When PickyKidPix did martial arts with her siblings a few years, Chun Kuk Do, it did not come naturally to her. That’s weird because she’s very athletic. Now, after doing kickboxing and boxing with her, I realize it was the martial art style that didn’t quite suit her. She’s not good at memorizing sequences of physical movements for “forms.”
I haven’t tried that many different styles of martial arts, so I am by no means an expert but I thought it would be fun to match up different martial arts with who it might be best suited for. In a perfect world, you would have all these different karate studios within a reasonable commute. (I laugh as I type this since Boston is not a hotbed of martial arts compared to Los Angeles where I had lived previously.) Ah well, let’s go with my fantasy.
Personally, I think martial arts is great for both kids and adults for fitness, self-confidence, and self-defense. Just like finding the right genre or book to get kids reading, I think there is a martial art out there for everyone and you just need to find the right one. Like Cinderella and her glass slipper. I hope this helps!
What martial art are you doing or thinking of trying? I’d love your input on what martial art is good for what type of person or child! Thanks!
Martial Arts for Kids: Books and Matching Up
I studied a little Gōjū-ryū, a traditional Okinawan style of karate, that came from Chinese White Crane Kung Fu. Karate will be a new Olympic sport at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
Karate Kids by Holly Sterling
This is the perfect introduction to what karate class will be like for kids who might be thinking of learning a martial art. Holly Sterling is a karate Great Britain Grand Champion who also teaches children at her dojo. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
I wanted to start with the Chinese martial art Kung Fu since most kids are familiar with Kung Fu Panda movies. You might have heard of Shaolin Kung Fu or the Shaolin Kung Fu monastery where it comes from. I’ve never done Kung Fu personally so I had to watch a lot of videos to get the gist of it.
Here is also a wonderful picture book about Kung Fu by one of my favorite picture book authors.
Beautiful Warrior: The Legend of the Nun’s Kung Fu by Emily Arnold McCully
To me, Kung Fu is the perfect martial art for PickyKidPix; it has gymnastic elements and flexibility is a plus. It also uses a wide variety of weapons as part of the training which my kids think is fun!
For a Kung Fu demonstration, there’s no better master than Bruce Lee!
Chun Kuk Do
My kids studied Chu Kuk Do. It’s a Korean-based, American hybrid martial art style founded in 1990 by Chuck Norris who combines various martial arts including kickboxing, Aikido and Jujitsu. There is just one weapon, the bo staff. This style requires memorizing forms, or basic movement patterns, in order to advance up a belt ladder.
I have a picture book selection for karate belts by Oliver Chin.
Julie Black Belt: The Kung Fu Chronicles by Oliver Chin
I think it’s a good basic karate style that works for all kids as long as they are good at memorizing movement sequences (PickyKidPix was not). Dancers would be good at this martial art style. And not coincidentally, PickyKidPix also had trouble with dance sequences when she took Hip Hop. She’s more of an instinctive athlete.
Here are two of my son’s Chun Kuk Do teachers demonstrating:
Amateur boxing is an Olympic and Commonwealth sport and is a common fixture in most of the major international games—it also has its own World Championships.
Boxing is especially perfect for kids who have trouble memorizing forms. While there are punching sequences for training, it’s less burdensome to memorize specific movements. I’ve also heard that boxing is great for kids with ADHD because the sport requires rapid processing of stimuli and quick reactions.
Twelve Rounds to Glory by Charles R. Smith Jr., illustrated by Bryan Collier
Here are three of Grasshopper and Sensei’s 7th grade classmates at a boxing class.
Tae Kwon Do
Tae Kwon Do is a martial art originating in Korea. It combines combat and self-defense techniques with sport and exercise. It has been an Olympic event since 2000.
I took a few Tae Kwon Do classes in college and it was not for me. It’s very kicking intensive and it’s great for people who have very flexible legs. I do not. Other criticism from martial art-y friends is that it’s not a great martial art for a close fight, say in a bar, since it is more about kicking and therefore requires more space. For kids, this is a martial art that also requires forms memorization.
I think it would be great for anyone who wants a martial art that will also expose them to Korean culture.
Let’s Go To TaeKwonDo: A Story About Persistence, Bravery, and Breaking Boards by Aram Kim
Tae Kwon Do Test by Cristina Oxtra, illustrated by Amanda Erb
For kids who can read independently, this easy reader is another take on being brave enough to break a board for the Tae Kwon Do Test. It’s part of a new series by Capstone featuring kids’ sports stories with girl protagonists! [easy reader, ages 6 and up]
My godkids studied with Olympic medalist Jimmy Kim. He was the first American to win the gold in this event.
