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Which is the Best Martial Art for a 10-year-old Girl?

Certified 9th Dan Grandmaster: Olympic level training in five martial arts and weponry for 30+ years. Member, Nigeria TKD Foundation.

Mount Seoraskan, South Korea

Mount Seoraskan, South Korea

Do You Want Exercise, Focus, or to get out of a Wheelchair?

Martial Arts can help with any of those, provide enjoyment, and help adults and children in any number of goals. (Photos this page, public domain)

Martial Arts can help with any of those, provide enjoyment, and help adults and children in any number of goals. (Photos this page, public domain)


How About Girls?

Thanks for asking about martial arts study among 10-year-old girls, SunSeven.I can't address all the points here, but will highlight some important apects.

After studying and teaching martial arts for over 25 years, I cannot point to any single martial art and say with certainty that it is better than any other for a 10-year-old girl, or for anyone. At this point, as the US Representative to the Supreme Council for Sports in Africa Zone -3, I have a hand in advising many martial arts, including Japanese Styles, Korean Styles, boxing, and even women's wrestling. Fourth Dan (degree) Black Belt Master Alberta Kekuna is one of my advisees and is not only the head of the women's wrestling team endeavors in Cameroon, but also of the group of women studying our expanding Jidokwan Taekwondo.

I currently have held 9th dan black belt grandmaster ranks in Jidokwan Taekwondo, Hapkido, Yudo, Jujutsu, and Unarmed Combat Defense since 2000-2001. All of this took concentrated effort and hard work, with practices inside and outdoors in all weather and geographic conditions. Further, it requried a lot of writing, music, and fine arts, as well as volutneer service beyond the martial arts school lessons 2-4 times per week 1-3 hours at a shot (20 hrs/week). It was also expensive. I use martial arts to help people rise from wheelchairs permanently and avoid surgeries, and to ease students' conditions such as arthritis, high blood pressure, migraines, chronic pain and many others. The additional benefits are too many to mention here.

My own training began for health reasons as a result of an injured back and a few other physical concerns from overwork (all cured withtin 9 months of first training). I enrolled in a traditional class of JIdokwan Taekwondo and was trained from that foundation with additions of Yudo (Korean Judo), Hapkido, Jujutsu, and Combat Self Defense. My weaponry has included the Korean straight sword, long staff, double middle staffs, short staffs, nunchuku, Korean dart, Asian fan, knives, sharpened throwing stars, traditional scart techniques, kama (similar to hatchets and machetes), whips, practical everyday objects, and others. It is important to find out the curriculum of a class and school before joining. Most schools do not have such an experience instructor as I was fortunate enough to find.

How involved does a child what to become in martial arts? For instance, my 3rd Dan Black Belt examination was performed outdoors in the winter in a state park - 3 days in January and 3 days in February that year, around 30 degrees F. We spent 2-3 hours a ta time outside, 6AM, 10AM, Noon, 3PM. Snow, ice, slush, mud. At one point, for a few hours, I was up to mid-calf in a freezing stream performing technqiues and defense drills, and then was required to fight my way up a steep hill covered with ice and some mud, using minimal hand hand holds. The hard training developed my stamina and I did not become ill.

My 7th Dan Black Belt test was done similarly in the heat of New Orleans - over 100 degrees F. Thus, some styles of martial arts help you to acclimatize to all weather conditions. Others do not. What does the family and child prefer?

Some classes never practice outside at all. One class in California has no building -- all of their classes are outdoors.

There are many things to consider and much variety. A family may need to try several schools in order to find one that is good for their child. It depends upon the quality of the instructor and the curriculum. If a school has a very long-term contract, then perhaps they should be avoided.

An acquaintance signed his son to a contract year of classes at $2400.00 (10 years ago - think of the price jump now!) and the child attended three times and quit (no refunds). Classes at the local recreation center usually are much less expensive.

My class training began with a weekly class of three hours in length with a two-minute break. Many classes today are only 45 minutes or even 30 minutes long. In my opinion, mine were too long and the modern classes are too short. Currently, I teach hour long classes offered 4 times per week. 2-3 hours a week is a good length of time to practice.

Does the child need exercise or self defense? Some classes teach self defense that works and others teach exercise drills with martial arts foundations, but less practical knowledge. It is important to find out which is which.

Martial Arts Weaponry

Musashi Miyamoto with two Bokken (public domain). A variety of weaponry is avaiable across the martial arts. Care and age limits are wise in choosing these for your child, male or female.

