The 5 Best Self-Defense Classes For Kids [Everything Parents Should Know]

Children learning about self-discipline and engaging in physical activities is better than being a couch potato. Martial arts is one of the many physical activities that are great for kids to burn their endless supply of energy. It’s not just the perfect skill to avoid being bullied but also it helps them prevent violence and only do any physical contact when necessary (whether you agree or not, as a parent, you can’t always be there to protect your kids).

Another burning question parents might think is - what are the best self-defense classes for kids? Are these martial arts safe? How do I know if my kids are ready to learn martial arts? We’ll tackle them one by one below!

Learning Martial Arts - Are They Good For Kids?

Although martial arts provide a lot of benefits for kids, some parents worry they’re inappropriate for their children at a young age. While it’s true that teaching them martial arts could have pros and cons, it is important to consider both sides so that you, as a parent, could decide what’s best for your kids.

Let’s go over the pros first:

Martial arts promote physical fitness

When you were young, do you ever remember getting tired easily after playing? 

The fact is that the younger you are, the more energy you have for exercise. Children seem to have an endless source of energy, so why not let them engage in martial arts? It’s a great way to help them become physically fit, avoid boredom, and enjoy learning new skills for self-defense.

Plus, it might wear them out so they don’t act so wild at home!

Martial arts teach self-discipline

Anger management and patience are skills children learn from martial arts classes. In general, it is not just about learning self-defense but also self-discipline - that is, how to handle confrontations and making the right decisions instead of acting on an impulse.

Martial arts teach social skills, respect, and confidence

If children are taught with self-defense skills, it is easier for them to gain self-confidence. And when they attend martial arts classes, they will learn more about camaraderie and respect for other people.

Martial arts teach kids how to avoid violence

Martial arts classes teach children how to protect themselves, especially when approached by a stranger or a bully. Whether you like it or not, you can’t be with your kids all the time. It is important to make them aware of the dangers of the outside world. And, it’s important for them to learn what to do when confronted with a bully at school. Martial arts classes will teach them all of these.

Martial arts teach focus, courtesy, and memory

When children are exposed to martial arts classes at an early age, it’s likely they will remember the skills their whole lives. Children easily learn something new and absorb information like sponges (unlike adults) until it becomes an instinct. Martial arts help them improve their focus and memory so that they can control their emotions during stressful situations.

On the other hand, there are also cons when not taught correctly. These are:

Martial arts might promote false sense of security

Learning how to defend themselves might make children think that they are invincible. They may overestimate their strength and skills and think that it’s okay to start a fight with a bad guy since they know a little bit of karate. 

Teaching self-defense must not lead to children thinking that they are not vulnerable.

Martial arts might promote fear

While it’s perfectly okay to let children know about the dangers lurking in the outside world, it shouldn’t lead them to fear and avoid being social. Awareness should make them wiser and confident instead of afraid.

Children might become violent to others

Overconfidence is dangerous and can lead to violence. When not taught the right discipline, children might use their karate skills to bully other kids for fun. As a parent, it is very important that you select the right martial art classes as just critically, the right person to teach your kids to make sure they use their skills in the right way.

Is Your Kid Ready to Learn Martial Arts?

On average, most martial arts classes would allow children between the age of 8 to 10 years to attend their classes. However, it really depends on which school you choose. Some schools can cater to preschoolers or even beginners class for young kids so that they can start some basic moves appropriate for their age. 

If your kids show an early interest, don’t be afraid to look for classes in your area that are designed for a very young age.  Schools will evaluate your kid and decide whether your child is ready or not, and which martial art class is the best fit for them.  

Safety Concerns With Martial Arts Classes

While it’s true that children can experience injuries when attending martial arts (or any other kinds of sport), most classes will teach techniques, such as how to fall and roll, to lessen the chances of getting injured. Protective gear (such as mouth guards, helmets, shin guards, and padded gloves), as well as mats, are also provided to avoid hard impacts. 

Many classes will use pads to strike instead of sparring with other kids until their skills develop more.  Other classes that teach young kids some basic skills avoid contact at all to avoid injuries.  So, you should be able to find the level that’s appropriate for your kids.

If you have doubts about your child’s bruises (or symptoms of concussions), then never hesitate to have them checked by a doctor.

How to Choose the Best Martial Art For Kids

With so many classes to choose from, you as a parent might be overwhelmed which martial art is best fit for your child. Here’s what you should know when choosing the best self-defense classes for kids:

It Should Teach Self-Defense

Since one of the top goals is for your kids to learn how to defend themselves, it is important to choose a class that would teach them self defense as a priority. Remember that some martial arts take more time before they can be used effectively or might not be effective in a realistic scenario.

