How Martial Arts Builds Assertiveness in Children

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Kids being assertive in a martial arts class

Kids are encouraged to raise their hands and be assertive in our martial arts classes. There are no wrong answers.

How Martial Arts Builds Assertiveness in Children

Teaching a child to be assertive will pay off as they get older. Confident and assertive children are less likely to bend to the will of their peers. They will be more apt to walk away from a bad situation or to keep up good grades even when others say it is not the cool thing to do.

Providing early leadership opportunities for children is essential for building their assertiveness and confidence. Research from Girl Scouts of America says confidence in speaking up and leading others dwindles by the fifth grade. Kids gain that confidence by entering into activities, clubs, teambuilding, etc. and the earlier the better. The martial arts is a perfect place to to this. Here’s why.

Praise Children for Being Assertive

We praise children for raising their hands in our children’s martial arts classes. We tell them there is no wrong answer and that all questions or comments are good. We never belittle them for any answer they come up with. This gets them to put their hand up more often. Many parents are telling us their children are now putting their hands up in school, which usually means better class participation and grades.

A Strong Role Model

Children copy their role models. Our instructors encourage the children to stand up for their beliefs and views, even if it means going against the crowd. Many of the games we play test individual skills, which build a sense of independence. We also encourage them to speak up when they see injustice. Our instructors also encourage the children to come forth if they are not getting enough attention in class. Children will follow the example of a strong instructor.

Discourage Domineering Behaviour

If we see a shy withdrawn child being pushed around by a more assertive child in class we will separate them, giving the shy child the chance to shine on their own. We will go out of our way to find a way to give them a chance to be assertive and then praise them. We also tell them it is okay to complain if another child cuts in front of them in line. We also give the line-jumpers warning that if they are caught doing it, they will have to watch the game from the side that day.

Provide Leadership

We encourage children to come forth and volunteer to be leaders. As early as purple belt, we will allow children to help with the beginner’s classes. This gets them started helping organise the class and works on their public speaking skills, greatly increasing their assertiveness.

Appearing Confident and Assertive

We teach our students to look people in the eye and use a more firm, powerful voice. We work on our Kiai every day to develop our voices. We encourage them to stay cool and not cry or pout, as this does not show confidence.

We Let the Kids be the Instructor

Sometimes we’ll let the kids take turns running the stretches before class. Each kid picks a stretch, tells the class its name, then demonstrates it. They love to participate in it. Sometimes they come up with funny stretches and everyone has a laugh! It really builds their confidence in speaking up.

Manners are the Key

Sometimes a child will walk up to me and say “I need to get tested because I missed the grading”. I tell them to try again but this time ask in a respectful way. They will often say “Can you please test me Sensei because I missed the grading? This teaches them that they will get a much better result if they make their requests in a firm, but respectful way.

Have Faith in Yourself

We teach our students to have faith in your their own abilities, knowledge and strength. To know that they are valuable and deserve to have their needs met. We all have a right to assert ourselves no matter what our personality.

In the martial arts we give children the tools to be assertive and value themselves and their opinions so they will have high self esteem. It will show in the friends they choose and the activities they participate in and set them up for success in life.

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  1. says

    Hi Matt, came across you on twitter. Like this piece. A good martial art is very much about creating a good person and that is a task of many layers. Of course then the ultimate irony of all is that once the good, strong, confident and humble person is created they rarely need to use the fighting systems they have developed because the aggressor often senses something different in them and takes a wide path. All the best, Dave Flaherty.

  2. Sensei Matt Klein says

    So true Dave, especially the part about rarely needing the skills. It’s not about fighting. Thanks for your input.