Musashi Miyamoto with two Bokken (public domain). A variety of weaponry is avaiable across the martial arts. Care and age limits are wise in choosing these for your child, male or female.

Eclectic Martial Arts

Eclectic Martial Arts that combine elements of many styles is big in business in America today. It depends on the quality of the instructor as to how much the child will learn in these, and any martial arts classes. Some classes are very good and some are run by people that have never had a lesson in their lives - they went to the martial arts supply store or online and bought a uniform and a belt. Martial Arts is not regulated in America. However, it is supported by the government in West Africa and is growing by leaps and bounds, so to speak.

I can say with certainty, however, that traditional Muy Thai in which broken and ground-up glass is stuck onto one's arm wrappings for sparring is not the martial art to choose for a 10-year-old-girl, and not for many adults.

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Hundreds Of Styles, Thousands Of Federations

There are hundreds of martial arts around the world and in some countries, each family line has its own style that is passed from generation to generation. Many of these styles come under the umbrella of any of thousands of martial arts federation/organization or a government ministry. Not all of them do so.

In truth, each country has had its own initiation into the martial arts with primitive hand-to-hand combat when the human race was young and developing onward from there. Often, there has been the influence of one culture upon another in martial arts, just as there has been in language and culture.

We have found that on the innermost walls of certain of the Egyptian pyramids, are painted drill patterns for martial arts styles as done by the Pharaoh's military people over 5,000 - 6,000 years ago.

A millennia-old, truly ancient, martial art practiced in the Siberian regions specializes in neck breaking (Sambo) (That would not do for a 10-year-old, I think.) This is the same region in which, in the 1990s, a soviet psychiatrist began to study the shamanistic background in her culture and discovered certain medical procedures and customs in Siberia that she could not explain. Siberia is certainly a different world.

This brings me to another point - influence from and upon religions related to martial arts. Some martial arts incorporate philosophies and a more religious sort of belief(s) into their practice and others do not. It would be important to the 10-year-old's family and to herself that this be examined before joining any such school in order to ensure that the teachings overall do not contradict the family's and child's upbringing beliefs and values in a negative way.

The stance on tournament participation should also be examined. Some schools (dojo, dojang, kwoon or other) encourage tournament partcipation - some require it and it can be very expensive - others do not participate in this at all. What is the preference of the family and the child? That is important.

Why Taejoon Lee Boycotted Karate Kid Remake

Considerations For Your Child In Martial Practice

There are many things to consider when choosing a martial arts class for a child, but if an instructor is well trained and a person of integrity, then it matters less what style he is teaching because he/she has so much useful to share.

In some parts of Korea in the mid-to-late 20th century, one needed to be 35 years old, have practiced for at least 15 years, and have attained the rank of 4th Dan Black Belt (there are 10 levels in my tradition) to teach independently. Those rules in Korea have gone away and America has no such rulings at all, so families need to research the instructor and the school in which they are interested. Check the Better Business Bureau for complaints and ask the school for references. Don't be impressed by a window that is full of trophies - you can buy them online for less than $5.00 each.

In my tradition, one must attain the rank of 4th Dan Black Belt and be certified in CPR and First Aid in order to teach independently or run a martial arts school. Our instructors also have college degrees that range from Associates Degrees to the PhD. Our 4th and 5th Dan rank of Black Belt themselves are equivalent to a Masters Degree and above. Above that is equivalent to the PhD.

There are dozens and dozens of martial arts federations around,sme good, some bad, some existing only on paper, so membership of the instructor in some of them is not a gaurantee of success for one's child in the martial arts as well. Parents must spend some substantial time in checking out the possibilities.

I will say this for our training - we have been able to help some people leave their wheelchairs permanently. We saved one young man from spedning tens of thousands of dollars in leg surgery and he went on to play football, graduate from college and have a healthy life. These are just two of many similar cases. Any well trained martial artist with integrity from a respected style of martial arts can achieve good things.

The Little Gym - ages 4 thu 12

One corporation that specializes in providing trained professionals in the field of early childhood development and movement arts/therapy/training is a well respected firm known as The Little Gym, a child developmental gymnasium that has locations around the world.

In many of their locations, specialized martial arts classes are taught for children anywhere from 4 years old to age 12. The instructors are certified in movement areas such as phsyisiology and they can be trusted with children in all ways to teach them and prevent them from becoming injured or traumatized. See their website for futher details: The Little Gym

More Martial Arts For Girls


They Can Do It - What About Me?

