's instructor does not need to be a world champion. However, a history of participation in competition is vital if the instructor is helping children succeed in competition. Finally, a thriving program based on large class attendance is a good indicator that the instructor has something great to offer. While it is not the only factor to consider, an instructor without a following may be a sign there is a deeper issue going on.
    two girls bowing to each other before engaging in a sparring session
    Most cities will have an available program with qualified instructors. Finally, in the age of social media, instructors who have negative tendencies or are abusive towards students tend to get exposed more readily. As such, it’s easier to avoid the pitfalls that were common in dojos from earlier eras. If you are looking for an outlet or activity such as kid's martial arts to improve respect and discipline in your children, check out the local gyms in your area and observe a class or two. Worst case, if you don’t like the instructor or vibe, you can take your business elsewhere.
    Modern children face a wide number of distractions. As such the ability to focus on a task has become a difficult aspect of growing up. Access to devices from a young age makes focusing an even greater challenge. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for improving focus in children, kids martial arts is a great option for helping many kids get better at focusing.
    Read also: Best Ages to Start a Kid in Martial Arts (and What to Expect)

    What is ‘Focus?’

    Focus is the ability to stay on a task until completion. Accomplishing a given activity requires focus for extended periods of time. This especially applies to activities that are not entertaining in of themselves. Kids martial arts offers a great option for improving focus. How many kids per instructor martial arts class is important because smaller classes ensure more individual attention and hence more focus on the kids’ part.
    For children, staying focused and attentive in class is an incredibly important aspect of educational development. Proper development improves success later in life. Children must be able to focus on homework assignments once they are home from school. This is an additional challenge with access to distracting devices. Children who have difficulty focusing face significant challenges when it comes to school work and class time. Unfortunately, time-outs, assigned library time, and detention rarely improve long-term for improving focus in children. On the other hand, kid’s martial arts for improving focus is a great alternative option. Martial arts can help kids be more productive and engaged overall.

    How Do Martial Arts Promote Focus in Children?

    kids stopping to listen to the martial arts instructor during class
    Martial arts has several advantages that can help children stay on task for longer periods of time.

    Increased Physical Activity

    Unfortunately, modern children have become increasingly sedentary throughout the day. Schools now implement ill-advised decreases in physical activity throughout the school day. This lack of exercise in children frequently manifests as an inability to focus on school or class. Martial arts are incredibly physically demanding and offer a great outlet for kids to expend energy. The intense exercise can burn-off much of the excess energy kids build-up when they are not permitted or encouraged to be physically active throughout the day.Even moderate amounts of exercise can have a profound impact on the ability to focus during other times of the day. Children who attend martial arts classes several times per week will certainly benefit from the improved focus associated with physical activity.

    Engaging with a Non-Academic Learning Process

    Many children find academic topics such as math, history, and English both boring and frustrating. Sadly, forcing children to learn topics they are not interested in can alienate them from learning itself. Martial arts are subjects that require the same dedicated learning process as any academic activity. For many people, martial arts training is often more inherently interesting and engaging than traditional topics. ‘Learning history’ or ‘getting good grades’ are abstract, nebulous concepts. They are not particularly appealing in-of-themselves to children. Children typically want to play and have fun. Energetic children are often intuitively aware of the reality of physical confrontation and competition. The ability to control and dominate a resisting opponent is far more intriguing to many children. These children are likely to benefit from martial arts training.
    At the end of the day, one of the biggest lessons that children must learn is learning itself. The inherently interesting nature of martial arts facilitates an understanding of the learning process. Traditional academic subjects often fail to accomplish this need. Within the framework of kids’ martial arts training, children have the opportunity to fall in love with learning itself.

    Reducing Screen-Time for Improved Focus in Children

    Screens such as phones, tablets, and computers are a reality of modern life. Screen-time is not an inherently bad thing. In fact, being familiar with technology is a crucial skill for modern life. Nevertheless, phones and other electronic screen devices can become a serious barrier to focusing. Furthermore, some experts suggest that excessive screen time has a number of negative impacts on the health and well-being of children
    In general, martial arts training does not rely on screens. The majority of real martial arts training occurs in the dojo with phones, tablets, and other devices stowed-away in backpacks and gym bags. Having an activity such as martial arts training that does not involve more time spent looking at a screen is likely beneficial for children - particularly those who struggle with focus. Of course, your child will still be faced with potentially distracting devices once they leave the dojo. In many cases, they will be required to use a screen as part of their educational development. However, the hour or two spent training martial arts will give them a consistent and much-needed break from their devices. It may also help them be less distracted by screen-devices overall.

    How Many Kids Should There Be Per Instructor?

    A common question many parents have is how many kids a single martial arts instructor can handle. After all, too many kids per instructor may become counter-productive for an environment of focused learning.A good children’s martial arts instructor can handle anywhere from ten to twenty kids per martial arts class. A school with attendance above that number of kids will likely have multiple instructors or older children assisting with the kids' class. In many cases, it can be beneficial for children to have an assistant instructor closer to their age. The smaller age gap allows children to look up to someone they see as more relatable. In fact, assistant instructors can foster improved focus by allowing more 1-on-1 or specific attention to each child throughout the class. Furthermore, the assistant instructors are potential role models to the younger children for focus and learning within the martial arts discipline. The majority of children’s programs are going to have more than one instructor overseeing the kids. Multiple assistant instructors are a good indication that a martial arts school is successful in both producing good martial artists and fostering improved focus in children through martial arts training.

    When Should Kids Start Martial Arts to Improve Focus?

