Competition motivates us. Drives us to do better. But it also forces us to face our failures and assess our weaknesses. No other sport exemplifies this idea better than Judo. Children, above all, can benefit from the many opportunities for mental and physical growth that this sport has to offer. The following are reasons why parents should consider Judo for their children:
- One of the Safest Contact Sports for Children. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, Judo is the safest contact sport for children under the age of 13. In fact, Judo is different from other sports in that it teaches safe participation. Students are taught to take a fall safely. Before they are taught to throw someone, they learn how to get thrown without getting hurt. This knowledge can also be applied to other sports in which they may participate in the future.
- Teaches Discipline. Judo teaches children to follow directions carefully. Following instructions is imperative to executing exercises and techniques with proper form. Discipline is also important during a Randori, or free style practice, where a child must spar with another student, but must maintain control in order to use technique properly or stop sparring immediately if the match is stopped by the Sensei.
- Teaches Respect. Judo teaches children to respect themselves, Sensei, the sport, and other students. This respect is expressed in practical ways such as bowing, but also in the way students treat each other. Judoka, or pupils of the practice of judo, are taught to bow before getting on or off the mat and bow to Sensei as a sign of respect to their teacher and their sport. Students learn new judo techniques, and practice those they already know, by working with fellow teammates. Even though judo is an individual sport, students are taught to help, encourage, and look out for one another.
- Builds Critical Thinking Skills. Through judo, children learn how to think on their feet and make quick choices. During a match a judoka assesses the opponent’s position and moves, and must rapidly decide how to counter them while putting themselves in an offensive position to throw their opponent. This requires higher order thinking and logic, and that a child remain physically and mentally engaged at all times.
- Encourages Accountability. Judo teaches accountability for one’s actions. In order to be successful in this sport, children must apply themselves. Their success is directly proportional to the amount of effort they put into their practice. This then extends to other aspects of their life besides their training, such as their achievement in school.
- Teaches Self Defense. Bullies have always been a part of the school environment.Through the practice of Judo, children develop confidence and skills.They learn to avoid confrontation when possible, but also to defend one another and themselves when necessary. Judo also increases awareness of their environment and gives children the ability to sense and react to possibly dangerous situations appropriately.
- Builds Confidence. The rank system in judo is a tangible measurement of success that builds confidence in children. Progressing to a higher belt helps build a child’s self esteem and sense of accomplishment. The knowledge that their performance is always being evaluated leads children to strive to perform to the best of their ability.
- Increases Mental and Physical Resiliency. Judo is a sport that tests an individual’s stamina, tenacity, and will. Randori and tournaments challenge students to continue fighting even if they are outmatched. Children learn that in order to succeed and/or improve their practice they must not give up mentally or physically.
- Improves Physical Fitness. Judo increases children’s strength and endurance. In an age where recess and P.E. is being eliminated from many schools, participating in a sport helps children get the recommended amount of weekly exercise while also teaching valuable life skills.
Winning isn’t everything. Although students are encouraged to always try to win, the ideas of fair play, self improvement, and healthy competition are always more important. While only a small number of the children practicing Judo today will become Olympic champions, and the future faces of the sport, Judo offers valuable physical and character building opportunities from which all children can benefit.
Written by: Jennifer Hernandez