Karate Can Help Build a Kid’s Self-Esteem

Karate is an ancient martial arts style that was developed in the Ryukyu Islands in Japan. It grew into one of the most popular forms of martial arts worldwide several decades ago and still continues to be a favorite, especially with children. Along with teaching your kid self-defense and performance skills, it can help build your child’s self-esteem in the early formative years.

Karate and self-esteem

Self-esteem is the idea or “picture” we have of ourselves – who we are, what we’re capable of, and what we can be. It is built over time as we get to know ourselves through experience and feedback. It needs to be nurtured from a very young age for a kid to be able to grow into an adult who believes in himself or herself. Parents should take steps to ensure their children develop a positive self-image and self-respect. One of the most fun and effective ways to help children – even pre-schoolers – to develop a healthy level of self-esteem is through challenge and achievement in a structured physical and mental activity such as martial arts.

Karate has levels or ranks represented by belts of various colors and other uniform insignia. Each rank typically has a number of moves that must be learned to proceed to the next level. Forms (movement patterns) challenge students to memorize a sequence of techniques, targets, and direction changes at each rank. Free sparring or controlled combat against similarly-sized training partners (as well as seniors and teachers) helps students to fine-tune motor skills, reflexes, and strategic thinking.

This process of learning, practicing, competing with, and showcasing karate skills – starting at an early age – can have a tremendously positive effect on the self-esteem of practitioners.

  • Testing and advancing through ranks can be a memorable, confidence-boosting ‘personal victory’.
  • Praise and attention from instructors helps them feel good about themselves and their abilities to learn and achieve.
  • Not advancing in rank following an unsatisfactory testing performance (i.e. receiving a “no change”) encourages children to try harder and work to reach goals.
  • Scoring points or winning a free sparring bout gives students a sense of security and self- protection.
  • A properly executed form reinforces the self-esteem gained from incremental learning.

All this eventually leads to a better self-image and a positive attitude that endures throughout childhood, adolescence, and into adulthood.

Other benefits of karate for pre-schoolers and older kids


Besides helping build self-esteem and self-defense skills, karate can help nurture “tiny tots” in a number of other ways to help them become healthy, self-reliant, and responsible young people. Martial arts practitioners are known to improve these traits and others:

  • Discipline
  • Confidence
  • Physical fitness
  • Teamwork
  • Listening
  • Respect

Despite the popular misconception and hype portrayed in popular cinema, the martial arts are not strictly about violence. In fact, most martial artists learn to restrain their tempers and refrain from unleashing their powerful physical skills. Rather, martial arts offer a treasure trove of life lessons and tangible benefits for most students that reach far beyond the training facility to improve the lives of those who train and the lives of those around them.

Build Your Self-Esteem By Practicing Martial Arts

Martial arts have been practiced and utilized since antiquity, steadfastly carried forth through many generations of mankind in diverse societies, through times of peace and war. Their venerable age is verified by a number of ancient Egyptian, Indian, and Asian murals depicting hand-to-hand combat. Though these martial arts were developed primarily for self-defense in troubled times, scientific studies and millions of personal testimonies indicate their key role in molding respectable character, confidence, positive outlook, personality, and personal success. Research has shown a range of improvements in physical health, self-image, and social skills made by adult students when surveyed eight months into training. In children and teens, some improvements were made more quickly.

Martial arts and self-esteem

Self-esteem is basically what we think of ourselves. Perception of the self – your unique self- image – greatly influences how other people perceive and label us. Building self-confidence is a natural process that occurs while training in the martial arts. Men and women join for a range of reasons, but the multitude of benefits they typically find as students multiplies their returns.

A person who has high self-esteem may be very active in society, forming bonds that get things done, because he or she believes his or her contribution is imperative to a better life for all. Self- confidence gives you the power and the motivation to affect changes when and where they’re needed!

Testing your limits – and expanding them through interesting, powerful exercise – leads you to know yourself on a deeper level. Trust in yourself and your abilities developed over time gives you a new outward appearance as well. Understanding and accepting yourself, setting goals and reaching them, are self-perpetuating – success breeds success in other areas of life. When you know your worst, but choose – and know how – to bring out your best, all the time, you often create win-win situations and bolster your reputation!

Martial arts training improves physical fitness, toning muscles, losing weight, raising energy levels, boosting immunity, and generally making you look and feel more attractive. Naturally, this is a major boost to one’s self-esteem. As you advance through ranks and belt colors, your pride and pleasure increase your commitment to reach Black Belt, to win a competition, to break those boards, and so on. The intense focus you practice to control and execute the martial arts movements removes focus you ordinarily spend on fears, complexes, hangups, and such. It alleviates stress and builds self-confidence at a steady pace in most students.

Researches and studies

In 1986, Richman and Rehberg conducted a study to measure the influence of martial arts in a person’s self esteem. The study was conducted on a sample of 60 martial artists, who participated in the 1985 Battle of Atlanta tournament. They were split into four groups according to their expertise – group 1 with people who held white through gold belts; group 2 had purple, green, and blue belts; group 3 athletes had red or brown belts; group 4 held black belts. Karate Tournament Survey, which is a self-report questionnaire, was the tool used to measure the self-esteem of subjects. In the test, the people with higher belts displayed higher scores for “internal reliability.” Also, people with higher self-confidence were seen to have performed better during the tournament.

In 1990, Finkenberg performed a study on 100 females to test the same. Of the 100, 51 were subjected to practice Tae Kwon Do and the rest had to attend general health classes, both for a period of 18 weeks. Before and after these sessions, the sample was subjected to Tennessee Self Concept test. It was found after the test that the women who participated in Tae Kwon Do showed more improvements in self-satisfaction, personal self, social self, physical self, and self identity than the subjects who attended the health classes.
Self-satisfaction is trained and earned by continually achieving success. Self-confidence grows by reinforcing itself repeatedly, as you achieve personal victories in the martial arts. Almost everyone can benefit from a higher self-esteem and better physical fitness, so consider joining a martial arts class and see the differences you can make!