    A big question that often emerges for parents is what age to begin martial arts training for improving focus in children. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. Children can begin training when they are mature enough to be able to stay present and follow directions when attending a martial arts class. For some children, this may be as young as five or six. Other children may not be ready to begin martial arts training until their teenage years.
    Ultimately, you as a parent will have to gauge your child’s ability to handle martial arts training. It does not hurt to try out martial arts training to improve focus in your child once they are five or six years old - if they are not ready for it, you can always wait another year and try again. It’s important to understand that it will never be “too late” for your child to begin martial arts training for improved focus. Even adults beginning later in life are likely to see many of the same benefits that children experience when training martial arts. If your child is currently younger and unable to handle martial arts training, give them a year or two, try again, and know that whenever your child is ready, they will still be able to benefit from training martial arts.
    You may also like: At What Age Should I Enroll My Child In Martial Arts Classes?
    a child with gloves on throwing a punch in a martial art class

    How Martial Arts Can Change Your Kid’s Life

    At this point, we are all likely familiar with stories of underprivileged, wayward, or ‘lost’ children finding martial arts and ultimately finding a better, more successful path in life than the one they were born into. Of course, these stories are important and inspiring. Nevertheless, it isn’t just ‘troubled’ children that can benefit from martial arts training. Regardless of you and your child’s socioeconomic status, disabilities, or perceived shortcomings, martial arts has the potential to completely change your child’s life.
    There is no denying that certain children have disproportionately more challenges facing them on the path to success and happiness. With that being said, even children born in the best of circumstances to the most loving and caring parents are going to face challenges in life that require focus to overcome.No matter who you are or where you come from, martial arts offers a challenge very much unlike normal day-to-day life. Children who face challenges, particularly physical challenges, are far more likely to build the focus and resilience needed to overcome obstacles later in life - obstacles that we will all inevitably face.Martial arts is not just for kids with anger issues or kids from ‘the wrong side of the tracks.’ Any child has the potential to benefit from martial arts training. Just like competing and live sparring in martial arts, nothing in life is guaranteed, and nearly everything good must be earned through hard work and defeating obstacles. The focus built through martial arts training will go a long way towards helping your child prepare for the challenges and rigors of life - regardless of where they are from or what career they end up in.

    Which Martial Arts are Best for Focus in Children?

    kids drilling the move in jiu jitsu class at training grounds
    With so many martial arts available, it can seem daunting to pick the best martial art for improved focus. There is, in fact, no one martial art with a monopoly on the ability to improve focus. That being said, we do have some guidelines for selecting martial arts that will help your child focus, as well as a few specific suggestions on which martial arts to try first.

    Guidelines for Choosing Martial Arts for Focus

    #1 - The martial art must involve training with a partner or other students cooperatively.
    The ability to focus often depends on the context. In the majority of life situations - from group projects to conducting real-world business - you must be able to focus your efforts in conjunction with other people. Any martial art that improves real-world focus must involve drilling with a partner or group.
    #2 - The martial art must involve live sparring against resisting opponents.
    Cooperation is important. However, there is no denying that the real world involves fierce competition. The ability to focus on a task where your performance matters relative to other people’s performance is vital. Training and focusing with an opponent in mind is a benefit of martial arts training with real-world applicability.
    #3 - The martial art should involve some aspect of physical conditioning.
    It seems like a no brainer that martial arts should involve physical conditioning. Nevertheless, there are cases where instructors promote ‘watered down’ martial arts as better than hardcore physical arts. The claims are often esoteric in nature and don’t reflect a real understanding of live training.As such, it’s important that the martial art incorporates some element of exercise and conditioning. This should be part and parcel of the training. The good news is that most martial arts that meet the guidelines for live training include physical conditioning as well.

    Top Picks: Kids’ Martial Arts for Improving Focus

    Many martial arts are going to meet our recommended criteria for improving focus. Nevertheless, given the typical availability of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, and Muay Thai kickboxing, these martial arts are our first recommendations when looking for an activity that can improve a child’s ability to focus.
    Not only do these arts meet our guideline criteria, but they also all transfer well to real-world self-defense and Mixed Martial Arts. Additionally, they all provide ample opportunity for competition for children. These martial arts do not have a monopoly in terms of improving focus. However, they are widely available and incredibly effective for helping children get better at focusing. We firmly believe that martial arts offer a unique opportunity for helping children improve their focus. This improvement applies to all aspects of life. We recommend trying kids’ martial arts for children who need to improve focus.
    Bullying is a reality on most playgrounds and schoolyards. It infects any place where kids congregate and play. Many measures have been taken to try and stop bullying and build courage. Kids martial arts remains one of the greatest tools available for bully prevention and courage. Martial arts also builds confidence in would-be bullying victims. Additionally, children are less likely to become bullies themselves if provided a positive outlet for aggression and confidence-building. Martial arts offers a combination of empowering victims. It reduces the number of potential bullying perpetrators. These features give martial arts a serious edge over traditional anti-bullying measures.

    The Problem with Traditional Bully Prevention

    Bullying is a huge concern when it comes to raising children and fostering healthy growth and development in children. If you grew up as a kid anytime during or since the 1990s, you likely got many stern lectures on not being a bully. You probably learned about preventing bullying. Undoubtedly. you knew about the punishment that would be imposed on any kid who engaged in the practice. Unfortunately for us as parents, bully-prevention programs often fail miserably to stop the spread of bullying. Children are taught to rely on adults to mediate disputes and impose punishment. There are two main problems with this that are fundamentally addressed by martial arts for bully prevention and courage.

