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Top Martial Arts Disciplines for Children and Teens

by Lystia Putranto

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If what you’re looking for is to cultivate discipline, build strength, and empower your child with an arsenal of effective self-defense moves, then you ought to enroll them in a martial arts class. 

Whether you have young children or young adults, martial arts training offers them a fun way to improve their physical health while they learn useful self-defense skills. It is also likely to aid in the development of their character.

Through consistent practice of martial arts, they will cultivate self-confidence, increase focus and last but not least, help to develop valuable conflict resolution skills.

There are quite a few martial arts disciplines that are well suited not only for adults but for young kids too.

If you are interested in signing your child or teen up for martial arts classes, here are our top picks of 10 child-friendly disciplines that may help in narrowing down your selection:


Kung Fu


Thanks to the global popularity of  "Kung Fu Panda," DreamWork's animated movie, Kung Fu may be the best-known discipline amongst kids. Though it is a popular martial arts style today, it is actually one of the world's oldest.

Kung Fu training is often fast-paced and rigorous. However, it is more fluid than other martial arts styles such as karate. An ideal martial arts discipline ideal for kids who are hyperactive, it allows them to be physically active yet instilling a sense of calm and patience at the same time.




kids practicing Karate

Image credit: livingsocial.com


One of the most established martial arts styles on this list, karate, is a Japanese discipline that is not only popular amongst adults but also kids of all ages.

The word "karate" translates to "empty hand.". Karate itself is basically an unarmed combat style that focuses on kicking, striking and blocking with the use of arms and legs.

Though most programs recommend for kids to start at age 8-10, Karatekas can begin training as early as 4 years old.

Many parents choose to enroll their kids in karate because it emphasizes teaching respect for others - helping them to become respectful, wholesome individuals during their developmental years.




Loosely translated as "gentle art," Jujutsu or Jiu-jitsu is a hand-to-hand combat system that consists of throws and joint locks. Originating in Japan, it was initially developed as one of the foundations of samurai fighting techniques, it emphasizes that force is only to be applied in self-defense.

It encourages practitioners to de-escalate confrontation and promotes self-awareness. This is particularly useful as it teaches kids how to effectively determine the appropriate response to an attack/altercation.


Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)


Girls practicing BJJ

Image credit: Jiujitsutimes.com


In a nutshell, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) combines moves found in Judo and Japanese JuJutsu. It has enjoyed rapid worldwide growth in popularity for the past decade and it has become easier than ever to find classes and programs suitable for adults and kids alike.

Developed by the Gracie family, a prominent Brazilian martial arts family, it was created as an effective form of self-defense against larger sized adversaries, making it ideal for smaller kids. However, it is recommended that they should reach age 8 before they start competing.




Taekwondo for kids

Image credit: Mastermoontkd.com


Originating in Korea, this official Olympic sport is a discipline that emphasizes the use of kicking and punching to energize the body.

Taekwondo training often includes practicing sets of a sequence of complicated techniques that enables kids not only to become physically stronger but also to improve their mental strength (perseverance, patience, etc.).

Taekwondo also teaches students to use breathing practices and forms as meditation techniques to improve concentration and memory.




Hailing from Japan, this ancient discipline dates back from the era of Samurais. It is often considered as a non-violent style as it never uses force to reciprocate force. Instead, it teaches students to use the opponent's aggressive energy against themselves.

Its movements are similar to those found in jujutsu, however, it is gentler and non-competitive. If you're looking for a discipline that focuses on teaching children how to work well with partners, Aikido may just be the right fit.


Tai Chi

Kids practicing Tai Chi

Image credit: Exceedma.com


While it's true that Tai Chi has a reputation as a discipline that is most popular amongst older practitioners, it is also well suited for kids of all ages.

This internal martial arts style is gentle and non-strenuous as it consists of slow repetitive movements, instead of muscle contractions that enable its practitioners to deflect attacks effortlessly.

Additionally, Tai Chi promotes deep breathing and emphasizes balance, which effectively boosts flexibility and improves focus.


Tang Soo Do


A Korean martial arts discipline, Tang Soo Do combines techniques found in Shotokan Karate, Subak, Taekkyon, and Kung Fu. Since it is taught as an art rather than as a sport, it is not competitive and is ideal for kids age 4 and up.

Tang Soo Do teaches students how to master their own bodies instead of focusing on defeating their opponent. Sparring, in this case, is primarily used as a means for its practitioners to help one another in perfecting their techniques.




Judo focuses on throws that are helpful in developing physical fitness, balance, and stamina. Also included within the Olympic games, it is competitive in nature and emphasizes on taking down the opponent to the ground.

Though training can start at any age, kids under 8 years old are not allowed to compete.


(American) Kenpo


Also referred to as Kenpo Karate, (American) Kenpo originated in Hawaii and is a modern hybrid martial arts that combine techniques found in several other martial arts styles.

Emphasizing fast hand techniques and lower body kicks, Kenpo is predominantly used as a self-defense system that can be easily applied in real life situations. That said, Kenpo programs for children generally focus on teaching broader movements and creating opportunities to escape conflict rather inflict harm on the attacker.


Eager to sign your teen up for a martial arts training camp? Be sure to check out our selections of martial arts training camp for the youth!

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