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Taekwondo: What age is the right age?

Kids as young as 2 and 3 can be seen in toddler martial arts classes at some schools. But do these little ones really get anything out of it?

5 or 6 is a Common Age to Start

J.T.F Taekwondo students typically start at age 6, but it could be 5, depending on the particular child. If you have a younger child (ages 3, 4, or 5) who seems to have the attention span and interest for martial arts classes, make sure you’re going into the experience with realistic expectations. Physically, kids under age six generally lack the motor skills for any sort of proper technique. Mentally, they usually lack the ability to concentrate and apply what is being taught in any meaningful way. But that’s okay. There is still much to be gained for kids at this age. We're all aware that our kids are more sedentary

today than in generations past. And partly to blame for that, is of course, is the amount of "screen time" that can creep into their (and our) daily lives. Almost all modern parents can attest to this, myself included! The physical activity and time away from electronics alone, make the martial arts worth your consideration!

Specific physical benefits for your younger child include improved coordination, balance, strength, and overall fitness.  Plus, it is just plain fun for young kids to be able to kick and punch the and run like the wind across the foam mats! What they are doing on the mat might not look much like "real" martial arts, at least not until they are a little bit older, but its still really good for them.

Mental Benefits. Focus and discipline are a big deal! As the Mom of a son with ADHD & Autism diagnosed in Kindergarten/going in to first grade, I can say that the need for help with"focus" (and social opportunities) was what first drew us to Taekwondo! I have met countless other parents of kids with ADHD or ASD who had tried other "sports" or activities, only to find that the discipline of martial arts was what seemed to make the most difference.

Social Benefits. Since many families are smaller today, sometimes with only one child, it can be challenging to find enough social opportunities. Same goes if you a Mom who is homeschooling. You may have a homeschool co-op you take part in, but it may not meet often enough or provide enough of a social circle. The great thing about finding a solid martial arts school, is that it will meet at least a 2-3 times per week, likely more than enough for your younger child for friendship opportunities and social practice. Some good martial arts schools offer social outings for parents and students to get together for additional social time. Check out the JTF Taekwondo Event Calendar where you can see what's going on by date at our school. Most activities are free for current students!

7 or 8 is the Ideal

Mentally, seven year olds are much more able to embrace rules and structure than earlier ages are, however, classes still need to have some playfulness and fun to them. Because kids in this age group do much better with rules and structure, they are great candidates for any type of martial art with a belt/rank promotion process. They are able to challenge themselves, set personal goals and are willing to work toward achieving their goals. They begin to understand that sometimes they will struggle or fail, which can be a great life lesson which helps them develop the discipline and perseverance they need to advance in Taekwondo and in life. By age seven or eight, most children are also much more able to correctly distinguish the right time and reasons to use their Taekwondo skills.

Physically, this age is great because they are beginning to gain much better mind-body control. They will still sometimes struggle to get their bodies to do what they want them to, but they will be able to handle the frustration much better than children from ages 4-6.

Another thing that makes kids in this age group naturally great for martial arts, is that they also begin to desire competition, or a way to “test” themselves. In Taekwondo, there is the opportunity to compete in tournaments, and earn medals and trophies. Those in this age group who are up for the challenge and fun of competition can certainly do so.

"In started Taekwondo when I was 14." – Grandmaster Robert Dunn, 9th degree (dan) black belt, highest level attainable within Taekwondo

It's Really Never Too Late

Depending on how far a student intends to go with Taekwondo and what the child's personal goals are for martial arts, there really isn't an age in childhood that is considered "too late." Grandmaster Robert Dunn, now in his 70's, is the highest rank attainable within Taekwondo - a 9th degree (dan) black belt Grandmaster. He started at age 14. If achievement of advanced rank is the student's goal, there is plenty of time to get there, even if the student starts as a young teen. If your child is interested in achieving their 1st degree black belt and going no further, that will take between 3-5 years. So you can see that there is no real advantage in a young child beginning younger than age 6 or 7 if black belt achievement is their goal. If they are not primarily focused on rank achievement, and are more interested in the immediate benefits of fun, fitness, self defense, mental discipline, and friendship (and there are many more benefits), the age at which they start is not really a concern. It really comes down to the individual student's personal goals.


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