    Parents Can't Be Everywhere

    The first issue is that parents, administrators, and recess supervisors simply cannot be everywhere at once to ensure bullying does not occur. Moderating a playground at school is hard enough, but what about the walk home? What about the older kids from another school who aren’t subject to your child’s school administration? Not to mention the new uncanny valley of online bullying. The list goes on and on of circumstances where adult supervision is simply not feasible as a bully prevention strategy. This brings us to the second main issue with relying on adults for direct bullying prevention measures. Generally, kids don’t bully each other directly in front of adults. Bullying occurs when supervision is not present. In reality, the bullied child must generally report the incident to an adult figure for there to be any justice whatsoever.

    The consequence of being a tattle-tale

    Being the kid with a reputation as a “tattle-tale” often makes that child an even bigger target for bullying. The sad fact about bullying is that it does not generally occur between two children. It is a deeper dynamic that involves the empowerment of the bully themself by the social encouragement of many other children. The other children may be mean-spirited as well, or simply hoping to avoid becoming a target themselves. In any case, getting the bully to stop is just the tip of the iceberg. It is not “cool” to be the kid who ‘tells his mom’ about getting pushed around.The social ostracizing that occurs when a child is collectively deemed uncool or a “snitch” is often far more painful than simply getting bullied itself. Consequences of ostracization include many painful emotional experiences for children. These include things like not being invited to birthday parties or not getting picked for the recess kickball game. When puberty hits, not getting attention from the opposite gender can wreak havoc on a child’s self-esteem for years to come.
    two 5 year old kids working on their bulletproofing and martial arts

    Kids’ Martial Arts for Bully Prevention and Courage

    Kids martial arts offer an amazing way to combat the bullying dynamics from the ground up. Interpersonal violence between children is a reality of growing up. Children who train in martial arts are fundamentally more prepared both physically and psychologically to confront this reality. All it really takes is one child standing up to a bully and physically humiliating them to stop the entire dynamic. The bully will realize that picking on the kid who “knows how to fight” will backfire very quickly. Furthermore, the bully’s psychological power over the other children will evaporate. Children witnessing this realize that the bully is not as tough as they thought.

    Psychological Aspects of Bullying

    Bullying is as much psychological as it is physical. A child who at the very least can defend themself is more likely to have the courage to stand up to the bully. They can even protect other children from physical and mental harm as well. Additionally, the friendships your child makes through martial arts training will help increase their resilience. This lessens the dynamics that leave children isolated and make them easy targets for bullies. Social confidence is as important as the physical skills of fighting when it comes to bullying prevention and courage. It takes guts to stand up to the meanest kids on the playground. Martial arts can help build a solid group of friends around your child. This furthers their resilience and ability to not become a victim. Additionally, your child’s friends will know how to fight.
    Oftentimes parents wonder if martial arts are good for kids with anxiety?. And the answer is absolutely yes. The great thing about Jiu Jitsu for kids is that they get to experience adversity and overcoming that adversity within a protected environment under the nurturing eye of coaches who care about them. They will feel comfortable with physical conflict because they've been exposed to it in a controlled fashion vs their first experience being outside with influences parents have no control over.

    How Martial Arts Can Stop Your Child From Becoming the Bully

    a confident kid doing a match with another child in a kids martial arts class focused on bullying
    The vast majority of bully prevention talk in martial arts is focused on standing up to bullies. This is an important component of a comprehensive anti-bullying strategy. However it fails to address one of the foundational questions - why do kids become bullies? There is, of course, no easy answer to this question. Some kids have a “mean streak” and are drawn towards hurting other children. However, in many cases, children are acting out as a reflection of their environment. They may also lack positive outlets for aggressive energy.Particularly among boys, physical aggression is inherent in playground dynamics. We can argue all day about the underlying cause. It could be societal pressure, the influence of media, or problems at home. However, there is no denying that providing a positive outlet for aggression can reduce the instances of this aggression directed against other children. Martial arts is an excellent way to direct physical aggression towards something productive and beneficial. Of course, there can be a dark side to many combat sports. However, there is no denying that competitive martial arts and live training offer children a supervised means to embrace aggression against willing participants.

    Lack of Self Esteem Leads to Bullying

    Bullies often lack self-esteem and confidence. This plays a part in why they try to bring other children down physically and emotionally. The confidence children will gain from martial arts training can build up their self-esteem in a healthy way. A child who feels good about him or herself is less likely to make others feel worse in an attempt to feel better. The two-pronged approach to bullying is one of the reasons martial arts excels at bully prevention and courage-building in children. Rather than punish already troubled kids and force meeker children to rely on adult supervision for safety, we can raise the confidence of all children to fundamentally address the dynamics of bullying. It is crucial that the martial arts school instructors and culture in the dojo reflect this need for a positive environment. Martial arts teachers have a serious responsibility to model positive behavior among children. This ensures that they do not themselves foster the harmful dynamics that result in bullying. If children have a tough but fair role model who focuses on building them up and encouraging positive behavior, they are far less likely to become a victim or a perpetrator of bullying.
    Read more: How Martial Arts Prevent Your Kid From Becoming a Bully

    The Best Martial Arts for Kids Bully Prevention and Courage

    We are a big fan of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and believe that it's one of the best martial arts for kids to learn to prevent bullying and build courage. However, any martial art that involves some sort of semi or full-contact training will help build your child into an antifragile being. A child with courage will not be an easy target for bullies. Wrestling, boxing, judo, and Muay Thai are just a few examples of the types of arts that prevent bullying and build courage.