When I lived in Los Angeles, I studied Aikido down the street at a very traditional dojo. I happened to live near Sawtelle Blvd. which is like a mini Japantown. In a weird coincidence, my Sensei also lived in the same ratty apartment building as I did. He was from Spain where he told us Aikido is really popular. I used to see him in the laundry room and I always felt a little safer knowing he was in my building!
Aikido is a Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba as a synthesis of his martial studies, philosophy, and religious beliefs.
To me, Aikido is the most elegant of all martial art forms. It uses the other person’s energy and motion against them so it’s great if you are small. I think of Aikido as the bullfighting of martial arts … there is the same sleight of hand, gracefulness and precise technique. But it is for the cerebral and the patient. It takes a lot of training for Aikido to be effective for self-defense.
You don’t need to memorize forms for Aikido but you practice in a dojo by pairing up. It’s always a pair to practice each technique since it’s about redirecting your opponent’s energy.
Sumo Joe by Mia Wenjen, illustrated by Nat Iwata
My brother-in-law in an expert at Krav Maga and my sister studied it as well. It’s a tactical martial system developed in Israel that consists of a wide combination of techniques sourced from boxing, Muay Thai, Wing Chun, Judo, jiu-jitsu, wrestling, and grappling, along with realistic fight training. It’s very effective for righting and self-defense.
Ninja! by Arree Chung
Here’s Grand Master Haim Gidon Of The Israeli Krav Maga demonstrating:
I have personally studied kickboxing the most and I really love it. It’s very immediate; there are no forms to memorize or very difficult techniques to learn. I like that it uses both boxing and kicking which makes it a full-body workout and also great for self-defense, especially if you are small, like me.
Kickboxing is a group of martial arts and stand-up combat sports based on kicking and punching, historically developed from Karate, Muay Thai and Western boxing. Kickboxing is practiced for self-defense, general fitness, or as a contact sport.
Jo Jo’s Flying Side Kick by Brian Pinkney
Here’s a perfectly executed flying sidekick by Master Kevin Nilson:
Muay Thai Kickboxing
Muay Thai is kickboxing on steroids. Instead of using your foot to kick, you use your shin which is much harder and also forces you to be closer to your opponent. You actually need to toughen up your shins giving it lovely hues of black, blue and purple from the bruising required. It’s a lot of knees and elbows too, making it very effective for self-defense (where the best self-defense is a good offense!).
It’s tough to find Muay Thai kickboxing where I live so I was fortunate to train with a Brazilian champion.
Black Belt Bunny by Jacky Davis
Here’s Anderson Silva; he’s the bald guy and also considered to be the best pound for pound mixed martial arts fighter in the world.
I’ve never studied Judo but my sister-in-law was very good at it. There seems to be a lot of tumbling involved. It would be good for gymnasts who like to wrestle. There is much more of a grappling element to it.
Judo is a modern martial art, combat and Olympic sport created in Japan in 1882 by Jigoro Kano. Its most prominent feature is its competitive element, where the objective is to either throw or takedown an opponent to the ground, immobilize or otherwise subdue an opponent with a pin, or force an opponent to submit with a joint lock or a choke. Strikes and thrusts by hands and feet as well as weapons defenses are a part of judo, but only in pre-arranged forms and are not allowed in judo competition or free practice.
The Karate Mouse (Geronimo Stilton, No. 40) by Geronimo Stilton
Reader Martial Arts for Kids Recommendations
Thank you to Susan for her comment on the Korean martial art Tang Soo Do (which is new to me).
Tang Soo Do is a Korean martial art incorporating fighting principles from subak (as described in the Kwon Bup Chong Do), as well as northern Chinese kung fu. The techniques of what is commonly known as Tang Soo Do are primarily shotokan karate, subak, taekkyon, and kung fu.
There are many, many more styles of martial arts but I hope that you got a sense of these are different from each other. Which one appeals to you?
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.
61 thoughts on “10 Martial Arts To Consider for Your Kids”
We loved Nighttime Ninja! Beautiful Warrior is a great one, too.
Thanks Erica! I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there are quite a few great martial arts picture books for kids!
