The physical benefits of martial arts are obvious: they help build strength, promote an active lifestyle, and improve reflexes. But the emotional, mental, and interpersonal benefits of martial arts are just as valuable—especially for children.

With more than a decade of experience serving New York’s South Bronx community, USA Martial Arts Fitness Academy has seen firsthand how participating in activities like Taekwondo, Karate, kickboxing grappling, and BJJ can transform young lives. Outside of the physical benefits, here are just a few of the many ways that your child will benefit from participating in a martial art.

Martial arts teach independence

The instructors, like Juan Sanchez, at USA Martial Arts Fitness Academy, take the time to recognize and educate students on the importance of teamwork, but one of the activity’s most beneficial impacts is that it teaches independence.

Unlike team sports, martial arts require the student to be fully self-reliant. Improvement and performance are dependent entirely on the individual, which helps teach children the valuable lesson of independence, hard work, and commitment—skills that are necessary to succeed in all walks of life.

Martial arts teach self-defense

94.7% of students have been bullied at least once—if your child hasn’t encountered it in school yet, it’s likely they someday will. Martial arts are a great way to help your child prepare for that day, not only because it teaches self-defense, but also because it bolsters a child’s confidence and self-esteem.

Studies show that children who have a healthy sense of self are considerably less affected by bullying, meaning that a background in martial arts may help your child cope when confronted with bullying—even if physical self-defense never becomes necessary. Developing these coping skills is especially important given that 1 in 10 of today’s children will drop out of school due to repeated bullying.

Martial art teaches the value of goal setting

No matter what career or life path your child pursues, knowing how to effectively set goals and follow through on them is the absolute foundation of success. The instructors at USA Martial Arts Fitness Academy recognize this and have learned how to harness the power of martial arts in order to cultivate strong goal-setting habits in their students.

During programs, children learn the value and importance of goal setting. Most importantly, they learn how rewarding it feels to meet those goals, encouraging them to shoot high and continue achieving regardless of any challenges that may arise.

Martial arts build confidence

Children who feel comfortable in their own skin, believe in their abilities and know their worth are much more likely to succeed in their adult lives. But building confidence takes time and effort, and unfortunately, many children are never given an apt opportunity to do so.

Martial arts programs like the ones available at USA Martial Arts Fitness Academy offer a perfect, safe, encouraging space for kids to begin building their self-esteem. With the help of trained instructors, martial arts help kids reimagine their own capabilities, develop goal-oriented mentalities, and shift their perspectives to a “can-do” approach.

Martial arts teach kids to focus

Take a quick look into any elementary school classroom and it’s clear: it’s a challenge to get children to focus. It’s especially difficult in today’s world, where television screens and smartphones are present at every moment to distract young minds from the task at hand. Sadly, many researchers believe these constant distractions are changing how our children’s’ brains develop, making it increasingly difficult for them to cultivate and sharpen critical focusing skills.

Focus, as it turns out, is learned. It is a skill that requires practice. But today’s youth are presented with fewer and fewer opportunities to refine this priceless ability. Martial arts, however, gives students the structure and discipline they need to begin developing focus—a skill which will continue to serve them well into their adult lives, regardless of which career they go on to pursue.

Martial arts teach conflict resolution

Those who have no experience with martial arts may wrongly believe that it promotes violence; the opposite is true. Martial arts isn’t about fighting—it’s about self-defense and self-confidence. In fact, all martial arts classes offered by USA Martial Arts Fitness Academy and Head Instructor Juan Sanchez have a strong focus on peaceful, non-violent conflict resolution skills.

In addition to learning the physical, technical elements of practices like Karate and Taekwondo, students are also taught mindful strategies for avoiding physical altercation, which cultivates confidence, peacefulness, and focus in children.