    Will Martial Arts Make My Child Violent?

    an older child coaching two younger children in a martial arts class in westwood
    We've talked a lot about schoolyard violence and bullying and naturally you may be wondering if martial arts can actually be bad for kids. You may wonder if martial arts increase the chances of playground fights for example. There is no denying that the fighting skills your child learns in martial arts are useful for causing physical harm. However, this is not a common problem for children in martial arts programs. This is especially true in kids' martial arts that focus on anti-bullying. Martial arts skills are not learned in a vacuum. Unlike Neo in The Matrix, your child does not simply download the fighting skills from martial arts and then go off on their way. The skills themselves are built in the dojo over an extended period of time. The dojo can and should be an environment of discipline, emotional regulation, and mutual respect. In this environment, the emphasis on control and proper behavior likely going to decrease the chances of a physical altercation on the playground.
    As we mentioned earlier, the bully-preventing aspect of kids’ martial arts goes both directions. If your child has the propensity to be a bully themself, this will likely be quashed and reformed with kids' martial arts. Rather than taking out aggression on the playground, your child has a positive outlet for this type of energy. Martial arts sparring and competition is a great way for energetic and aggressive children to express themselves in a positive manner. This training can stop a bully in their tracks from the inside out.

    How Do I Find a Good Martial Arts Studio for Kids?

    Since you’re still reading this article, we’ve probably sold you on martial arts as a bully prevention strategy for children. You may still be wondering how to find the right martial arts studio to help with bully prevention and courage. Once you’ve selected the martial art your child will try, the next step is to see which martial arts schools are in your area. Read reviews, talk to parents, and observe several of the classes before putting your child into the program. A quality martial arts instructor should be more than willing to let parents watch the classes a few times before making the decision.
    Interested in learning more? Read How to Choose a Good Martial Arts Studio for Kids

    Should I Switch Gyms If the Instructor Promotes Bullying?

    Unfortunately, it does sometimes happen that martial arts instructors can be bullies themselves. Do not be afraid to switch martial arts programs if you find that you’ve picked one with an underlying toxic dynamic. Even worse, the coaches themselves may be bullies. We all want to believe that martial arts instructors are the pinnacles of righteousness, discipline, and positive role-modeling. However, the fact is they too are human and subject to the same flaws as the rest of us.
    Traditional martial arts culture frowns upon switching gyms. Nevertheless, in modern martial arts culture, the reality is that we pay good instructors for the lessons they can offer. If you as a consumer feel that your child’s instructor is not providing value, it is your right as a free individual to take your business elsewhere. If you suspect or observe a toxic dynamic occurring in the dojo, it is your duty as a parent to remove your child from the situation. You must ensure they receive the proper leadership from a positive martial arts teacher. Although it is generally not that common, if you find the dynamic in your child’s dojo isn’t what you initially signed up for, don’t stay out of some arbitrary notion of loyalty.

    Conclusion: Martial Arts as a Solution to Bullying

    While there is far more to discuss regarding bully prevention and kid’s martial arts, we firmly believe in martial arts training as a bully prevention strategy. Whether your child is a likely victim or a potential perpetrator, a good martial arts program should help them find their way and flourish as a courageous and resilient human being.
    A great education is by far one of the most important things we can give our children. It is crucial that we set them up for success in today's competitive world. In fact, the education level is one of the biggest predictors of success later in life. Kids martial arts for better grades in school is an excellent solution to help your child be successful in their learning. The primary goal of education is building the foundation of knowledge for more advanced learning. Getting good grades in school reflects a successful educational process. Kids’ martial arts training greatly supports the educational process by teaching kids how to learn. A good grasp of the learning process ultimately leads to better grades.
    Martial arts improve a child's grades through the following:
    1. Teaching kids to break down problems into parts
    2. Developing a kid's intuitive understanding of the learning process
    3. Instilling the confidence to overcome discouragement from early failures

    Learning 'The Way' of Martial Arts for Better Grades

    The 16th-century samurai Myamoto Musashi, considered by many to be one of history’s greatest swordsman, sums up these lessons in his Book of Five Rings.
    Musashi famously writes:
    “Once you know the way broadly, you will see it in all things.”
    Musashi succinctly describes the reason that the broad process of training martial arts will apply to everything in life. Of course, swordsmanship is certainly not as prevalent now as it was in Japan’s Edo period. Nevertheless, this lesson holds for any martial discipline. There are many extracurricular activities that support success in education. However martial arts stand head-and-shoulder above many activities typically available to parents. Martial arts instills this understanding of the learning process. This understanding leads to better grades in school and the ability to flourish in life. One of the most valuable life lessons that emerge from martial arts training is the process of learning ‘how to learn.’ Clearly, getting good grades is an important goal for a child’s success. However good grades are ultimately a secondary reflection of a successful learning process.

    Why is getting good grades so difficult?

    The most daunting aspect of “getting educated” is the seemingly painful learning process itself. Students are tasked with learning material such as math or reading, but may not understand the framework for doing so.Academically gifted kids often simply find their way on their own given moderate instruction. On the other hand, children who may not be as academically inclined are given limited resources for engaging with the learning process.Complicated tasks typically require separate individual skill components. Children and adults can easily become frustrated after several task failures with no measurable progress.
    Once frustration sets in, the learning process stops, and problem-solving capabilities quickly diminish. Your child might be attempting a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu submission sequence or mastering grammar to ensure good grades. In either case, hitting a wall will shut down the entire process, such asa child working through a difficult reading assignment. Students must understand how learning individual components of a larger process will ultimately allow them to solve greater problems. If they don't, they are already set up for frustration when they find themselves unable to solve a math problem or read a difficult piece of writing. Getting better grades is not the end-goal of education. Rather, good grades are reflective of an overall successful learning process. Nevertheless, the current setup of our academic institutions requires a child to receive good marks overall to ensure opportunities later in life.

