If the thought of your child doing karate conjures up images of them practicing techniques on siblings (or worse, a stranger), don’t worry! Karate has many benefits for children with a positive spin-off for parents too. Here are nine good reasons to consider karate lessons.

It teaches discipline

Karate is synonymous with discipline. From the moment the child enters the dojo, he or she is expected to follow dojo etiquette and training rules. Misbehaviour, talking, or any kind of messing around is immediately corrected so that the student learns to settle down. As time goes on, this behaviour spills over into the home and the classroom.

It helps with focus

Too many children suffer from an overstimulated brain and short attention span. Like all exercise, karate helps to ignite the part of the brain responsible for memory and attention. Karate specifically requires focused attention on the teacher (sensei)’s instructions, and how to translate these instructions through the body. This leads to improved concentration and focus, in and out of the dojo.

It’s goal-oriented

The grading system in karate teaches the child to keep striving. Starting with a white belt, he or she will have to surpass many levels before reaching the coveted black belt. Even once this is achieved, there is always something higher to aim for – not only in the outward representation of achievement but also in the internal (ever-elusive) mastery of the art.

It brings a sense of calm

Our children may be dealing with far more stress than we’re aware of. Karate helps them manage their anxiety better, not only through physical activity, but through practicing correct breathing, better posture, and stretching. Karate trains the subconscious mind to be alert and mindful, which simultaneously makes them calm and patient.

It builds confidence

Karate is an individual journey with personal milestones, and the continuous challenges require grit and determination. The child faces difficult scenarios where he or she is required to evaluate their circumstances, overcome nerves and deal with frustration. It teaches body and mind to be strong. As your child moves out into the world they take these skills with them, boosting confidence and self-esteem.

It teaches respect

Karate is built on respect, which is evident the moment you enter the dojo. Children must remove their shoes, politely greet their teacher, bow before stepping onto the mat, bow to their teacher, cooperate with fellow students, practice control when sparring, and not talk or fool around on the mat. Before long, this respectful attitude flows into everyday life.

It builds physical strength

Karate helps your child achieve optimum physical strength. It builds muscle and cardiovascular capacity and increases muscle tone, agility, flexibility, stamina, and mobility. Building stamina and strength helps the child feel less tired and lazy and keeps the heart rate and blood pressure under control.

It improves coordination

The hand-eye coordination skills learned in karate have multiple applications outside of the dojo – from sports activities to skills such as drawing, writing, or even driving in future life. Karate movement patterns and other drills demand concentration and practice to train and groove the mind-body connection.

It improves social skills

A lesser recognised benefit of karate is the increase in social skills. When children meet new people, they learn from each other and the environment. They must cooperate with fellow students by interacting and communicating both verbally and non-verbally. This broadens their exposure, which in turn develops their ability to engage with the world around them.

Karate is not an overnight thing. It takes years of training and perseverance to reach the next level. With patience comes humility and respect for those who are ahead of them on the journey. With grit and determination comes a belief in self that is absolutely priceless. And while the first few weeks might elicit excitable cries of “kiai!” (and put your favourite vase at risk), in no time, the benefits will shine through.