What’s the Best Age to Start Kids in Martial Arts?

Hey, great question! Would you be surprised to learn it’s mildly controversial? Depending on who you ask, you’ll get answers ranging from “the younger, the better” to “when they’re old enough to follow directions.” The truth is, there is no single “right” age for kids to begin martial arts. There are just too many variables for a blanket answer. Things like the school, the instructors, and your child themselves all need to be considered. So let’s reframe this question. Instead of asking “what’s the best age to start kids in martial arts,” ask yourself, “what do I need to consider about enrolling my kid in martial arts?” We promise, the answer to that will help you make the right call on timing.

Child Development

Every kid is different. That’s part of the fun! And it also explains why some kids are singing the alphabet at age two, while some of their peers are still grunting and pointing. Development happens at different rates, and unless your doctor is telling you otherwise, it’s not indicative of any issues. In terms of activities like martial arts, those varying developmental rates will mean some kids are ready to go as early as age three, while others won’t benefit until much later — think 10 or 11. If you have a younger child who seems to have the attention span and interest for martial arts classes, make sure you’re going into the experience with realistic expectations. Kids under age six generally lack the motor skills for any sort of proper technique. And that’s fine. Our Little Dragons program here at Freestyle Martial Arts factors for this. It’s specifically designed for kids ages four to seven. The emphasis for our youngest martial artists is on having fun, getting exercise, and generally enjoying a wonderful introduction to martial arts. In other words, it’s entirely age appropriate.

The School Philosophy

Any martial art school you visit has its own philosophy, approach, and general vibe. Some are focused on competition, and classes are oriented around churning out champs. Others have a strong community vibe. For kids, and particularly young kids, intense training can often backfire. If you’re considering a school that’s structured for competition, make a point of sitting in on classes, talking to instructors and other parents, and watching the dynamic. Maybe you have one of those kids who thrives on healthy competition. But maybe you don’t. Think about what’s best for your kiddo and go from there.

The Instructors

One of the most rewarding aspects of martial arts is all of the lessons that translate into life off the mat. Respect, discipline, picking yourself up after failing, the value of hard work, focus — these are amazing skills to develop. Not only do they serve your kid while they’re in martial arts class, they’ll serve them out in the real world too. But these lessons only come when they’re modeled. And for that, you need excellent instructors. It’s a simple truth that not every martial arts instructor has the skills or patience to work with children. Before signing any contracts, go observe a class. Watch the instructor interact with students. Look at how the class is structured, what sort of expectations are laid out, how the instructor corrals a class full of energetic kids, the approach to discipline, all of it. If you like what you see, inquire about an introductory class for your chid.

The Takeaway

If you’re sensing a theme, you’re not wrong. Make a point of visiting a few schools if you’re considering martial arts for your child. Talk to the instructors and staff for their input. Watch a class or two. Speak with other parents, and observe the kids in class. Can you picture your child there too? If so, step two is that introductory class. Don’t stress too much about the “right” age for getting started. Really, there’s no such thing.

In Reno, Freestyle Martial Arts has offered an exceptional children’s martial arts program for decades. We’re in the process of building out our brand new home, and we look forward to continuing our tradition there for years to come. We invite you to contact us today to learn more about our approach to children’s martial arts.

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