    How martial arts develops the learning process

    In quality martial arts programs, the instructor will begin with very basic movements. The child can begin practicing these movements right away. The movements will be challenging enough that they require practice to execute. However, the moves will be simple enough that a child can soon master them with dedicated practice.

    The Learning Process in BJJ

    Hip-escapes or “shrimps” in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are a good example of a movement that requires a bit of learning to perform. However, they are easy enough that within a few practices a student can shrimp across the mat with the rest of the class. This movement forms the building block of more advanced moves. Each move becomes the next puzzle piece for the student to master.At each phase of the process, the student must dedicate the required time to learn the movement. However, because techniques and skills build on each other, each step offers a very attainable milestone. If you asked a child to escape from being mounted on the ground and they had not learned to shrimp, they will hopelessly struggle under their opponent's weight. Once the child can shrimp and bridge, escaping the mount becomes a manageable step-by-step problem-solving process. Piecing together a few simple moves that can be mastered on their own leads to many possibilities.

    The Learning Process in Muay Thai

    In art such as Muay Thai, your child will first learn to move around in a fighting stance. From there, they will learn the basic jab, right cross, and hook punches. They will begin honing their kicking technique. Soon they will learn to chain these strikes together while moving around in a solid stance. Once these fundamental movements are mastered, the child is ready to learn how to counter these attacks from another trained opponent. Stringing these bite-size skills together ultimately leads to the fluidity and grace we see in high-level fighters. Mastering the small pieces leads to effortlessly checking kicks, managing distance, and countering with powerful strikes.
    Martial arts provide a very clear framework for developing the skill of learning. This is largely due to the ability to break each movement down into smaller components.Mastering movements in bite-size chunks provides the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment needed to drive the student’s motivation. Within a few iterations, the student can now perform moves that would previously have been impossible if attempted from scratch. If you tell a child to check a kick and counter with a right cross before they even know how to stand properly, they will immediately hit a wall (and miss their opponent).

    The learning process from martial arts leads to better grades

    The learning framework found in martial arts is present in all academic subjects as well. In mathematics, we must first learn to count. From there, we can begin adding and subtracting before learning to divide and multiply. Even the most complicated differential equations are based on these relatively simple concepts. These concepts are strung together into something far larger and more complex.
    Putting a child in martial arts will help him or her develop an intuitive understanding of this learning process. Training martial arts is very much a ‘learn-by-doing’ activity and reflects the process needed for academic skills as well. A child can learn to relate basic arithmetic problems to repping out a new BJJ move or practicing their front-kick. This will put them leagues ahead of children who cannot see this underlying process. An in-depth understanding of "the way," as Musashi puts it, will consistently lead to better grades under our modern schooling system. It may take years before these lessons from martial arts settle into a child’s intuitive understanding. Nevertheless, many people never truly grasp this learning process. It may take until high-school or college to implement the learning principles your child will receive from martial arts. Even in this case, your child will still have a leg-up for everything they will face in life.

    Martial arts develops the confidence to solve difficult problems

    Repeated failures in school can be very risky when it comes to developing a child’s confidence in approaching schoolwork. Lack of confidence can ultimately stop a child from getting good grades when exams roll around. A crucial element that makes kids martial arts lead to better grades in school is instilling this confidence in the ability to succeed. When a child understands that they can break down a complex problem into parts, daunting tasks become approachable. This step-by-step learning method cultivates success throughout the entire education process.

    Removing the Fear of Failure

    Failure is a huge part of learning martial arts. Whether you are a white-belt in your first class or a seasoned fighter climbing a tournament ladder, you will experience failure. This failure is vital to the overall development in martial arts and applies to all types of education. Approaching failure as a learning opportunity as opposed to a personal shortcoming is the biggest difference between successful individuals and those who never seem to thrive.
    Early failures are an important part of self-development. A good martial arts instructor provides the framework to learn from these failures. Ultimately, failing at a task, working on the skills, and then succeeding in that same task builds more useful confidence than easy success early in life. Eventually, your child will be faced with an important task and fail. The tenacity and grit developed through martial arts training will keep them from quitting and put them ahead of those who never faced early failures in life.

    Instilling the Confidence to Succeed

    In the end, a child’s belief that they can learn to solve a problem is more important than the specific problem itself. In many cases, the difference between success or failure in school and life boils down the self-limiting beliefs. A child believing they cannot succeed almost guarantees failure. On the flip side, a child who has never experienced early failure will inevitably be crushed when the challenges are simply too difficult to get right on the first try.
    Instilling the confidence to relentlessly attack problems is the difference between winning or losing a BJJ tournament. This principle applies equally to creating a successful business or going bankrupt. In the case of children, this self-confident belief is the difference between getting good grades in school or receiving failing marks on the end-of-the-year report card. Becoming a lifelong learner is possibly the greatest meta-skill a child can develop for success in life. Martial arts provides a great structure for this development. Ultimately, a child's love for the learning process will lead to better grades in every phase of education.
    Childhood obesity has become one of the largest public health problems facing kids in the developed world. As such, helping overweight children lose weight is now a big concern for many parents. While there are many benefits of martial arts for children, helping kids with weight loss is one of the major benefits of putting your child in martial arts training. One of the biggest issues facing overweight children is that going on a three-month crash diet and punishing your child with miserable hours of cardio is not a viable long-term weight loss strategy. In fact, fat-shaming overweight children or spotlighting their weight as a problem is one of the worst things we can do when it comes to building healthy, happy children. In order to sustain a healthy body weight over the long term, physical activity and healthy eating habits must become a lifestyle. These two factors are ever-present in martial arts training.

