Date of Content: January 1, 2024
Written by: Adrian J Trevino, Nesta Certified

When you think of the martial arts, you might think of adults with black belts who have superior control and physical fitness. Many of the adults who have advanced belts got their start in the martial arts as children. Parents often ask if martial arts classes are appropriate for toddlers.

The short answer is yes. Martial arts for toddlers must be at an appropriate developmental level, but children as young as three can start martial arts training. In this post, we’ll explain how martial arts training can benefit toddlers and which martial arts are best for toddlers to learn.

How Can Martial Arts Classes Benefit Toddlers?

Martial art training requires concentration and focus, qualities that aren’t usually associated with toddlers between the ages of one and three. Three years old is usually the youngest age to start martial arts classes. Here are some of the benefits that you can expect if you enroll your toddler in a martial arts class.

Improved Coordination

One of the most significant benefits of martial arts for toddlers is an improvement in physical coordination. If you’ve ever spent time with a toddler, you know that they can be accident prone. They’re not yet steady on their feet and they typically lack the muscle control and coordination that they’ll have as they get older. 

Martial arts training can and generally will help toddlers build muscle tone and learn how to control their movements.

Energy Use

Toddlers tend to be full of energy and it can be difficult to rein in that energy or put it to productive use. There’s a reason that the parents of toddlers are often exhausted!

 Martial arts training provides young kids with a healthy and productive outlet for all that excess energy. A toddler who attends a martial arts class is likely to be ready for a nap–or for bedtime–without a fuss.

Behavior and Self-Control

Even at a young age, kids can learn the core tenets of the martial arts: courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and indomitable spirit.

Since toddlers are only a couple of years away from school, it’s extremely useful for them to learn these tenets since they apply in the classroom as well.

Social Skills

The earlier that kids learn how to engage in appropriate social behavior, the more likely it is that they’ll be able to thrive in school and beyond.

Martial arts for toddlers provides a safe setting for kids to interact with and support one another.

What Are the Best Martial Arts for Toddlers?

As you might expect, not all martial arts disciplines are appropriate for toddlers. Specifically, we recommend against any martial arts training that involves contact. Young children should not be throwing punches at one another. Here are four martial arts that are appropriate for toddlers.

  1. Brazilian jiu jitsu. Brazilian jiu jitsu is a choice because it focuses on self-defense, teaching martial artists to take down an opponent. Most importantly, it teaches kids to face an opponent without hitting them. Learning to use self control.
  2. Wrestling. Wrestling is another popular choice because it focuses on self-defense, teaching martial artists to take down an opponent and control them, all without hitting them. It teaches kids to face your obstacles head on.
  3. Taekwondo. Taekwondo is popular for students of all ages and a particularly desirable choice as a martial art for toddlers. The focus is on muscle strength, flexibility, and balance.
  4. Karate. Karate classes focus on self-defense, teaching kids how to control their movements and protect themselves. For that reason, it’s a good choice for toddler martial arts.

As a parent, you’ll need to decide on the best martial art for your toddler. When kids study the martial arts at an early age, they learn to incorporate exercise into their daily lives. You want to create a healthy habit of consistent training. They can always pursue a more complex, contact-based martial art as they get older.