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I strongly believe that everyone can benefit from martial arts training. Whether it is for the purpose of enhancing one's abilty to defend oneself, improving health and fitness or sharpening mental discipline and prowess.

Many people have differing views. A woman I once spoke to told me that she considered martial arts, alongside western combat sports including boxing, amatuer wrestling and fencing to be violent in nature, and thus perpetuated violence (although nothing could be further from the truth). Others have told me that they would be unwilling to take up martial arts due to fear of injury. In the end, it's down to individuals to decide whether or not they wish to do anything, but a disturbing fact is that many parents do not permit their children to practice martial arts.

Parents do have certain rights in deciding what their children may or may not do, but I believe that all children should be not only allowed, but encouraged to learn a martial art. I myself am not an expert martial artist, far from it, But I feel qualified to speak from experience when I make this statement.

The safety of their children should be every parent's paramount concern. If a parent sees their child in a dangerous situation then they will do their best to remove them from it. For example, if a child's father found that a stranger had approached his child and seemed to have twisted intentions, then he would put a stop to it, through confrontation and violence if neccessary.

But what if the child were alone? What if a pedophile or murderer were to attempt to force him or her into the back of a car? In this situation the only option available to the child would be to defend themselves as best they could, and without some kind of instruction in a system of combat the child would stand no chance.

This is a hideous situation to consider, but it is neccessary to do so. Whenever a parent sees a news headline about a kidnapped child, they must remember that this threat exists in the lives of their own children.

A less sickening, but still serious situation is that of the schoolyard bully. A child who cannot defend himself against such an attacker will learn to fear them and do everything in their power to placate them. This is not an attitude which should be carried forward into later life.

It is ironic in such situations that parents and teachers often instruct children not to fight back but to report incidents to the relevant authorities. In the vast majority of cases this is completely ineffective. Bullies generally pay little attention to scoldings or punishments handed out by teachers and will increase the intensity of their tormenting in order to reinforce the victim's fear.

The simple answer is for the victim to defend themselves. To say "I will not be intimidated by you." Even the most thuggish of bullies will quickly learn that they cannot impose themselves physically on their intended victim and will keep their distance.

Martial arts can also have great effects on a child's health. Weight problems are increasingly common in children simply because they play video games or watch television instead of running around outside and getting some exercise. Martial arts provide a form of exercise which is more fun than any video game could ever be. This helps to ensure that the child will stick with the training and continue to benefit from it for as long as they do.

As well as physical exercise, martial arts also promote clear thinking and mental strength and discipline. The myth of attention deficiencey in school aged children is often disproved when the child is given something worthy of their attention. Children are also tought responsibility by their instructors, who teach them to exercise control in the practice of their art and to look for non violent solutions to confrontations before resorting to fighting.

To conclude, while many parents may at first consider martial arts to be too violent or dangerous an activity for children, this opinion is incorrect. If you are in any doubt as to whether martial arts can be beneficial to a child, ask another parent whos child practices a martial art for their views.