    Martial Arts as a Fun Physical Activity

    When it comes to helping overweight children lose weight, physical activity and a general focus on a healthy lifestyle are the biggest benefits of martial arts for children. Training martial arts offers children a fun, engaging activity that involves serious exercise. However, for those of us who get bit by the martial arts bug, training does not ‘feel’ like exercise compared to the dull grind of yet another jog or weight-room session. Don’t get us wrong, cardio and lifting weights are important components of healthy living over the long-haul.Nevertheless, for children who are currently sedentary, getting them involved in a physical activity they enjoy is the number one priority. If you're wondering how to get kids interested in martial arts, there are a few ways you can do it.
    A child who otherwise hates traditional school sports may find martial arts to be the perfect alternative for getting physical activity. If your child becomes serious about martial arts down the line, they are far more likely to take up additional strength training or cardio than if they had never started kids’ martial arts. In the long run, instilling your child with an early love for exercise and physical culture through martial arts training beats a traumatic summer at fat camp every single time.

    Kids Martial Arts and A Love for Intense Exercise

    Ultimately, finding enjoyment in expressing ourselves physically through any form of exercise is key for long term sustainable weight loss in kids and adults. It may take time for your child to truly enjoy expressing themself through physical movement.However, a love for hard training is part and parcel of the martial arts journey. The sooner you expose your kid to martial arts, the more likely they are to adopt this love for hard physical work. Anyone who has been on a weight-loss journey knows that resentment around exercise becomes a huge barrier to continued physical activity. Instead of focusing on weight loss, instilling a love for physical activity should be our primary goal as parents who want to help our children be healthy in the long-term. Martial arts offer an incredibly fun and engaging form of physical activity that appeals to the athletic and non-athletic alike. In our opinion, martial arts is the perfect option for children who don’t want to play a traditional team sport.

    Healthy Diet: The Hidden Benefit of Kids’ Martial Arts

    two kids training in a bergen county martial arts program
    Exercise is crucial for supporting and maintaining a healthy weight. However, without adopting healthy eating patterns and lifestyle, exercise on its own is not guaranteed to help your child lose weight. Beyond being a fun form of exercise, martial arts promotes healthy eating as part of the overall lifestyle. This healthy lifestyle will ultimately promote weight loss in children.When you are training with a resisting opponent, you will acutely feel every unhealthy choice you have made that day. Showing up to train BJJ after eating a Big Mac and fries is a surefire way to feel like garbage and possibly paint the mat with your afternoon meal.
    Knowing that certain foods are not healthy is not the same as acutely feeling the effects of poor food choices during hard training. The physical feedback of lack of energy, feeling bloated, and getting smashed by your teammates at practice is a much bigger motivator than simply telling yourself “I really shouldn’t be eating this but it’s so good.” In many cases, martial artists will intuitively avoid junk food leading up to training. After a few training sessions in BJJ, wrestling, or Muay Thai, you will often lose the cravings for unhealthy food before practice.Hopefully, your child’s desire to feel good and perform better during martial arts training outweighs the appeal of junk food. If so, that bag of chips will become increasingly unappetizing if they know they have practice at 5 pm.

    Which Martial Arts are Best for Weight Loss?

    With the massive number of martial arts to choose from, you are probably wondering which martial art is best for kids’ weight loss. We are firm believers that the best martial arts are the ones that incorporate live training against resisting opponents or include some form of very intense physical movement. This extends to all benefits associated with training martial arts and certainly applies to weight loss. Our top picks for the best martial arts for kids’ weight loss are Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, Muay Thai, and boxing.

    Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

    BJJ is in many ways the best overall martial art for kids in terms of weight loss and overall benefit. In BJJ, you have the opportunity to train against heavily resisting opponents. You will use practical techniques that will work in a real fight.BJJ is not a complete martial art in the sense that it focuses primarily on the ground. Luckily, this focus avoids the inevitable head impacts associated with some striking arts.
    In terms of kid's weight loss, BJJ is unparalleled by most other forms of exercise. The intensity of live-training burns a large number of calories and promotes cardiovascular health and fitness. Anyone who has experienced the pressure of being mounted or knee-on-bellied will avoid junk food leading up to practice. Eating unhealthy food is a recipe for feeling like garbage and throwing up during training. Knowing that you will be live grappling is often enough to avoid tempting treats in the school cafeteria. Overall, BJJ is an excellent choice for kids’ weight loss, and will certainly help overweight children become healthier and happier.


    Wrestling is an incredibly widespread martial art and often available as both a school sport and club activity for kids. Like BJJ, wrestling is a grappling art that does not involve any striking. However, wrestling focuses primarily on grappling from standing. The goal is taking down your opponent and ending up on top in a position of control. Wrestling has a reputation for being the most physically demanding of the popular martial arts styles. Anyone who has attended a wrestling practice will understand this fact. Taking down an opponent who does not want to be taken down requires cardio, strength, and grit. The intensity of the exercise burns a massive number of calories on its own. This calorie burn of course supports kids to lose weight. Additionally, getting slammed with a belly full of anything will quickly make anyone rethink their afternoon cookie binge. Having your child attend wrestling practice after school will help them realize the importance of healthy eating.