It Should Help Minimize Harm

Teaching martial arts to your kids must promote discipline and learning how to avoid or prevent violence. Just because your kid knows karate or another martial art, it doesn’t mean he can just inflict serious harm to anyone (even to a bully). It’s always better for your kid to learn to avoid a fight and not cause any harm (or minimize harm when physical contact is needed).

It Should Include Simulated Fighting

Martial art training is more effective if realistic fighting scenarios are simulated to test skills, focus, and decision-making capability. As they move beyond beginner stages, adding realism is important to prepare them to handle real-life scenarios.  Memorizing moves and practicing with a scripted partner may not prepare your kid to react and act decisively in a situation where they need to defend themselves.

The 5 Best Martial Arts for Kids

In order to choose the right class for your kids, you should know every martial art has unique characteristics as well as the equipment (or protective gear and clothing) needed. Let’s take a look at the 5 best martial arts for kids to help them get started:



Best Feature: Judo focuses less on strikes and more on self-defense
What They’ll Learn: Self defense, even if you’re smaller or weaker

Judo is one of the best martial arts for kids to learn because it focuses less on strikes and punching, unlike other forms of self-defense. Judo teaches kids how to defend themselves without the need to be bigger or stronger than their opponents. The technique focuses on using the attacker’s weight and strength against himself.

Many times, bullies (or bad guys in general) can be bigger than your children. Using their Judo skills they can defend themselves without the need to be stronger or bigger. Judo teaches kids how to throw their attackers off balance and get away from counter attacks instead of being offensive.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu


Best Feature: Uses the attacker’s strength and weight to put him down
What They’ll Learn: Stand-up maneuvers, ground techniques, and how to gain a better position than their opponents

The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is similar to Judo. Instead of being offensive, this martial art technique focuses on teaching kids about stand-up maneuvers, ground techniques, and how to gain a better position than their opponents, Jiu-Jitsu uses the attacker’s own strength and weight to knock him off balance, making it the ideal martial art to teach a smaller person who wants to defend himself against a bigger adversary. 

You want your kids to learn how to protect themselves on the ground when confrontations cannot be avoided. If this is the case, then the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the best self-defense class you can enrol your child in. However, if you want your kid to learn the offensive techniques, then this martial art may not be the ideal one. 



Best Feature: Self-defense without weapons
What They’ll Learn: Striking techniques using the hand and feet

Karate is probably the one of the oldest martial arts in the world. It dates back to the 1300s and teaches students how to defend themselves without any weapons. Karate focuses only on the full body workout which makes it a great choice of martial art if you want to be fit. Students are also trained with karate as a way of life and how to focus on oneself instead of the opponent. 

This discipline is suited for kids interested in learning striking techniques with the hands and feet. Philosophical teachings focus on leading a happy and balanced life, with activity being a primary area of concentration. Breaking boards and forms are major elements used during training.

Muay Thai


Best Feature: Uses sweeps, knees, throws, clinch, and elbows for self-defense

What They’ll Learn: Self-control in hitting the attacker without inflicting serious damage, mental toughness

Muay Thai is a Thai kickboxing martial art that uses sweeps, knees, throws, clinch, and elbows, making it known as “the art of eight limbs.”

With Muay Thai, your kids will learn self-control by hitting their opponents lightly but intentionally. This form of martial art promotes mental toughness and physical fitness for body conditioning so it may not be for everyone. Moreover, it doesn’t have a ranking or belting system (unlike the Taekwondo). But it does help your child set his personal goals at his own pace and, most importantly, be able to defend himself more effectively when the situation calls for it without inflicting serious damage to the attacker. 

For example, the shin kick to a stomach or legs is a painful and effective attack to the bully while minimizing harm to the attacker (when done a limited number of times).

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)


Best Feature: Combination of different martial art techniques

What They’ll Learn: Striking and grappling, making it an overall self-defense

The MMA or mixed martial arts is a combination of different martial arts, providing the discipline and overall self-defense techniques for your kids. This is a popular martial art in the US because of the UFC as well as its combination of many martial art types and techniques.

It combines the most effective techniques from each martial art for the situations that they’re most effective for.

Under the guidance of their trainers, your child can develop confidence and discipline with continued practice. However, to be successful in this class the child has to be good both at striking and grappling to take down his opponent. 

Wrapping It Up

Learning a martial art is a great way not only to help young kids to defend themselves from bullies and bad guys but also to build confidence and develop physical fitness. With the right guidance, your kids should be able to learn the skills as well as the discipline to avoid putting themselves (and others) into harmful confrontations.