How to Choose the Right Martial Art for Your Child

Martial arts can be a positive, healthy activity for your kids—if they're involved in a discipline that matches their interests and personality. But with a dizzying array of martial arts options, it can be tough to pick the right one.

Each discipline requires slightly different skills and techniques in order to be successful. Depending on the child, he or she will likely prefer one over the others. Finding the right match begins by understanding each discipline and philosophy.


Created as far back as the 1300s, karate is the most used martial arts in the world. There are no weapons involved, and the focus is on a full-body workout. Most traditional karate classes teach students to incorporate martial arts as a way of life, with the emphasis being on the self instead of the opponent.

More: How to Use ACTIVEkids

Who it's for: This discipline is suited for kids interested in learning striking techniques with the hands and feet. Philosophical teachings focus on leading a happy and balanced life, with activity being a primary area of concentration. Breaking boards and forms are a major elements used during training.

Tae Kwon Do

Tae Kwon Do is one of the most popular of all the martial arts and is even an Olympic sport. Attacks involve kicks, punches and throws, making it a well-rounded option.

Who it's for: This discipline is heavy on sparring, so you'll need to commit to buying protective gear to get started. On the flip side, there are lots of opportunities for competition because of the popularity of the sport. If your child is competitive, it should be at the top of your list.

Kung Fu

The focus of kung fu is on balance and relaxation techniques. Strikes are usually performed moving forward in close proximity to your opponent.

More: 4 Ways to Get the Most Out of ACTIVEkids

Who it's for: If you child doesn't do well in close personal spaces or has slow reflexes, this probably isn't the martial art you should choose. It also relies more on upper body movement, which is good if your child struggles with kicks. If you want a sport that focuses on balance and concentration, this is a good pick.


Also an Olympic sport, Judo was designed to defend against strikes and use the opponents attacking mentality against them. Concentration is on throws that involve timing and controlling your opponent's body weight.

Who it's for: If your child wants a martial art that involves striking, this isn't the discipline. If learning throws and defense are a high priority, judo is one of the best there is.

More: Downloadable Coloring Books for Your Child

Active logoFind a martial arts class for your kid

About the Author

Marc Bio

Marc Lindsay

Marc Lindsay is the Cycling Editor at When he's not at work, you can find him riding his bike. That is seriously all he does.
Marc Lindsay is the Cycling Editor at When he's not at work, you can find him riding his bike. That is seriously all he does.

Discuss This Article