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How Karate Helps Children Manage ADD/ADHD

Help Your Kids Build Important Skills in the Dojo and Life

Physical activity is not only rewarding, but it’s essential for children’s mental and physical health. However, parents of children with ADHD often have difficulty enrolling their little ones in organized sports. The pressure of participating in team sports and other highly coordinated activities like dance and gymnastics can be difficult for a child with ADHD.

If you’re thinking “the struggle is real” right now, don’t worry. You’re far from out of options. Karate is an entertaining and educational activity for many kids of all ages, but it can be particularly effective for kids who struggle with ADHD. Enrolling your child in karate lessons will keep them fit and having fun, all while nurturing the cognitive skills they struggle with, like attention and self-control.


ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (also known as ADD), is a medical condition that causes difficulties with attention, sitting still and impulse control. A child with ADHD has differences in brain activity and development that can cause problems in the classroom, on the playground and at home.

Often, a child with ADHD will have difficulty following the rules and obeying directions, which is where they can run into trouble with team sports. This can cause them to feel discouraged or left out. Learning and attention issues can also hinder the development of the social and physical skills required for many team sports.

So, How Does Karate Make a Difference?

Teaches Concentration & Self-Control in a Structured Learning Environment

Attention is critical to learning karate. Many of the moves are complex, and children are taught these movements gradually over time. This strengthens the neural pathways in your child’s brain, which enables them to practice self-control more easily. Lessons are often fast-paced, broken up with short demonstrations. This lesson structure makes it easier for children with ADHD to stay engaged.

Your child will quickly learn that respect is a core value of karate. Students are expected to show respect toward their peers and instructors. In most cases, karate instructors have clear and well-defined rules that they reinforce consistently both in and out of class. Instructors will encourage unruly students to reset and refocus by taking the “ready stance,” shifting your child’s focus productively to the next task instead of discouraging them.

Focuses on Individual Growth

Some children with ADHD struggle with team sports due to the pressure of competing with other kids. Fear of “letting the team down” can also be discouraging. Often, these feelings will manifest in your child as disinterest, especially during sports that frequently require them to sit out and wait.

Karate, on the other hand, focuses on personal growth and overcoming your own milestones. This takes some of the pressure off and encourages your child to work toward bettering themselves. Everyone has a chance to participate and, if they so choose, to show off their skills. By eliminating the possibility of getting benched, your kiddo will be more likely to stay committed to their training.

Provides an Outlet for Releasing Built-Up Energy

Not only does karate have cognitive benefits, but it also gives kids an arena to burn off energy in a constructive way, that promotes respecting boundaries with other children. Your child will learn valuable relaxation skills while engaging in cardio, flexibility and strength training. Not to mention, it’s a safe environment for your child to karate chop or kick out their pent-up frustrations.

Some parents worry that enrolling their children in martial arts will encourage violent behaviour. On the contrary, karate teaches your child to remain calm and composed in confrontational situations. Instead, instructors will focus on character-building, discipline, leadership and confidence, emphasizing that fighting is a last resort.

Techniques Are Taught in Small Chunks

Karate techniques are made up of dozens of small movements, which can seem daunting if your child has trouble following direction. However, this is actually the perfect way for your child to learn at their own pace. Karate’s emphasis on patience and respect fosters an accepting environment where children won’t feel nervous or embarrassed about making mistakes.

Kids are taught these movements one at a time, gradually and repetitively until they become second nature. Eventually, they will be able to anticipate what movement comes next and put them together in a fluid motion, bringing a sense of accomplishment and eagerness to learn more.

Sets Attainable Goals

Children with ADHD thrive in situations where they are challenged to meet realistic, well-defined goals. Reaching these goals and being recognized for it brings a sense of accomplishment and improves their self-esteem. As your child moves up the ranks, they will be awarded coloured belts according to their skill level, providing them with a tangible milestone to work toward.

The Takeaway:

Whether you’re enrolling your child in karate as a recreational pastime or as a competitive sport, it’s sure to help them develop a number of essential life skills that they can apply to their lives outside the dojo, as well.

Karate lessons provide a safe environment for a child with ADHD to grow and learn at their own pace. Your child will learn to view failure as a learning experience while learning the value of paying attention and respecting others.


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