  • 9th Dan Black Belt in Jidokwan Taekwondo, Yudo, Jujutsu, Hapkido, and Unarmed Martial Combat;
  • Patron of the Diaspora Global Actions for Sports and Culture (DGASC) in Africa and
  • USA Representative to the Supreme Council for Sports in Africa Zone-3. All Rights Reserved.

© 2007 Patty Inglish MS

Comments & Suggestions

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 18, 2015:

Thank you for the gift of your experiences. They have no doubt served you well and provide an example to others of what may be accomplished. One of my memorable students trained as hard and harder than the rest, despite cerebral palsy. Much can be accomplished.

Colleen Diemer from Florida on June 18, 2015:

This is an excellent article obviously written by someone very well trained in the martial arts. Much respect! I remember the days running on burning hot pavement over pieces of broken glass in the street in the middle of summer. Then those nights in the snow barefoot all the way around the block to warm up before class; Tae-Kwon-Do class. Kick-Boxing , Boxing, and Hapkido. The greatest moments of my life have been spent in training. It took me ten years to get my black belt and I trained for hours every day. Most days I would train twice. In Florida it was Kung Fu, along with Kickboxing, Aikido, Ju Jitsu, and Karate. Long runs in the Florida sun, pushing myself to try to become better each day. Back in Jersey I had started with Mu-Duk-Kwan. This instructor required that his students compete. I got to my Brown belt after a few years of intense training; Kata, weapons, sparring. My forms were very advanced and my instructor put his heart and soul into training me. I was very successful in competition. I also learned to lose with grace. I was taught that the purpose of competition was to gauge where I was in relation to other students at my level. It was a reality check. I competed for decades not for trophies (of which I have many) but for all the life lessons I would learn from challenging myself; about knowing myself and my enemy, who in turn became my friend. Thank you for this article. Thank you for your journey. My advice would be the same as yours, it is the instructor and the school that is of most importance, as well as nurturing one’s desire and having goals. The comment about kickboxing being better than martial arts was kind of funny.

ColinCoachLewis from Watford, Uk on February 14, 2011:

I have found through my years as an instructor that all martial arts are generally good, whether they claim to be for one thing or for another they all bare the same attributes as each other, the only thing indeed that separates them is the Instructors! When trying to find a martial arts school for your child you need to be sure to find an instructor that they will enjoy learning from as children will only continue to do something they enjoy. Make sure that you ask lots of questions when visiting the training sessions and that you feel completely comfortable around the people who you will be charging your childs welfare to!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on February 12, 2011:

Aboslutely corrent, kungfu531.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 24, 2010:

@TheMMAZone - I felt Will Smith was too "pleased" with his son's good performance and skills - an attitude like the Smiths are now the royal family and supernatural in some way. Regardless, the element of Jackie Chan's character rebuilding the vehicle and detroying it every year was too disturbing and I felt also that the character was bowing and scraping too much to the child at film's end, feeding into Will Smith's offstage attitude. So was it simply a vehicle to push Jayden forward in his young career, more so than with other stars in other films? I think it was ruined by that.

TheMMAZone from Kansas on October 24, 2010:

I agree with your statement that Karate Kid is playing on the publics ignorance. That is ridiculous. That had to be some executives at the top that had never been in the arts that made that choice. What a dumb screw up. I think they could have even said that it was in the Karate kid's theme but call it the kung fu kid. Anyway they probably made millions and don't care about the arts.

captainchris on August 15, 2010:

You put a lot oh helpful insights out here.

Nice hub for parents considering taking their children for martial arts training.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 08, 2010:

I think it could be added to the curriculum, with emphasis on confidence, stability, manners, and anti-bullying, anti-violence.

Unfortunately, schools in my community usually offer a short-term "fun" course of a couple weeks, funded by a grant; in which they learn only enough to get hurt and to harm others.

Anouser on August 08, 2010:

I think all schools could teach some self-defense, to teach using it to protect yourself in town.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on July 28, 2010:

Thanks for the comments and experiences, MMAZ and drvosjeca -I enjoy the combination of arts that I have learned and ifnd it difficult to proclaim one as best for someone over the other styles. I enjoyed studying under a man that was form an Asian country and had trained under some original masters from before WWII. It was awesome and I suggest to people to find a master that has such a lineage in the arts.

One of my best instructors practices Judo, Aikido, and Okinawan karate and that is a fine combination as well.

