How to choose Martial Arts for children

Martial arts are a great way to keep children fit and teaching them important aspects of discipline and safety. In the UK, martial arts are quickly growing in both choice and standards. Gone are the days when a few clubs would pop up  when a kung fu movie would be popular in the cinema, now Martial arts clubs represent a great was for adults and children to keep fit and develop important life skills. There is, however, some significantly important things to consider when choosing a club. Naturally the type of martial art is important in your decision for your kids and we will give you a guide on these, but more important is the quality of the club. Have a look at our handy hints to help you ensure that you are making the right choice.

1 – Beware Bullshido!

Bushidō, is the “way of the warrior”, or the Samurai version of Chivalry, simply put. Bull-shido, as you can imagine, are the clubs with no proper organisation, skill or quality that attempt to trade on martial arts trends. Often these type of clubs will give a poor standard of training, will not follow proper ethics or will neglect vital health and safety issues. It is important to ensure that you avoid these types of martial arts clubs, as they cost you money with no real benefit.

2 – Assess club size

This one is quite simple and applies to kids and adults alike. There is no miracle teaching in Martial Arts, no Sensei who will magically teach you to be the best by waxing a classic car. Martial arts, like any sport, relies on a combination of learning, physical aptitude and competition. While learning is and physical aptitude are more obscure and harder to control, competition is easier to assess immediately. The key things you are looking for when placing a child in a club is the size. Is it too big that they won’t get any attention? Is it too small that there isn’t a range of people to test against? Is there a range of different skill and experience levels so that growth can be managed? All of these factors are key to ensuring your child has beneficial learning from the club.

3 – Is there an adults class?

All good Martial arts clubs will have both adults and children’s classes. It is important that there is a future progression to the adult ranks, as with all hobbies your children engage with, you want to ensure that if that activity becomes a passion that you’re giving them every opportunity to pursue it further in life. Adult classes are a good indicator that the club allows this progression, but also an indicator that the club is providing serious and quality training. Ensure that the size of the children’s class is no larger than 4 times the adult class. Obviously more children are involved at a younger age, but the adult class is the indicator of good trainer to student ratios and anyone with significantly higher children’s numbers could be an indication that they’re in it for the money over the quality.

4 – Who is the instructor?

There aren’t many regulations when it comes to starting a martial arts club. The same effort should be made to verify the qualifications. For a martial arts clubs insurance and license should be displayed as normal, but this is no guarantee that the instructor is any good. Most martial arts aren’t protected terms in the UK and most beginners aren’t aware of the validity of names anyway. Start by checking the history of the style on Wikipedia to ensure it’s a bona fide martial art and then google the instructor. Information should be available about an instructors success, mostly their personal achievements and their achievements as an instructor. If an instructor is an affiliate of a main club, check the main clubs credentials also.

5 – What are the costs?

Costs should be between £4 and £10 a lesson for kids, with discounts available for more regular attendance. Expect “start up” costs that include beginners kit to be in the region of about £25, with further requirements for better kit and grading costs once you’re little one is sure they’re serious. This will be about £50 for gear and pads, with £20 for grading every few months and occasionally tournaments and other events.

 But what style to choose?

It’s difficult to assess what your children will prefer, but generally speaking you can split the martial arts into two stylistic groups of “striking” and “grappling” where striking is kicking and punching and grappling is throws, holds and similar. You can also split martial arts into “modern” and “traditional” where modern will often be quite sport and competition focussed, whereas traditional is about form and style. There is no right answer here, and its far more important to ensure that your kids have fun and the club is generally well structured. The self defence element of martial arts often comes from the ability to assess and avoid situations sensibly with a clear head and any good club will teach that.

That aside, we’ve also listed a guide to the common arts and their general focus for UK clubs, to assist you in making an informed decision


The traditional Japanese art was one of the first to make it to the west and is still extremely popular. Some very common Karate styles in the UK are Shotokan, Kyokushinkai and Gojo Ryu. While normally quite traditional in its execution (all practitioners wear a “gi” and generally sports production marks aren’t used), there are competitive circles and it is a good base style for many of the more competitive striking disciplines.

Karate Martial Arts



The most popular grappling and throwing style and also an Olympic sport. Still maintains traditional dress, but has embraced modern competition and different clubs will have different focusses in this regard.

Judo Martial Arts


Kung Fu

Very varied Chinese art where most individual striking styles will differ wildly from Wing Chung to Praying Mantis styles. Bruce Lee was a practitioner of Wing Chung and later founded Jeet Kune Do, a mixed style of Kung Fu which has been a major influence on modern Mixed Martial Arts

Kung Fu Martial Arts

Kung Fu

Ju Jitsu

Traditional Japanese grappling style, very heavily adopted by the Brazillians, who adapted with their own Vale Tudo elements. Both Traditional Japanese and Modern Brazillian are available all over the UK. Both traditional Gi training and more competitive No-Gi training are available.

Ju Jitsu Martial Arts

Ju Jitsu

Muay Thai

Traditional Thai kickboxing made famous by Jean Claude Van Damme movies. Strong style and very competition focussed. One of the heavier contact levels and probably better for slightly older kids.

Muay Thai Martial Arts

Muay Thai


Mixed martial arts, made famous by the UFC and often incorrectly called Cage Fighting. A combination of striking and grappling, clubs will offer a fairly a la carte service combining lots of different styles. Traditionally competition focussed, UK clubs are expected to see a large rise in membership as the UK has its first world champion, Michael Bisping.

MMA Martial Arts


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About Shweta

Shweta runs the data team at EncycloKidia so her brain is a massive repository of all kid's services out there. After some persuasion, we were able to get her to look up from her spreadsheets and share some of her priceless knowledge with us.
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