You didn’t mention Tang Soo Do, a Korean version of karate which uses lots of forms. Tomorrow, my 12 year old son will be testing for his black belt in Tang Soo Do after 9+ years of training. We are so proud.
I have never heard of Tang Soo Do but I am so happy to learn about it. I’ll add it to the post! Thank you and congrats to your son!!! What a big achievement!! I hope he gets his black belt this year (and I’m sure he will!).
I can’t wait to go to the library and look for some of these books with my daughter. The thought NEVER occurred to me to look for books about martial arts to share with her. She is testing for her orange belt tonight in Tae Kwon Do!!! Tae Kwon Do has been an excellent fit for her, being not quite so athletic, but very systematic in the way she approaches things- so the memorization is soothing and calming to her. Thanks for this post.
Thanks Jenny! Congrats to your daughter for testing for her Orange belt!!! I have to say that I never realized the variety of martial arts and how they have certain tendencies that favor a certain kind of kid, be it for the structure or the kind of athleticism it requires. I hope she enjoys some of the picture books!
I personally train Karate and Jiujitsu right now, and I took TaeKwon-Do before that. 🙂 My sister and I love doing martial arts!
I think that’s great! How do you like Jiujitsu? I’ve always wanted to try that!
I really like jujitsu, but it can be kind of painful because there are a bunch of grabs and throwing on the floor. I think it really teaches you how to control your body and how to fall correctly and also how to defend yourself. You should try it!
I always peceived Juijitsu as being “hard core” for MMA cage fighters … but I guess I should look for a place with a well padded floor. It does sound useful. I am curious about Krav Maga too. It looks great for self defense.
Krav Maga does look interesting. There are so many martial arts to try out!
I think with jujitsu is depends on the dojo you study at. Where my sister and I study, self-control and body control are more important that the actual fighting. I know in other places they are more into fighting.
Your dojo sounds perfect for kids! I like their philosophy.
What a great round-up of titles! I know a lot of children who are into martial arts, and I had no idea that there were so many books on the subject.
Thanks for sharing this with the Kid Lit Blog Hop!
Thanks Katie and for hosting the Kid Lit Blog Hop.
I took Karate as a kid. My kids have tried a couple Tae Kwon Do classes, but haven’t liked one enough for me to sign them up for one yet.
There might be a different form of karate that suit your kids. I’m hoping that my post will be helpful in identifying it for your kids.
What a great idea for a post! Who knew there were so many books about this topic!? I particularly like the recommendation of Julie Black Belt – it looks fabulous! I have taken Aikido as well and I really loved the concept behind it. Unfortunately, I had a sensei who was actually a bit vicious and he ended up giving me a concussion so I had to stop. It’s too bad because I really did enjoy it and the women’s class in particular taught by a woman. I also did Judo when I was a kid. Thanks for linking in the Kid Lit Blog Hop.
I’m so sorry that you had a bad Aikido experience. That sounds terrible! I’m glad you had a better experience doing Judo.
This is a fascinating post. We want to eventually sign daughter up for martial arts, and based on this post I am thinking of kick-boxing 🙂 Thanks for sharing this round up with Afterschool!
Glad that you liked my post. Ah, to be in perfect world where every kind of martial art is at your disposal with a great sensei! Maybe that exists only in NYC, SF or LA.
My girls did kickboxing with me and they really enjoyed it. It’s a fun workout and it’s gives you useful self defense skills. My oldest thinks it’s riduculous that I box now. She says that if I’m ever attacked, I’d be crazy not to use my legs to kick since I need the long range and power. She much prefers kickboxing over boxing but she also liked Chun Kuk Do.
I completely love that you broke all this down. These are a lot of options- I don’t think I’ll be trying the Thai kickboxing any time soon.
I hope that it’s helpful for parents who are trying to pick a “karate” class for their kids. Karate is such a catchall that it’s hard to know exactly what that is. But expecially for kids who don’t like or have trouble with memorizing a long physical sequence, there are other martial arts options that don’t require that. That was a hurdle for my friend’s son and he’s much happier now doing boxing.
Just when I think every book list has been done, I find another creative one that you’ve put together. Thanks so much for sharing at After School!
Thanks so much Anna! You are so nice to say that.
I didn’t know there were so many options! I just signed my son up for a karate class. He has been asking to do it for a while. I think it is good for kid’s confidence although I am sure he wants to do it so he can play ninja : )
I can’t say that I blame your son for wanting to learn karate to play ninja. Hand to hand combat and ninja skills are fun to learn!