Thanks again for the enlightening comments.


drvosjeca on July 28, 2010:

You put a lot of great information to this hub. Im doing martial arts for about 20 years and love to help others with finding their answer. I have black belt 3.dan in taekwondo and 1.dan in karate, but i ccan not say that one is better then other.

Both of them are having some good and some bad parts, but both can offer much to one who decide to take lessons.

TheMMAZone from Kansas on July 01, 2010:

I abolsolutely love the way you organized all this information. It flows and fits together perfectly. Great job on putting this together and the information is top notch. 5 Stars from me..

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 10, 2010:

Thanks very much for the comments and observations.

With 28 years experience, I do advise some Tae Kwon Do groups, including Olympians in West Africa and Cameroon. I like the styles within Tae Kwon Do, which are still separate entities in some metropolitan areas- mine, for instance. TKD works the whole body and does much good in a number of aspects of life.

From coast to coast in all of North America, I've found schools designating themselves Tae Kown Do (Jidokwan style TKD is my first training), yet teach Isshinryu & others INSTEAD, because it's been popular to do so since more people recognize the term "Taekwondo" than the others and will take lessons marked such. These other styles are fine, but consumers need to know what they are purchasing. For that matter, other styles may be tagged *Taekwondo* and be used in AAU Junior Olympics (as long as all rules are followed, no one is really checking style) that lead into Olympic training. Since the Olympic Matches I witnessed were all foot technique, I'm not sure it matters. Just my opinion after 28 years.

jeanie.stecher from Seattle on June 09, 2010:

Good observations you have here. Atleast for the 25 y ears you have been practicing martial arts. I would like to suggest tae kwon do as one of the best martial arts training program for young girls. This art though have been considered as an international sport. This way, little girls may have the chance to compete against the best in the world later on.

TheMMAZone from Kansas on June 08, 2010:

WOW tons of of great information! Thanks for putting so much effort into this hub! I appreciate it.

chatpilot from Bronx, NY on June 08, 2010:

I think personally that if you want a practical martial arts as opposed to a sport martial art the best one would be Aikido. I have trained in the martial arts for the past 23 years and have studied Jeet Kune do, Tae kwon do, Judo, Ju Jitsu, and Aikido. I currently have my own style but I don't teach or attend a dojo any longer.

I think Aikido is good for stand up fighting and taking on multiple attackers, and Ju Jitsu is great for ground fighting in a one on one situation. One of my other favorite fighting arts is Muy Thai not the cheap watered down American version but the genuine form of it. It teaches you to use every part of your body as a weapon.

captainchris on May 17, 2010:

Great stuff! Enjoyed reading your work.

Jak on January 29, 2010:

I like having Pencak Silat for my eldest son.

Guillermo Ramon from Miami on November 13, 2009:

Thank you Patty Inglish

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on November 10, 2009:

gramon1! - I'm glad you visited and left your comments. You sound like a dedicated and knowledgeable instructor. The kids are fortunate to have you.

Guillermo Ramon from Miami on November 10, 2009:

First, let me say that this is a great blog!

I teach Shotokan Karatedo in a friend's dojo. I love to teach karate and get very involved with the children I teach. I am not the main instructor, since I just teach karate as my hobby. Therefore, I have the advantage to work only with very selected students I choose. Consequently, I spend a lot of time with my students. We also stay overtime very often. I think that ideally, karate classes should be about 90 minutes for children 10 years or older. Small children are very variable. some can take 2 hours, others can handle less than 30 minutes.

The main problem I tend to find training very young girls is that they do not like sparring. They tend to like better the technical training and the combinations of movements (katas). I think that the best thing is to enlist them in a school that they seem to like, but continue asking them what they like better. Actually, this applies to boys too. Some instructions are not as broad minded as othrs and may turn some children to dislike the martial arts.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 08, 2009:

Judo can be very good for children - I teach Yudo, Korean Judo but its very much the same as the Japanese style. For Judo and Aikido, I have great respect and Aikido in my city is not focused on competition.

NOTE - With literally 1000s of martial arts federations in the world (unregulated in USA) , a tournament leadership or school that allows beginners - including children - to compete, win an inexpensive trophy, and believe that they are the first, second or third in the whole world in their division out of millions of beginners is reprehensible. It is usually also rather expensive to compete, but not always.  