    Muay Thai

    two children getting fit by practicing BJJ near westwood nj
    Known as the “art of eight limbs” due to the use of fists, elbows, knees, and shins, Muay Thai is one of the most complete striking arts available in the United States. When it comes to kids’ weight loss, Muay Thai offers many of the same benefits as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The art itself is incredibly demanding even if children don’t live spar against one another. Throwing punches, kicks, knees, and elbows on pads or a heavy bag is incredibly physically demanding. These activities build strength, stamina, and cardio while burning calories and aiding weight loss. Muay Thai drilling also tends to involve light-to-moderate impact to the torso and abdomen. This will generally not be enough to cause serious damage. However, feeling even light impact after eating junk food is awful. Getting lightly 'teeped' in the stomach sucks if you’ve downed a bag of Cheetos and a bottle of coke. If your child ends up sticking to Muay Thai training, healthy eating and long-term weight loss is all but guaranteed.


    Another great option for helping kids lose weight is boxing. Boxing training incorporates the intense activity of throwing punches. It also involves training with jump ropes, footwork drills, and other forms of cardiovascular exercise. The impact of getting hit in the face is not great for anyone. However, for non-competitive boxing trainees, sparring with hard punches is not a mainstay of training. Going live is important for the practical side of self-defense oriented martial arts training. Nevertheless, the majority of the benefits of boxing for kids’ weight loss come from the overall intensity of training. Additionally, your child will feel the acute effect of a bad diet as they begin their boxing warm-ups. We personally believe that BJJ is the best overall martial art for children. However, boxing remains a great alternative for children who don’t wish to grapple.
    two kids sparring on the training grounds mats during the kids advanced jiu jitsu class

    In Conclusion: Martial Arts Will Help Your Child Lose Weight

    There is a wide range of martial arts available. With rising concerns about childhood obesity, there has never been a better time to use martial arts for weight loss. Martial arts instill lifelong habits that keep your child at a healthy weight well into their adult years. This will occur alongside the confidence and practical skills that come with martial arts training. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that your child enjoys the physical activity itself. For kids who lack interest in mainstream sports, martial arts are a perfect alternative for helping kids lose weight.
    There are a wide range of benefits associated with martial arts training. As such more and more parents are placing their children in martial arts programs. These programs help children develop into more successful adults. There are many martial arts programs available for kids. However, parents thinking about martial arts for special needs children may wonder “is martial arts training good for kids with special needs?” There are numerous different developmental and neurological issues that special needs children face. Our goal is to help you decide if martial arts training is right for your special needs child.

    What do we mean by “special needs” children?

    The term ‘special needs’ encompasses a wide range of possible developmental, learning, and neurological disorders. It is very difficult to generalize about every possible disorder. Each disorder has different implications for martial arts training. The most common developmental disorders affecting children include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), and Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD). Collectively, around 18.5% of children in the United States have some form of special needs disorder. There has not been extensive scientific research on the effect of kids' martial arts training for every possible special needs situation.
    Nevertheless, there are a few promising studies on martial for certain special needs issues. There is also research on the benefits of exercise for different special needs children. Physical activity offers a number of improved outcomes. This research applies to martial arts given the physical nature of the activity.

    Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

    Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a mental disorder that affects an estimated 8.4 percent of children. Kids with ADHD may have difficulty focusing, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Doctors use numerous treatments for ADHD diagnosed children. These include medication as well as special needs classes. However, there are few one-size-fits-all solutions. Martial arts training can be a great option for kids with ADHD for several reasons. These largely stem from the spectrum of personal and physical development in martial arts. This development is often absent from traditional team sports. Martial arts focus more on self-development relative to other sports. As such, children receive greater opportunities to improve multiple areas of life. These areas include social development, emotional and intellectual growth, and physical development. Overall, children with ADHD face additional challenges in all these areas. This can make traditional team sports less beneficial. On the other hand, martial arts training may address the child’s development in a more holistic, well-rounded manner.

    Autism Spectrum Disorder

    Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental condition involving challenges in social interaction, speech, and nonverbal communication. Additionally, children with ASD may engage in restricted or repetitive behaviors. ASD typically presents itself around age 2-3 years old, is more common in boys, and likely affects between 1% and 2% of the population. ASD differs in severity and symptoms but is overall a permanent condition that will affect the individual throughout their entire life.
    Children with ASD and their families will have to learn coping strategies to help the child become as functional as possible. While there is no single strategy that will work for all children, there are some promising data suggesting that martial arts training may help autistic children improve executive functioning and communication skills.
    One particular study found that a 13-week, 26 class MMA program for autistic children improved measures of executive functioning compared to a non-training control group. While more research is required, these results are very promising to support the idea that martial arts training can help kids with autism. Additionally, martial arts gives children a unique and alternative means of self-expression.
    One of the major issues facing autistic children is difficulty in communication, particularly in regards to the way they feel internally. While far from a cure-all, the physical expression associated with martial arts training may provide a new avenue for children to outwardly express themselves. In conjunction with other therapies and a whole-family approach, martial arts training may seriously benefit children who struggle with autism spectrum disorders.

    Do Martial Arts Schools Accept Children with Autism?

    Given the particular social issues facing autistic children, you may be wondering if they would typically be allowed in martial arts schools. Given that every martial arts school will be unique, there is no generalized answer to this question. With that being said, the majority of kids' martial arts instructors fundamentally care deeply about child development and improving children’s lives through martial arts.
    It is highly unlikely that a dedicated instructor would exclude a child simply for being autistic. The one exception may be if your child demonstrates consistent anti-social behavior directed towards other children that cannot be moderated. In this case, they may require a separate option for training martial arts. Fortunately, autistic children don’t tend to be bullies and often internalize the social issues they face. As such, it is likely that a quality kids martial arts program that allows special needs children will be able to cater to autistic kids. The criteria listed further in this article for finding a martial arts program for special needs children should be more than adequate for ensuring a safe and helpful environment to help your child grow and develop in spite of their innate disability.

