Personally, I believe that once you have made the decision and have actually walked into a martial art school, then that is the best age to start. People begin training for a variety of reasons, improve fitness, rebuild confidence, enhance self-esteem, learn to protect yourself, make friends and a host of other reasons. I have students who have started lessons in their late 30’s and 40’s and are still training after several years.
If we are talking about children then I believe that kids should be introduced to martial arts training somewhere around 4 or 5 years old. That being said children this age should be introduced into an age-specific program that allows them to have fun and learn while developing the specific skills they need. If they are put into a program that doesn’t benefit their abilities they will not succeed and therefore will not enjoy the experience.
I have been involved in martial arts since I was 6 years old, that’s about 40 years. I have personally benefited from growing up in the dojo and can see first hand the benefits.
1. Self-confidence and self-esteem. I cannot say that I was ever bullied as a kid or teen. The confidence and esteem I gained in the dojo was with me everyday. In high school I had the confidence to join the student council in grade 9 and successfully run for school president in grade 12. I joined the Canadian Forces Reserves when I was 17. This meant leaving home during the summers to participate in military exercises.
2. Fitness. I was always in good physical condition growing up. When the time came for my RCMP applicant fitness test, I was able to pass without any concerns and attended the academy prepare for the physical rigors of training.
3. Friendships. Growing up in the dojo with a bunch of other kids, I was able to make a lot of friends who shared the same passions as I did. I also many friends at school and work. I think that the confidence I had acquired, allowed me approach people and make friends.
4. Routine and responsibility. I was talking to some of my students recently who expressed how happy they were that they did not have to come to the dojo on Saturday mornings anymore. Their kids are no longer in Saturday classes. When I think back about 40 years I have been training and teaching, probably close to 25 of those years, I have been at the dojo on Saturday mornings. From the time I was 6, till I left home at 20 years old, my classes were Friday night and Saturday morning. When I received my black belt and start to assist in other classes, I was at the dojo anywhere from 4-5 nights a week. My parents always knew where I was.
5. Family bonding. I was fortunate to share my martial arts training with my family, meaning both my father and brother were involved. My father and I were promoted to black belt on the same day and later to masters on the same day. My brother was also a black belt. Martial arts were something that brought us together and still to this day holds that bond. This is now the bond that my son Matthew and I are developing. I am also happy to see many families training in my school.
6. Life experiences. I was lucky to grow up in a school that fostered friendships around the world. I have traveled to many places because of martial arts training, England, Switzerland, Japan, USA and many areas of Canada. I have friends in many of these places and many opportunities to return.
What is the best age to start martial arts training?
Any age is good but if you want to give your child the best opportunity to succeed then the earlier the better.
Parents must commit to their kids learning and training. If you think it is important for them, then make sure they make their classes.