Keen on Karate or Jumping for Joy for Judo - How to get the kids mastering Martial Arts!

Did you know that over 40 million people in 140 countries worldwide practise some form of Martial Arts! With such global popularity it’s easy to see why after school activities such as Karate and Judo hold such mass appeal to kids here in the UK.

But what exactly are Martial Arts? For those not already in the know, in a nutshell, Martial Arts covers a number of diverse practices based on discipline, respect and perseverance. In fact the actual dictionary definition of Martial Arts is “any of the traditional forms of Asian self-defence or combat that uses physical skills and coordination without weapons, often practised as sport”.

Here in this special feature blog we take a look at two of the most popular after school Martial Arts activities for kids - Judo and Karate. We’ll be delving into both of the sports histories as well as giving you the low-down on the benefits of getting the kids involved with both of these active and at times mindful activities.

Finally, if your family are jumping for Judo joy or keen for Karate we will be sharing some of our local recommendations, so they can get started and on their way to become Martial Arts Masters!

Did you know…

  • Judo roughly translates to ‘gentle way’ in Japanese. (1)

  • More than 50 million people around the world participate in Karate

  • In the 2020 Tokyo Olympics there will be three official Martial Arts sports - Judo, Karate and Taekwondo.

Judo - An Overview

Compared to many other disciplines, Judo is a relatively modern Martial Art and was developed in 1882. It originally emerged from Jujitsu and further evolved as a competitive sport by Japanese educationalist, sport activist and philosopher - Jigaro Kano. From its grassroots level Judo has always had a strong ethical code and guiding philosophy at its heart. It places strong emphasis on morality and character development. As with most Martial Arts participants gain different colour belts as they improve and grow with the sport.

Judo made it’s Olympic debut for men in Tokyo in 1964 and after a short break returned permanently to the Olympic programme in Munich in 1972. Judo for women became an Olympic Sport at the Barcelona games in 1992. (2) Famous Team GB Olympians include Gemma Gibbons who won Silver in London 2012. Ashley McKenzie and Sally Conway, another medal winner, bringing home a Bronze Olympic medal from Rio in 2016. The British Olympic Judo team in total have clocked up an impressive 19 medals so far! 8 Silver and 11 Bronze medals, could there be a future Judo Gold British Olympic medallist amongst our local future generations?

Karate - An Overview

Karate is considered to be the most traditional of the Martial Arts. With a rich history spanning back to the 1600s, Karate was developed on the Japanese island of Okinawa. As weapons were strictly forbidden on the island it was developed as a technique of self defence. Along with its high energy: punches, strikes, kicks and hard blocks, Karate also focuses on positive mental attitude, courtesy, and respect for your teacher and opponent.

As with Judo children progress through the sport through attaining different coloured belts. These belts start with red or white for beginners and move through to yellow, orange, purple, green, brown and finally black for ultimate experts.

Karate is set to become an Olympic Sport at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo alongside Judo and Taekwondo. This is exciting news for British Martial Arts, as it will give Team GB the opportunity to showcase their abilities on a worldwide stage. Inspiring future generations to get involved in all three sports.

Martial Arts - The Benefits

If your child/ren are interesting in taking part in Martial Arts, the great news is that there is a whole range of health and well-being benefits for both Judo and Karate. These benefits are very similar for both disciplines and are top three are shared with you below

Martial Arts for the Many

There are very few restrictions on who can participate in either discipline of Judo and Karate. Girls may find it particularly empowering to take part in the sports. Progressing through the different belt systems gives boys and girls alike a sense of goal attainment. This offers encouragement for them to keep going and to achieve their goals. Judo is also currently the only Paralympic Martial Art (Taekwondo will follow their lead in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics) (4)

Keeping Karate Fit

Both Karate and Judo are excellent at developing all round fitness and can improve your child’s general physical condition. Kicks and punches in Karate helps with coordination and flexibility, it also counts towards your child/ren’s aerobic activity. Judo as well helps with overall balance, strength and posture. Both activities focus on teaching kids a wide number of skills and are not necessarily just down to speed or athleticism. This makes these sports great activities for those children who aren’t particularly ‘sporty’ and/or who dislike running around.

