PBS Kids GO! It's My Life
Solo Sports: Martial Arts

You're wearing a crisp white robe tied with a cloth belt. You're holding your arm out, making your hand look like a blade. You jump up in the air with one foot, and kick out with another, landing with perfect balance.

Are you:

  • Training to become a full-contact competitive sushi chef?
  • Just out of the shower and fighting your siblings for control of the bathroom?
  • Getting ready for bed in a family of circus acrobats?
NO! You're involved in the cool sport known as martial arts.

The term martial arts describes a number of different sports, combat training styles, and self-defense disciplines that began in Asian countries like China, Japan and Korea. Many of these sports date back several thousand years, and most are now practiced all over the world. Individual martial arts include Karate, Tae Kwon Doe, Ju-Jitsu, Judo, and Tai Chi.

Although most martial arts involve one person competing against another, most of the benefits come from training. Often, your skills are demonstrated in performances rather than matches against an opponent. So even if you're not into competing, you can still get very good and have lots of fun.

Martial arts are about learning balance, strategy and self-control, and how to use your entire body in a coordinated way. They emphasize that size and strength aren't as important as skills and focus.

Cool Martial Arts Facts:

  • Teachers of martial arts are often referred to as masters or senseis. If you want to get good, it's very important to follow the directions of your sensei.

  • In many martial arts, skill level is rated by a system of colored belts. White is the beginning level and Black is the expert level, and there are many levels in between. In order to move up in belts, you must train for a certain amount of time and pass a skill test given by your trainer. It might take you a long time to become a Black Belt, but if you do, you'll know you really earned it!

  • The term Karate is a combination of two words, kara (empty) and te (hand). This means that karate is a style of self-defense fighting where no weapons are used (because your hands are empty).

  • Tae Kwon Doe is the fighting sport of Korea, and although it's a lot like Karate, it uses more kicking. It's a competitive sport…and even an Olympic event. During competition, head and body protection is worn to make sure the opponents are safe.

What Kids Are Saying About Martial Arts:

"Karate is a good way of getting out my stress and frustration, like when I've had a bad day at school. I just don't think about that stuff when I'm doing it."
--Nick, 12

"The best part of Tae Kwon Doe is that I go through stages and get to learn everything at a good pace. People who used to pick on me stopped when I told them about it."
--Laura, 9

"My brother was doing Karate and I always enjoyed watching him. So the idea came to me that karate could be fun and to try it. It really teaches you discipline over yourself, and also you learn to set goals for yourself which you may or may not achieve according to your commitment. I have more courage to try my dreams."
--Katharine, 11

"I think it's cool for girls to do martial arts because a lot of times boys think you are not as tough as them."
--Keisha, 10

"Tae Kwon Doe is different because it doesn't just teach you fighting, it also teaches you things like respect and self discipline. It is the same as other sports because it's fun and it is a good way to get some exercise and you can make lots of friends doing it."
--Laura, 9

Get Involved!

Here's how to find the right martial arts school:

  • Check out books, magazines, or the Web to learn about the different styles of martial arts. Choose which one will most match your personality and goals.

  • Get contact information for schools by talking to classmates or your gym teacher, searching the Web, checking out bulletin boards, or looking in your local Yellow Pages.

  • Ask your local community or youth center if they have the martial arts program you're looking for. Start by looking at IML's Help's Around The Corner section to find local clubs near you.

Set up a time to visit the school with a parent or guardian. Make sure you pick a school where the instructors have a positive and fun attitude, and where the emphasis is on more than just competition.

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