The resounding consensus is simply, as soon as possible!
Generally, martial arts instructors will recommend enrolling a child at 3 or even 2 years of age due to the focus on gross motor skills. The lessons are designed specifically to start teaching the body how to develop, how to move and how to coordinate safely and effectively during a crucial stage of childhood development. Most kids can start to develop postural abnormalities, muscle imbalance and instability during these early years if they are not taught and encouraged to move in the proper way. Martial Arts training at this age focuses solely on motor pattern development and behavioural skills through some basic techniques.
Below are some guidelines that parents can use when deciding when to enrol their child or children into a martial arts program.
Consider the Program the school is teaching – Curriculum design is a major part of developing young children effectively and appropriately. Schools that focus on curriculum development, updating curriculum, have a variety of programs that focus on different ages, learning styles and elements of martial arts, such as strength & conditioning, supplementary martial arts tend to develop kids more effectively than schools that do the same training, week after week. The sign of a changing curriculum is indicative of a professionally developing academy.
Focus and Self-Control – Consider your child’s current ability to focus, take direction and self-discipline. Naturally, these elements don’t need to be 100% perfect before starting martial arts, because we know that martial arts is a great method to teach these skills. Basic understanding of listening to your parents, your elders, and taking direction is advantageous.
Does your child participate in other structured activities? – If your child attends a playgroup, kinder or activity that has a time frame, routine and set expectations, that is definitely helpful. If you’re not sure whether your child is ready, most schools offer trials to see if the child responds to the activity or even asking to watch a class with your child to see how they react to what they see will help. We notice that often the younger siblings who watch their brothers and sisters from the sidelines, start to copy what the students do in class, or watch intently with laser-beam focus! This is often a sign that the child may be ready or almost ready to start classes themselves!
Essentially, there is no one age-fits-all, but rather a matter of when your child is ready.