Can Obese Kids Practice Martial Arts? Is It Safe?

If you have a child who is overweight and is interested in trying out martial arts, you might be wondering if it is safe for obese kids to practice martial arts. You want to encourage your child’s interest in new hobbies, but you don’t want them to get hurt. Before you you make a decision of whether or not to sign them up for martial arts, it’s important to know if the practice can be safe for kids who are obese.

Martial arts can be safe for children who are obese as long as they choose a soft style of martial arts when starting out; warm up properly before each session; limit sessions to 30 minutes; and stay hydrated while practicing.

To decide if martial arts are right for your child, you need to select a martial arts class that allows them to practice at their own pace and maintain healthy exercise habits. To learn how to make the right decision for your child, read below for more information about martial arts safety for children who are overweight.

What Types of Martial Arts are Safest for Obese Children?

When it comes to safety for children who are overweight practicing martial arts, a lot depends on the form of martial arts. 

When starting out with a martial arts practice, a safe option for a child with obesity to select a soft form of martial arts or instructors that can modify techniques.

A child who is obese should be encouraged to be active but not to overexert themselves. If the form of martial arts is too strenuous or challenging, your child may be more likely to get injured or discouraged and less likely to want to continue with their practice. 

A great way to develop physical fitness in any adult or child is with a good, solid, and convenient to use heavy bag. I have an exhaustive article on what heavy bag is right for kids, adults, or both to use at this link.

Choose a Soft Form of Martial Arts

Soft martial arts doesn’t necessarily equate to an easier practice. Soft refers to the manner in which a person responds to a punch or kick coming their way. Rather than trying to block the force, the person would move with it. The practice of soft martial arts relies more on technique and timing rather than physical strength. 

Soft forms of martial arts for your child to try are:

  • Aikido
  • Jiu Jitsu
  • Judo
  • Karate (traditional or modified sport)

Try Aikido

Translated, Aikido is considered to mean “the way of harmony with universal energy.” In an Aikido class, the focus is on coordination and balance rather than competition. 

If your child is shy or nervous about trying martial arts, aikido may be a good choice. In this form of martial arts, there are no competitions or tournaments. This is especially helpful for children who have stage fright and don’t want to get up in front of a crowd. 

Try Jiu Jitsu

Jiu Jitsu is translated as “the gentle art.” In a Jiu Jitsu class, you will see many moves being practiced on the ground in close contact with one another. 

The core of Jiu Jitsu is mental focus; it has been likened to “human chess.” More focus is put on balance and agility rather than size or strength. If your child has a lot of restless energy, mental or physical, that would benefit from a little positive redirection, Jiu Jitsu may be a good choice.

Try Judo

This ‘gentle art’ practices takedowns and pins in order to foster self defense and fitness. Judo’s focus is on improving balance, strength, flexibility, and coordination. Essentially, it is like a moving science class dealing with gravity and leverage. It benefits all ages, especially those with health conditions.

Judo classes will look a lot different than other forms of martial arts. Students practice smooth, fluid movements and breathwork while primarily trying to off-balance their partners. If your child has health conditions that may make other forms of martial arts inaccessible to them, Judo may be a good choice. 

Try Karate (traditional or modified sport)

Karate comes in two forms. There is a more traditional version that focuses on individuals and reaching their personal goals of technical proficiency. This form is great for a first style of martial arts. It teaches fitness, life skills, and technique in a non-competitive way that can allow for individual timelines and goals.

There is also the sport side that can be rather difficult for those not in top shape. Yet, with a good instructor children that do not meet these same standards of fitness can still participate with modifications until they gain the skill and physical ability.

Here is my philosophy in teaching the traditional side of Karate for kids. Once they are experienced and in shape, I teach a more high paced modified system for older and advanced kids. All of these classes with proper care are very doable for overweight children.

And the best part is that they can take the classes right from their own homes virtually, which can eliminate embarrassment as they get their bodies used to the training. I teach the basics of Karate, Judo, and Kali to preschool and elementary aged children online.