Martial arts best recommendation for kids
I love articles like this; examples should always be included. I live in an area with 1.5 million people within a hour’s drive from me. There is no Chun Kuk Do in our area. Is it popular in other places?
Yes, it’s pretty popular. There are 3000 black belts I read. http://www.ufaf.org/about_chunkukdo.htm
I have heard a lot of good things about Kung Fu. I am thinking about putting my kids ini this because of how it regorous the excersise is. I am a fan of that and it would make my kids more active. Can’t be playing video games all tday you know .
We make our screen-loving son play a lot of sports for the same reason!! It does help to keep him off screens. Kung Fu looks great! I want to learn it myself!
I had never before heard of aikido, but it sounds like the perfect way to promote confidence in your child. Like you say, any type of martial art is great for promoting self-esteem in your children. The benefit of aikido is that you don’t necessarily have to be large in stature to be successful, which would be a benefit for smaller children!
That’s exactly right about Aikido. I tried a few classes myself and it’s fun but quite intricate. You mostly pair up in partners to practice and you have to get the technique correct for it to be effective. It’s not really like the martial arts that Jean Claude Van Dam does in movies though he’s very talented in Aikido.
I didn’t realize that there were so many children’s books that featured martial arts! When I was young, I participated in several different martial arts classes, but none of them ever stuck. I still want to get my kids interested in some self-defense classes, though, so maybe I’ll check out one of these books to get them excited. Thanks for the article!
I think self defense is a great skill for all kids to learn! My kids think martial art books are fun. I’ve seen a ton of ninja books lately too. It’s not really martial arts, but kids seem to love the idea of being a ninja!
Very Nice Post…..
Very Interesting and enticing… Moe than adults kids will going to love it and above all it is a post which will encourage kids also to become bold and more independent.
I thank you for sharing this post with us and encouraging people to make their kids capable to face the world in a far better way.
Thanks so much Tony!
WAY better than sitting at home playing computer games! So many disciplines to be taught within different martial arts! Keep up the good work
Thanks so much Loren! I love how martial arts is great exercise and also great for self defense!
Learning a martial art is such a great way to build self confidence. Thank you for all the examples of different practices!
Thank you so much for your kind words. It was my pleasure. I love martial arts!
Thanks so much Melissa! I want to try to get back into Aikido myself!
“Kung Fu” is a catch-all term, and there’s no telling what you’ll get if you search for that locally.
I really like Wushu for kids. It’s minimally combative, emphasizes strength, grace and flexibility.
I haven’t tried Wushu but thanks for clarifying about Kung Fu. It sounds like it’s the Chinese equivalent of “karate”?
I agree that Taekwondo is not for the inflexible. This is, however, a great martial arts for kids. It is primarily a defensive martial arts, so it teaches kids self control.
I really love all kinds of martial arts… I think it’s nice to try different ones and find one that really fits what you like to do. My brother-in-law studied Tae Kwon Do.
Awesome job and a fantastic introduction to martial arts world for kids!
There are so many positive benefits of martial arts that definitely worthy promoting it!
Thanks so much Jason. I’m thinking of adding one to the boxing that I already do. I’m considering Krav Maga, Aikido, and Brazilian Ju Jitsu. I’m leaning towards Aikido.
Seriously, this is a great job. For me the best thing to do is what Bruce did. Pick the what’s useful from every martial art and discard what’s useless. Obviously you need to start somewhere and since we don’t have access to a JKD school we need to pick something else. I think we’re more inclined to kickboxing for now
I love kickboxing too! I did a little Muay Thai as well. I am boxing now and thinking about adding Aikido.
I love the art of defence myself…Martial Arts is a great way not only be more confident and safer but also get in touch with our soul
Yes! Agree Wayne! My brother in law teaches Krav Maga.
My son, nephew and niece love martial arts. It is great for confidence, fitness and defence as you mentioned. Martial arts can also be a practice of self-awareness.
I totally agree! It’s fun too!
Martial art is a very important activity of child’s growth and development. Thanks for sharing the wonderful post.
Thanks so much WAIMA!
Nice to see someone recommending more than just Tae Kwon Do for kids! I think most people probably think that the other martial arts are too rough or dangerous for kids, but that’s just not true 🙂
Martial arts training was great for my kids. It gave them self confidence and it’s also great exercise and mental discipline.
Awesome collection. kids love those books to read.
Thanks for sharing this fantastic post. really very helpful.