The Kids Are Alright
Before anyone reads this any further, rest assured that this is not an indictment against the idea of children in the martial arts. As a father of three, I understand and appreciate the role martial arts can play in the development of a child. Children (ages under 14) make up about 85% of the student bodies of most martial arts schools. That's quite a figure; it makes you wonder how many of these schools would even exist if it weren't for kids. A few traditional schools will not accept enrollees younger than teenage. Others actually advertise accepting three-year-olds. Is the concept of teaching the martial ways to youngsters actually tenable? Isn't teaching martial arts to children, especially pre-pubescent children, just some glorified form of babysitting?
Certainly, there are some sincere, competent instructors who are more inclined and capable of bringing out positive attributes and changes in children than others. Furthermore, some schools are involved in community services: police athetic leagues, and other youth programs designed to eliminate drug use, gangs, and other harmful peer-pressure related activities. On the opposite end of this spectrum lies the McDojo, a derogatory term used to describe martial arts schools that, among other things, exploit the tremendous influx of revenue that kids can bring in. Quantity, not quality, has become the credo for these "schools". In the martial arts, kids need to learn discipline, respect, and especially self-worth to prepare them for the growing years.