Here is an example of the online classes I teach. In this video you can get a sneak peek at what goes on in this sample class.

A lot depends on the instructor. Most every style can truly be modified. It is a safer bet to begin with these softer styles, but a good teacher can definitely modify most styles into something that can be beneficial for most every child.

How Can Your Child Stay Safe While Practicing Martial Arts?

When a child is beginning any new exercise program, like martial arts, it is important to follow a few guidelines to prevent injury. This is especially important when the child is not already physically conditioned, meaning they haven’t regularly participated in physical activities prior to starting a martial arts practice.

To see how the martial arts can increase your or your child’s fitness level, see my article here on just that topic.

Warm Up Properly Before Beginning a Martial Arts Session

Warming up before a martial arts class is essential for preventing an injury. Muscles and joints need increased blood flow and circulation to loosen them up before physical activity. A warm up doesn’t need to take long — just five to ten minutes is sufficient.

Limit Martial Arts Sessions to Thirty Minutes

When a child is new to martial arts, or any exercise program, it is important to start slowly. If a child is obese, jumping right in to a long, intense martial arts session can cause overexertion. A maximum of thirty minutes is a good rule of thumb, but shorter sessions may be better depending on your child’s individual needs.

Stay Hydrated During the Martial Arts Session

Staying hydrated during exercise is crucial for preventing overheating and muscle cramping. It also helps with energy levels and muscle recovery. Make sure your child drinks plenty of water before, during, and after a martial arts class. Avoid sugary or caffeinated drinks as they can cause more dehydration.

The best liquid is water. To make it more enjoyable and enticing for your child, get him or her a special water bottle. There are many popular options on Amazon. As well, my kids enjoy flavored water. You can try something like this (found on Amazon in lots of varieties) that is still low in sugar and a healthy choice.

What Are the Benefits of Martial Arts for Obese Kids?

Besides being safe for your child, martial arts are loaded with benefits. 

Some of the benefits of a martial arts practice include:

  • Increasing self-confidence
  • Feeling a sense of achievement
  • Weight loss
  • Building up stamina
  • Learning self-discipline
  • Having a teacher who can serve as a mentor
  • Learning self-defense

If you’d like to learn more, feel free to check out this other article on our site about the benefits of martial arts for all children.

Where Can You Find Martial Arts Classes for an Obese Child?

If you’ve made the decision to enroll your child in a martial arts school, you’ll want to know how to find the right school for them. There are many different martial arts schools that offer different styles of teaching, so you’ll want to do your homework before choosing a school.

How to find the right Martial Arts School

Some tips for finding the right martial arts school for your child are:

  • Search online for schools that offer the style of martial arts your child would like to try- Remember to encourage your child to start out with one of the soft forms of martial arts.
  • Observe different types of classes- To get the best idea of how different types of martial arts classes run, it’s important to visit the school and observe the classes your child may be interested in.
  • Observe different instructors- In addition to checking out the classes, you’ll also want to find an instructor whose personality and teaching style will work for your child. Observe different instructors to get an idea of how they teach, if they do warm ups, and if they allow students access to water during class.
  • Read online reviews- A great way to learn more about different martial arts schools is to look at online reviews. See what other parents think about each school and if they mention how their children are treated by the instructors and other students.
  • Martial Arts ONLINE CLASSES– We’re pleased to offer the best in martial arts in the safest, most convenient way and that is online. Your child can receive the full benefits of martial arts in your own home. Check out more-here– including the ability to try it out for free!

The Martial Arts For Obese Kids Takeaway…

Now that you know that martial arts are safe for a child with obesity, you can begin to look for martial arts classes that will work best for your child. Try to find those that offer soft martial arts classes, with a proper warm up, a session no more than 30 minutes (or that will allow your child to rest when needed), and plenty of water.

Mathew Booe

Mathew Booe is a father of four, husband to Jackie since 1994, retired international competitor with over 50 wins, an international seminar instructor, a master instructor of hundreds of Little Ninjas each week, and the one bringing you the great content like you just read. Sign up for the newsletter to hear about his upcoming books before they are released to the public.

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