We’ve all seen the Karate Kid movies, right?

So… we know already:  There are only 2 types of schools… The good Karate Schools of course, and oh – the evil ones – right?!  Wait… Hmm… really?

Let’s think about this for a minute…

I don’t really think that there are karate schools out there teaching kids “put him in a body bag, Johnny!” style…

…but there are definitely a few different schools of thoughts when it comes to Martial Arts for kids.

To me, there are 3 types of Karate Schools….

#1:  The ‘Sport Fighting’ School

The first type of “Martial Art” school in my mind are comprised of styles like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and MMA are basically like wrestling classes with the addition of stand up training (kicking and punching) and ground and pound (punching and elbowing while mounting your opponent).

Positives: Kids are given a great workout, learn about winning and losing, and of course learn about and become good at the MMA sport.  Maybe one day they’ll be UFC champs!

Negatives: There might be some unhealthy competition at some schools depending on your personal beliefs.  There also might not be much emphasis on character talks at the studio, nor much of anything surrounding traditional values aside from good sportsmanship.

#2: The ‘Artsy’ Schools:

The second type of schools that I see are similar to dance studios, but cooler obviously because of the martial arts. These schools may teach more performance/form based styles such as Tai Chi, or Kung Fu.

Positives: There is a lot of discipline in these arts to have good form and to do the correct moves.  Students can take pride in the fact that they perform well and reach a certain level of skill in that area.

Negatives: Depending on the school, there may not be much emphasis on actual self defense.  The art may be missing some elements of combative instruction or stress training.

#3: The ‘Self Defense’ Schools:

Lastly, there are the Karate schools that base their curriculum on defense from attacks.  They may or may not teach how to counter-attack (Aikido for example is a defense only system).  They may also teach some elements of performance based arts or the some of the principles of sport fighting.  In fact, a good ‘Self Defense’ school will have elements of all 3, but with a special emphasis on personal safety and self-confidence.  Varying styles may include Hapkido, Taekwondo, or Krav Maga.

Positives: Many of the schools have integrated a variety of things as mentioned above in addition to character development programs and leadership training.  In many studios, the focus is more on the personal growth of the students than on their fighting ability.  Also, many of these schools require students to do well in school and at home as part of their requirements for skill testing.

Negatives: It’s always the running joke that you may walk into a “Rexkwondo” school…  Or a “belt factory” where nobody has to truly earn their Black Belt – although again, these schools are realistically few and far between.



Each type of school has positives and potential negatives that parents should think about.  However, don’t be too worried that you’re going to have to be SUPER careful!  I mean, do your due diligence, but there are a lot of good Karate schools out there, and if you know what you want – you’re going to find it.

Here’s one parent’s experience on finding a Martial Arts school in Santa Barbara…

Full disclosure: I am a Martial Arts instructor at the Karate School mentioned above in the last video. 🙂

What do you guys think?  Let me know in the comments below.

  • Master A