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Often, the people looking for martial arts reviews and searching for martial arts schools nearby are not actually searching for themselves, but for their children. Many parents want their children to start practicing some form of martial art from an early age, seeing as by the time they will develop their consciousness and grow into adults, they will have already learned a lot, perhaps even mastered the art. Seeing as any physical exercise is great for children, martial arts seem to be one of the best options due to their added function of self-defense. But how young is too young? In this article, we will talk about Taekwondo for toddlers, and at what age starting Taekwondo is preferable.
Seeing as toddlers are children between the ages of 1 and 3, it can be concluded that Taekwondo is not yet totally suitable for this age group of children, however, in a specialized children’s dojo, it wouldn’t have negative effects either.
There is a lot to discuss when talking about the development of children, seeing as the first couple of years, or up to the first decade, is arguably the most important part of their lives from a developmental perspective. So, how come we believe Taekwondo is not yet suitable for toddlers? Read on to find out!
Is Taekwondo Good for Toddlers?
When answering this question, one can come at it from different angles, which means that there is no single answer, but rather, it depends. It depends mostly on what you want your child to get out of the experience. Self-defense, discipline, physical exercise, or socialization can all be different goals that you can aim for when signing your child up for Taekwondo classes, but depending on the goal, the effectiveness of this training might vary.
First of all, let’s talk about the self-defense aspect. To put it straightforwardly, your child will not learn how to defend themselves if you sign them up for Taekwondo when they are still toddlers. To be frank, they won’t learn how to do that even if you sign them up for some high-class Navy-SEAL training course. Toddlers just aren’t developed enough yet to be able to get any self-defense skills out of TKD training. They can barely if at all, follow the instructions and learn the techniques, let alone use them in a real-life altercation.
Also, no 3-year-old gets into any physical altercation really, right? Of course not. However, we understand the concept behind the motivation. The idea is that if you sign up your child for Taekwondo classes when they are really young, they will grow together with their accumulating knowledge, and by the time they will need to defend themselves possibly, they will be more than able to. This logic is actually on-point, however, Taekwondo isn’t the best system you can sign your children up for if you are really looking for the self-defense benefit. Look into boxing, wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or Muay Thai for that.
Let’s say you are aware of all this, and the reason you want to sign your child up for Taekwondo classes is for them to learn discipline. Here, you have a higher chance of succeeding than with the self-defense aspect of it, but not much more. Children and toddlers learn mostly at home. If they aren’t taught discipline at home and in most places they are at, there is a chance they will perceive it as a “Taekwondo-training-only” thing, and they might not try to make an effort to improve on it. Nevertheless, this is already a pretty good reason to sign your child up.
The last one is physical and mental development. According to many modern theories, the main function of the brain is to regulate motor function, and nothing else. A part of this theory is also that everything we perceive as our adult consciousness is in some way an extension of this function of regulating movement for survival. The reason we are mentioning evolutionary biology is because it is the reason physical exercise is so good for your children.
When children are young, they go through years of brain development. Theories vary somewhat, but generally, it is thought that our brain develops until around age 25-30. The first couple of years of growth is the most important since this is when the brain is developing all the pathways that it will use later on. Back to our theory on brian function, if your child moves a lot and experiences a bunch of new sensations and feelings when young, the brain will develop all the more pathways which will carry the functions of these movements and experiences the child went through, making their general brain connections stronger.
Aside from toddler brain development, it has general health benefits which are amazing. Breathing, managing ADHD, lowering stress, increasing focus and a lot more are part of the long list of health benefits sports in general and Taekwondo can have on a child. This is why this is the most valid reason to send a toddler to train Taekwondo. If you don’t pressure them too much about the self-defense aspect or perhaps the discipline aspect, but just let them take in all the new experience and hopefully enjoy it, they will be much more well-rounded human beings generally speaking.
On the other hand, the main reason a toddler couldn’t really find their place in a taekwondo dojo is because they are just too young to understand most commands, techniques, principles, or concepts. For physical exercise, yes, it is a great option, but children might be placed under way too much stress to perform, which has detrimental effects on their mental and also their physical well-being.
Generally speaking, Taekwondo is not suitable for children. It is hard, it is technical, it requires a lot of thought and practice, and is just not meant for kids younger than 3 years old. If you want to give your child away to develop using physical exercise, it is better if the child’s parents spend a lot of time with their children running around and playing soccer or some other sport or activity. Stress is not good for children, so if you decide to sign them up for Taekwondo classes, make sure they are enjoying it and not stressing themselves out about it, since that is the only way they can properly train.
What Age Can a Child Start Taekwondo?
Okay, so if a toddler is not ready to learn Taekwondo most of the time, at what age is a child going to be ready? Well, the general consensus is at around 4-6 years of age. At this age the kids are starting to socialize properly, and when they can understand somewhat more abstract concepts, and follow orders while learning the taekwondo movements. Any earlier than this will much more likely result in injuries and stress.
However, signing up your child to Taekwondo practice is by no means a bad thing, even if they are toddlers, assuming they aren’t stressed because of it. Starting Taekwondo too early is, by all means, better than starting it too late, like at 30 or 40 years of age, when learning a simple kick will already be much harder.
Also, for the successful learning of the Korean martial art, it is preferable to understand some of Korean history and the history of the great masters who made the art in the first place. Practicing the art without knowing about the Theory of Power by Choi Hong Hi, or knowing about the 9 traditional Kwons and knowing the styles their teachings originated from, just won’t give your child the big picture. Perhaps the child would enjoy the training, yes, but they would not be able to indulge in the history and the shine of the martial art itself, which is important in mastering the art.
All-in-all, we wouldn’t outright advise anyone against singing their toddler up for Taekwondo, however, it might just not be worth the stress for the child to start learning martial art a year or two earlier than what would be best for them. They might even learn to hate TKD if you force it upon them at a young age and they don’t like it.
What is for sure, is that it is a very positive thing to want to sign one’s child up for self-defense classes or martial arts instructions. It can enhance their cognitive function, their physical fitness and health, and also their ability to defend themselves, though that requires more time to develop for children. However, it might not be the wisest thing to get your toddler to train such a power-intensive and hard martial art at such a young age, and both you and the child might get more out of the whole experience if you signed them up at say, 6 years of age.