About kickboxing - A long-time martial arts club in our city taught one style of competitive kickboxing to 5-year- olds with some pretty bad results - injuries and increased agression, accidents at home  - But that was just the OWNER'S  own style of kickboxing, not all kickboxing. When the Korean Tigers demo team began to tour the USA, the only woman on the team was Korean National Champion in women's section of kickboxing, so thats evidence kickboxing is a good style and the original from Thailand is the best imo. My Thai friends have proved that many times.

The style of Tae Kwon Do I teach is highly efficient with economy of movement in self-defense, using full-body workouts in classes. We've helped several people leave their wheelchairs behind permanently. My classes include TKD, Yudo, Jujutsu, Hapkido, military self-defense; energy exercises and elements for other benefits.

Wushu/Kung Fu can be very good for children and need not incorporate Eastern religions, for those that do not wish this exposure. I have seen Shaloin monks work very well with children in America, the monks not even speaking English. They were very kind and taught with dramatization and hand signals - and always a smile and praise for the children.  I met Willy Long (Wushu Champion) briefy at a Jhoon Rhee Washington DC tournament and found him wonderful with children in his direction.

BP9 from Cleveland Heights, Ohio on June 08, 2009:

I have to say that I like judo for a child of that age.

While it isn't my own discipline of choice, I think that it offers a good overall experience (depending on the school/instructor chosen) in balance, body mechanics and coordination (while utilizing a good balance of gross and fine motor skills), as well as discipline and focus, without immediately instilling too much of the adversarial or competition oriented mindset one might find in your more outwardly linear disciplines.

liquidice from Macedonia on December 23, 2008:

I am all for kickboxing... Its more efficient for self defence + its full body workout.

But that's just me. :).

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 03, 2008:

Taekwondo attracts far fewer girls in my 9-county market area than do the Japanese and Okinawan martial arts, the dojos of which seem to be half filled with girls here. As yet, I have no explanation other than these other arts came to this region two decades before TKD and became quite popular very quickly and sustained momentum.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on July 02, 2008:

Well, I'm a 9th dan in 5 styles; and will likely not pursue another long test for many years, if ever again. There is so much written about martial arts on the Internet, everything is old news, so to speak. We'll see what happens. 

Plus, I use martial arts to get out of wheel chairs - that's not exiting enough for some, especially with MMA matches hauling in a lot of money.

Daniel Tetreault from Nanaimo, British Columbia ("BC") - Canada on July 02, 2008:

Wow. I had no idea you were so versed in Taekwon-do. 7th Dan. That is amazing! My two instructors currently hold a 4th and 3rd Dan respectively. Great Hub on Taekwondo.

Why on earth would this Hub be rated at a 72 score? This Hub was so original, filled with terrific content - obviously from an expert. Sometimes Hubpages baffles me. Sincerely,

Daniel Tetreault (white belt)

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on November 05, 2007:

From the article "Any well trained martial artist with integrity from a respected style of martial arts can achieve good things."

Ashok Rajagopalan from Chennai on November 04, 2007:

Yes, Patty,right! I was a kungfu enthusiast once, in my college days. Though each martial art says things like 'Only when all options fail should you fight,' followers tend to forget that.But I'm all for teaching children how to defend themselves.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on November 04, 2007:

Thanks gamergirl - glad you liked it!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on November 04, 2007:

Kenny, thank you for your comment. Although many martial arts tend to elssen aggressive feelings and behaviors over time, I think this does not always occur. But, I have found it tru for myself. Whatever you do in a peaceful life, keep doing it!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on November 04, 2007:

SunSeven, Yes, I have seen some demonstrations of Kalarippayattu at our local university campuses in their sporting facilties during certain gatherings, and also in some large Asian Festivals around the region. Fascinating.

Kiz Robinson from New Orleans, Louisiana on November 04, 2007:

Great article!

Ashok Rajagopalan from Chennai on November 04, 2007:

Ah, but I am now a man of peace.

SunSeven from Singapore / India on November 04, 2007:

You can still learn it Kenny.

Ashok Rajagopalan from Chennai on November 04, 2007:

Great article. Kalaripayattu is supposed to be our family's pratice, SunSeven, but I am totally useless.

SunSeven from Singapore / India on November 04, 2007:

Thank you so much for this hub. Very very good one. I practiced 'Kalarippayattu' when I was a kid. Kalarippayattu is an ancient form of martial arts practiced even today, where I live. I hope you have heard of it.

Best Regards

Patty Inglish, MS on November 03, 2007:

Thanks for the comments! It is a wide and vast category of activty, for certain.

Mark Knowles on November 03, 2007:

What a great, informative hub. I never realised there were so many martial arts to choose from.

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