As a martial arts instructor one comment I often hear from parents is: “my child has A.D.H.D.”. According to add.org the clinical definition of A.D.H.D is as follows:
ADHD is a highly genetic, brain-based syndrome that has to do with the regulation of a particular set of brain functions and related behaviors.
These brain operations are collectively referred to as “executive functioning skills” and include important functions such as attention, concentration, memory, motivation and effort, learning from mistakes, impulsivity, hyperactivity, organization, and social skills. There are various contributing factors that play a role in these challenges including chemical and structural differences in the brain as well as genetics.
For a lot of people and parents out there, this can be a scary and often times frustrating issue to deal with. It can lead to a constant state of anxiety for you and your children. Parents may always be concerned about how their child is acting while not under their supervision and children may be getting reprimanded for “not following rules” while at school or during extra-curricular activities. The worst part of all of this is when both the child and parent want to fix the problems and understand the “WHY” and are left in the dark on the “HOW”.
Enter: MARTIAL ARTS!
Exercise in any form is great for children. However, children that suffer from ADHD may find it hard to find a sport or activity that suits them. They may have a difficult time following rules in sports such as football or soccer which may lead to bullying or being left out completely.
Many families find that marital arts are an excellent alternative to the more common extracurricular activities. Keep reading to find out why!
Self-Control and Concentration
Attention is an integral part of martial arts training. Often if a child loses concentration or moves out of turn, the instructor will ask them to return to their “ready position”. This not only resets their focus but allows for them to be ready for their next task.
Martial Arts focuses on self-improvement, where traditional sports focus on “the team”. Many kids with learning and attention issues have trouble when it comes to competing with other kids. Martial Arts will allow them to work on themselves and not be worried about “letting down the team”.
At times kids with learning and attentions issues feel as if they never “win” at anything. Martial arts classes offer these children a chance to work at their own pace. The product of their hard work is being awarded a new belt at each level. This will help motivate and boost self-esteem.
Structure & Expectation
A good martial arts instructor emphasizes the importance of good behavior both in and out of class. They have clear rules that are constantly reinforced. Some will even send their students home with homework or behavior charts.
Another core value in marital arts is: RESPECT. Students are expected to show this not only their instructors, but to their peers, parents and everyone around them. Negativity has no place in a martial arts school and they are encouraged to support each other.
Routines are Manageable
Often times an ADHD child can feel overwhelmed when a lot of information is thrown at them all at once. By breaking down, repeating and gradually adding new techniques the student is able to anticipate what comes next. Eventually they will put everything together into one movement. This allows a “working memory” of the workout to be developed in a way the student finds manageable.
Outlet for Excess Energy
Sitting in a classroom all day can lead to a lot of pent up energy. Martial arts can provide a safe and effective outlet for that energy. While it doesn’t encourage violent behavior, it can allow kids to work out frustration or anger while learning self-control and self-defense.
They are just COOL KIDS!
Kids with learning and attention issue may feel socially awkward or not accepted. Lots of kids think martial arts is COOL! It is hard not to feel special and included when you’re all wearing martial arts uniforms and breaking boards!
Martial arts provide a great opportunity for your child to develop their self-esteem, find commonalities, and achieve small and large successes. While it may not be a cure-all for ADHD, it could just what your child needs to start realizing that despite their issue, they are just as special and capable as any other kid out there!