Give a Little Respect

Karate and Judo both teach respect and courtesy to others - not only adults but to other children. This gives children a sense of mindfulness that can be transported elsewhere and used in other spaces such as at home or in school. Both disciplines are fantastic for helping to support your child with self discipline, focus and concentration.

Martial Arts - The Kit

Some top tips on what kit you will need if your child wants to start Judo or Karate lessons. Again, both disciplines require similar levels of kit to start off with. So why not take a look at our handy checklist to ensure you’re ready to go for beginner classes.

Get Kitted Out!

Both sports often require students to wear an uniform called a ‘Gi’. It might be worth speaking to your activity provider before purchasing your own. You may be able to hire ‘Gis’ or buy good quality second hand ones. There may also be a specific club ‘Gi’ that is required. Girls will require a t-shirt underneath their Judo or Karate Gis.

Safety First

Some Karate clubs may require that your child wears a ‘sparring kit’ once they reach a particular level or belt. These can include: head guard, mitts, shin and instep leg pads, mouth guard. Again check with your activity provider before buying any safety equipment as it may need to be bought via their approved suppliers.

For both disciplines it is also worth noting that for health and safety reasons long hair should always be tied back. Finger and toe nails should also be kept short.

Fighting Fuel

As Judo and Karate can be hard work, it’s always good to stay hydrated by bringing a bottle of water to have after the activity. A healthy snack may also be useful to keep those energy levels up!

Making your Martial Art Mind Up

Can’t decide between Judo or Karate? We’re on hand to help with our list of some of the differences between the two disciplines to help you choose the right activity for your child.

Judo Moves

Just like Jujitsu, Judo uses the attacker’s moves against them. This includes using throws, grapples and other wrestling-style moves. Judo also places more focus on the use of leverage instead of strength to throw the opponent off-balance and ultimately onto the ground. Once on the floor, a number of different holds are used to force the opponent into submission.

From Sho to Dan - How the Grading System Works

Judo is very much a sport that grows with your child, and there are four levels of grading. As a rule children under 8 years of age cannot compete in Judo, however those under 8 can enjoy and get involved with the sport through the Judo Kids scheme.

Sho Award is for 5-7 years old and consists of 9 different awards that rewards children while they develop the basic physical, technical, social and psychological skills.

Mon Grading System carries on from the Sho award and is for children aged between 8-17 years of age. This is a grade system with promotion to different coloured belts based on technical ability, knowledge and understanding. There are 18 different grades in the Mon System: Red (1st-3rd Mon) Yellow (4th-6th Mon) Orange (7th-9th Mon) Green (10th-12th Mon) Blue (13th-15th Mon) and Brown (16th-18th Mon). (3)

Kyu Grade System can be taken by children who have completed their Mon Grading and is aimed at young adults from 14 years upwards.

Finally Dan Grades are for young adults usually taken from 15 years.

Karate Moves

Along with fast moving kicks, punches and holds, Karate also teaches supreme levels of self discipline and self-control. In Karate lessons your child will learn how to kick and strike, as well as defensive blocking with their arms and legs. There is a big emphasis on courtesy and mental attitude. Showing mutual respect to teachers and opponents alike.

Brilliant Belts - How the Grading System Works

Grading for Karate works on a different coloured belts system. There are a total of 7 belts to achieve ranging from white or red for absolute beginners. These then run through to Yellow, Orange, Purple, Green, Brown and finally Black for experts.

It is no mean feat to reach Black belt status in Karate and each of the higher belt colours usually have three levels that need to be achieved before progressing onto the next. Even when your child reaches the top of their game, with a Black belt, there are then 10 different levels that can then be mastered.

Local Activity Providers


Sport Kingston

Bu’Sen Martial Arts School

Whitton Sports and Fitness Centre


Khalsa Karate

Kyo Rei Shukokai Karate

Seiki-Juku Karate (Kingston)


Where to next?

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