    Developmental Coordination Disorder

    Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) is a lifelong condition that makes learning motor skills and coordination far more difficult. It’s estimated that around 5% of children have diagnosable DCD. Additionally, DCD often occurs in conjunction with other disorders such as ADHD and seems to affect boys more frequently than girls. While it may seem counterintuitive to place a child with DCD in martial arts, most of the major treatments for DCD involve occupational therapy where children learn fine motor tasks such as tracing letters or practicing tying knots and shoelaces, among other coordinated motor skills.
    There is no denying that a child suffering from DCD will have more difficulty learning martial arts. Nevertheless, it is vital that these children are exposed to motor learning tasks as early as possible in order to offset the innate developmental coordination issues they will face. In conjunction with physical therapy, occupational therapy, and family support, martial arts training offers an array of benefits for improving coordination. Additionally, children with DCD will benefit from the standard array of emotional, personal, and physical development outcomes associated with martial arts training.

    Which Martial Arts are Best for Special Needs Children?

    If you as a parent have not personally trained in martial arts, selecting a martial art for your special needs child might be overwhelming at first. While there is no “perfect” martial art for special needs children, we do have some criteria that can steer you in the right direction. It’s worth noting that these criteria are a bit different from our standard list of recommended martial arts for kids. In general, we recommend focusing on martial arts that have a serious aspect of emotional self-development in addition to physical training.
    Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is far and above our top recommended martial art for special needs children. BJJ focuses on grappling with the opponent with the goal of controlling and submitting the opponent through a variety of techniques. Anyone who has trained BJJ can attest to the emotional and personal development that goes along with the physical training itself. Furthermore, the emphasis in BJJ is on control, rather than direct physical harm to the opponent as seen in hard-style striking arts such as boxing and Muay Thai.
    Arts such as Karate and Taekwondo can be beneficial as well. The traditional elements and customs found in these arts may help special needs kids with focus and development. Additionally, the katas, or “forms” training that is typically part of traditional martial arts curriculum can be beneficial for children who are less inclined towards live competitive training.
    From a practical standpoint, we still stand by live-training martial arts for learning self-defense and real-world skills. Arts such as boxing, Muay Thai, and wrestling are great for this component. However, if your child has particular issues dealing with an intense focus on competition or shyness, it may be beneficial to try BJJ, karate, or taekwondo first.

    How To Find a Martial Arts School for Special Needs Children

    Raising a special needs child is a serious challenge for any parent regardless of their situation or the specific disorder affecting their child. As such, finding a martial arts school that will be beneficial for special needs children may seem daunting.There is no denying that special needs children have additional considerations for choosing the right martial arts program when compared to children without diagnosable disorders. Special needs children have increased difficulty focusing, communicating, and performing coordinated movements. As such. finding the right martial arts program is vital for your special needs child.
    We highly recommend discussing your child’s specific needs with the head children’s instructor or program coordinator. This helps determine if a given martial arts program would be beneficial. In some cases, the instructor may have experience with special needs children. This is huge for ensuring your child succeeds in the program. If they do not, they may still have a program that can cater to these children. The instructor may also recommend other instructors for special needs children. Once you’ve met and discussed with the head instructor, the following criteria should be carefully considered when exploring different martial arts options in your area:

    #1 - Programs should be age-specific.

    Often, children’s martial arts programs may not be broken up by age group. This makes it difficult for younger kids to keep up with the overall curriculum. This is especially true for kids with special needs. We recommend finding a program that separates children based on stages of development. This typically includes grouping children aged 3-4, 5-6, 7-9, and 10-12. This may not be available specifically. However, even groupings of preschool, school-age, and adolescent go a long way towards ensuring the program meets your child’s needs.

    #2 - Programs should have a high instructor-to-student ratio.

    Martial arts programs for special needs kids should have at least two instructors per class. Ideally, the program would have an instructor for every 5-10 kids. This may not be possible depending on the program. In any case, students with special needs require additional attention from the instructor. This is difficult if there is one teacher overseeing 15 or more kids. A lack of close supervision during martial arts training for special needs kids can result in difficulties for the child. You may have trouble finding a program with a high ratio of instructors to students. In this case, it's worth considering private martial arts lessons for your child.

    #3 - Consider a school with less focus on competition.

    Competition is part and parcel of many martial arts programs. While the best martial arts almost universally involve some aspect of competition, it is not ideal for special needs children. Most martial arts schools will involve competition or have children who compete. Nevertheless, certain schools place less emphasis on competition and more emphasis on personal development. Martial arts can instill and build up the confidence and skill in your special needs child early in life. Your child may ultimately wish to compete in martial arts. This can further boost self-esteem and improve overall development. However, too much emphasis on the competition early can alienate children who are shier. Some children are less instinctively competitive. They may also face the various difficulties associated with special needs diagnoses.

    Is Martial Arts Right for Your Special Needs Child?

    Raising special needs children is a complicated and difficult process. The process will not look the same for every parent. There are a wide range of possible disabilities affecting children. Variation within a given disability makes blanket suggestions on special needs childcare difficult. You must always consider standard treatments for your child. However, martial arts training is another tool for helping special needs children. Martial arts can help children overcome their difficulties and thrive in life.

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