At What Age Should You Start Self Defence?
Written by: Instructor Nicole Vickery
Sun Bae is often asked by parents, 'at what age can my child start training?'. Some parents may dream of raising the next Taekwondo Olympic champion, whilst children may imagine themselves as ninjas or superheroes.
It is a little-known fact that the legendary Bruce Lee began his martial arts training at 13  (and Peter Parker became Spiderman when he was in high school ). Our Grandmaster and founder, Master Bradley also started when he was 13.
Starting Martial Arts or Self Defence
The age where children are ready to start their martial arts and self defence journey depends mostly on the child. The good news is, they will always have plenty of time to become a martial arts expert (or friendly neighbourhood superhero).
Our experience indicates that most children are ready to start at 5 years of age. Some may be ready to start a little later or a little earlier. It depends on their physical and mental capabilities, their ability to follow instructions and their attention span.
Sun Bae offers Tigers classes that cater to children aged 5-11 years old, although some classes may accept as young as 4 years old. We don’t recommend entering too early, because the lack of comparable success with older children can be deflating. Children need to feel comfortable, have fun and see that they have achieved results and are always progressing. Attaining skills ensures this. And only two classes per week is required.
Sun Bae believes children are typically ready to learn martial arts when they begin school. School provides a structured environment, preparing them for the need to pay attention and follow directions (for a 1 hour class). They hopefully will learn group class etiquette as well.
But children are never perfect! In fact, this could be one reason why you have decided to try out Sun Bae. We agree, learning martial arts can help children in so many ways, best of all, developing their focus and attention.
We believe that age-appropriate physical activities form an essential aspect for healthy development. Our Grandmaster has made the observation that children in the 1980’s and 1990’s seemed to arrive for their first lesson with above average motor skills, strength and flexibility. Perhaps with the recent advent and introduction of screen devices (and over usage), this has declined somewhat.
Studies indicate that children do not just develop motor skills incidentally. Like any skill in life it must be continuously practiced and encouraged . With skills comes confidence. Prior to the age of 5, children typically benefit from more unstructured physical activities and are still developing.
Eventually when they train in Taekwondo, physical skills attained will include strength and balance (kicks are performed on one leg), coordination and control, confidence and concentration. Every kick is a work out, but please do not tell them that. We don’t want to spoil the fun!
Sun Bae Tiger classes provide children with the opportunity to develop not just balance, coordination and strength, but also flexibility, endurance and mental focus. We achieve this through kicking and striking drills, specific stretching exercises, fun (including team) games and a host of other technical activities including stances, footwork, sparring, patterns and others. Activities are practiced in a structured and healthy environment.
Whilst our classes are designed to be fun and active, they fundamentally introduce children to the foundations of self defence. They can learn to defend themselves against an attacker with basic punch and kick combinations - usually with success after only three months. Taekwondo is easy for children to learn and they do tend to enjoy the kicking, spinning and jumping that accompanies it. Strength will flow from attendance.
As children acclimate to Taekwondo movements, they can then advance to learn the basics of Hapkido. This art includes techniques to escape from holds and grabs. Whilst it might look like tricks or even magic to some, these techniques, based upon the laws of physics, are very helpful for children’s self defence (including for those unwanted situations in the playground or in public).
Growing up with Taekwondo
What about teenagers? For most of this article, we’ve focused on when is the right time for young children to begin training. But here, we’ll touch on school-aged and high school children, and when it is appropriate for them to begin learning self defence and martial arts.
Generally, after children have grown and matured, it is still not too late. Actually, we believe that any age is the right age to start training. At Sun Bae, we take beginners at any time. And we have a specific program to accept new students at any time - and get them to their first grading test as soon as possible. And it works!
It is our experience that children of all ages, especially teenagers, benefit from self defence training, not only physically but socially and academically.
What to expect at Sun Bae KMA
Our Tiger’s classes which include children aged 5-11, and our Mixed classes age 11+ help children and teens develop these skills in a group. Tiger classes are typically 60 minutes, whilst Mixed classes are 90 minutes.
We recommend two classes per week and we usually have other centres close by for cross-training, in case your weekly schedule gets heavy, or you just need more!
Our belt system, which aligns with World Taekwondo’s system, provides children with clear goals for progression. They will be encouraged to dedicate themselves and work for it. Each progressive level will contain more content and advance their skills. Our system rewards hard work, the earned proudly worn a constant reminder of their achievement.
Martial arts may appear a solitary activity, but in reality, it is incredibly social. Sun Bae students are always training to better themselves. All the while, they work with their peers, seniors and instructors. Etiquette is quickly learned.
Sun Bae’s dedicated instructors strive to create a welcoming, cooperative and respectful environment. All are encouraged to work together to develop their skills and even help others. Studies show that involvement in sports and particularly, in (traditional) martial arts, has a positive impact on academic performance . Results showed that children who practiced (traditional) martial arts had higher scores in working memory and attention, reporting higher scores in linguistics and mathematics. We concur! Actually, we have many academically proven instructors and black belts at Sun Bae!
At Sun Bae, we offer special classes for children from age five and a mixed class which is popular for families. Through physical activity, goal setting, martial etiquette, self-discipline and a structured environment, Sun Bae strives to develop each child’s integrity and character by encouraging confidence, courage, perseverance, courtesy, and respect - not only inside but also outside the training hall.
If you’re unsure about whether or not your child is ready to learn martial arts, feel free to give your local Sun Bae center instructor a call. Come and try out. Our details are on our website under centre locations.
A first class will typically include some one-on-one time with the instructor too. Essentially, just get a feel of the class, connect with the instructor, meet other students (they are all friendly) and have some fun.
Class times for children vary at each center and usually commence at either 5:00, 5.30, or 6:00pm.
See you there!
 Brewer, Hannah J. 2018. Foundations of Physical Activity and Health Promotion in Early Childhood. In Physical Activity and Health Promotion in the Early Years: Effective Strategies for Early Childhood Educators, Hannah Brewer and Mary Renck Jalongo Eds. Springer International Publishing, Cham, 3-17. dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-76006-3_1
 Bruce Lee Enterprises LLC. 2021. Bruce Lee. Retrieved 7th April, 2022 from brucelee.com/bruce-lee.
 Commonwealth of Australia Department of Health. 2022. For Children and Young People (5 to 17 Years). Retrieved 8th April, 2022 from health.gov.au/health-topics/physical-activity-and-exercise/physical-activity-and-exercise-guidelines-for-all-australians/for-children-and-young-people-5-to-17-years.
 Giordano, Giulia, Gómez-López, Manuel and Alesi, Marianna. 2021. Sports, Executive Functions and Academic Performance: A Comparison between Martial Arts, Team Sports, and Sedentary Children. International journal of environmental research and public health 18, 22, 11745.
 Lee, Stan and Ditko, Steve. 1962. Amazing Fantasy #15. Marvel Comics,