WHAT AGE SHOULD KIDS LEARN SELF DEFENCE?
Today we look at the why and when of self defence for children, which is easily one of the most important questions on the mind of a loving parent.
As mums and dads ourselves, we know parenting takes on a totally new meaning once our little ones step outside of the haven we know as home. At home, their new minds and little bodies are smothered with love, joy and happiness. Deep down we all know they will soon learn the harsh reality of this world, and that danger does exist.
SHOULD KIDS LEARN SELF DEFENCE IN THE FIRST PLACE?
Considering the alarming rate and increase in child trafficking globally, our kids should have the option of being prepared for a worst-case scenario. Whilst we are fortunate to live in Australia, a relatively safe country, there were still 534 kidnappings in our nation in 2020.
On a less severe but far more prevalent level, 59% or 2.3 million students nationally say they have experienced bullying, with one in five experiencing it weekly (20%).
There are also frightening statistics on many young people who are exposed to domestic violence, and who sadly experience child abuse, harassment and family violence.
It is our duty as parents to teach our children some plan of action, even if it is just outsmarting an attacker, whenever they notice something out of the ordinary.
So, should kids learn self defence? COBRA believes the answer to this question is a resounding YES, but of course to each his own. Personally speaking, all of our children will learn about self defence at different levels and at different ages based on our parental instinct and their individual abilities.
As always, we all have a purpose for why we do something, and in this case, we’re obviously concerned about our precious child’s safety and want to ensure that we, as parents have control over that as much as possible.
The scary but real bit here is that we need to start accepting the reality of our children being in a cruel world. We must be prepared to hand over some control by equipping our children to protect themselves in either our inevitable absence or unreachable distance.
HOW TO DETERMINE WHAT AGE IS IDEAL
So what is an appropriate age for kids to start self defence? First and foremost, let us clarify that we refer here to self defence, not just physical fighting skills!
The basics of safety and self defence should be taught from the day your child is born in terms of reinforcing how valuable they are to you, how they are entitled to assert themselves, that they should never wander off alone, how they should always be honest with you about situations that happen to them, and the fact they should ALWAYS listen to their instincts.
It is also advantageous to begin role-modelling good self defence habits very early, such as noting the who, what, when, where, why and how of all the places you go and people you meet.
If your children see you practicing basic safety protocols and acting in ways that minimise or avoid potentially dangerous situations, they will be more likely to adopt these habits instinctively and habitually themselves.
Similarly, if you act in a way that de-escalates potentially violent situations, and leave your ego at the door when confronted by aggressors, your child will see and emulate this behaviour. This is the best form of self defence your child can ever learn, as you are teaching risk avoidance and risk management implicitly. This will mean your child is less likely to ever find themselves in crisis management, when actual physical fighting and defence is required.
Beyond that, it is less of a science and more of a parental instinct in terms of deciding what age to teach your child specific self defence techniques. Only you as their parent will know when your child is prepared to take this step, and of course it can be a gradual process.
In helping you make this decision, here are some of our children’s behaviours that increasingly qualify them to learn physical self defence techniques.
You will know your kids are ready for self defence lessons and COBRA courses if:
• They can clearly identify right from wrong
• They can handle their little brother, sister, cousin or friend ripping their favourite toy out of their hand without throwing a fit, tantrum or attacking them back for that toy
• They understand what danger or violence means (and we are hoping here it’s only on television). Even the old cartoon Tom & Jerry qualifies with the amount of beating up that happens there! The reason for this point is to highlight that our kids are unfortunately exposed to violence in one way or another, even in animations or cartoons. This means teaching them about an attacker being violent won’t be a new concept to them.
• They understand the concept of Good-guy, Bad-guy in a movie.
SELF DEFENCE vs FIGHTING
The younger our kids are, the less they need to attend formal training and the less they need to learn any punching, slapping, chopping or kicking routine until they are ready to or fully understand the consequences of it.
We love how fighting sports and martial arts can teach self-discipline and respecting others, but self defence is different and we absolutely believe self defence should be taught by parents (in stages) at first.
That is why we encourage both children and their parents to attend our COBRA courses for kids: we want to make sure the whole family unit is aware of the basics of safety and self defence so these principles can be practiced and lived out on a daily basis in the home.
Refresher COBRA courses are great as well, but we run one-off courses because we want kids to know how they can avoid, recognise and minimise danger in the first place, then what to do if that fails and they are in real danger. They can build strength and fighting skills on top of that if they want, and that is certainly advantageous as a child ages. But that is fighting, it is not real self defence. It is the principles of staying safe that matter most, and that is what COBRA is all about.
PUTTING A NUMBER TO IT
Of course, the younger our children are the less they’re out of our sight and need formal self defence training or fighting skills. But as your child grows so does their understanding, so they can be introduced into more advanced stages of learning self defence and ultimately into fighting skills if you wish.
Ultimately, only you as their parents, who understand them the best, can put a number to that age depending on your family circumstances, like daycare and school. Not even an expert Martial Art instructor or Self Defence Guru or even the Prime Minister can make this call.
Having said that, generally speaking, we recommend our courses for children aged 5 and above simply because this age is typically when kids can have the attention-span and understanding to absorb our content.
We would love to help you and your child cover the principles of self defence training once the COVID-19 situation locally eases, enabling us to schedule courses. But before even teaching our little one’s any specific self defence, as parents let’s ensure that we don’t take our children’s safety for granted and be extra perceptive.
It is never too early to protect our children from possible compromising situations or to do whatever it takes to stay vigilant as their guardian and heroes! Be the best role model you can to these vulnerable little minds, and be sure to follow COBRA Sunshine Coast for more tips and advice on how to keep your kiddies as safe, innocent and joyful as possible.