There are many different types of martial arts. The most common that you will find the Plymouth / Canton / Northville area are:
Tae Kwon Do
The Difference Between Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Tae Kwon Do, and Karate
Tae Kwon Do is an art that focuses mostly on kicking (usually 80% or more.) No takedowns or grappling.
Karate usually teaches a 50/50 balance between punching and kicking. No grappling or takedowns. (There are many different styles of Karate, I am being very general here.)
Most Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu schools teach 80% ground grappling, 10% takedowns, and no striking.
So which one is the best?
This article is just addressing the self defense aspects of these martial arts styles.
All self defense situations start standing. If a child is bullied, normally the attacker will start insulting them, then move onto grabbing them, pushing them, or throwing them down. Most situations end up in close and on the ground.
Tae Kwon Do
Kicking requires the most amount of space. Also, if your child is doing high kicking that Tae Kwon Do emphasizes, your child will need the right pants on, and possibly even be stretched out, so they can reach the head.
One of the issues with kicking is that someone being attacked will not just kick an attacker as they are coming towards them. Self defense situations generally escalate starting from a push or a grab. These things happen from close range, where there is no room to kick.
Punching is much more realistic for self defense. Kicking can be good (especially low kicks which don’t require flexibility or balance). But the issue with any of the above types of schools is that they generally only teach 2 ranges of self defense. But all ranges of self defense can happen in a self defense situation.
What if your child is a black belt in Karate and they are attacked? In general, if the situation stays in the punching or kicking range, they have a chance to use their skills. If it goes into a standing grappling (where the attacker grabs), or ground grappling situation, they are a white belt. If they haven’t trained for it, so how would they be prepared?
If your child is doing any mix of takedowns and grappling, they are not prepared to defend themselves. If they have never had a punch thrown at them, which is very likely in a real situation, they are not prepared. And if they have never defended punches on the ground, like 99% of BJJ schools, they will not be prepared if it ever happens.
So What Martial Arts School Do You Choose?
In my opinion, the best type of school to teach a child self defense is one that does punching, kicking, takedowns, and ground grappling. They also should teach self defense skills such as having proper body language, using their voice, and how to prevent from being attacked using specific techniques.
The Evolution of the Ultimate Fighting CHampionship
If you think I am biased, take a look at the evolution of the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship). In the beginnings in 1993, there were martial artists that only trained in their martial art, and didn’t cross train in other arts. So a boxer would face a wrestler, a Kenpo Karate practitioner would face a Muay Thai figher, a Kung Fu fighter would face a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter.
What happened? For the most part, the grapplers were beating the strikers. They were able to take down the strikers, and then control them on the ground, often striking them into submission, or putting them in submissions.
Fast forwarding to 2014- now ALL people competing in the UFC are MIXED martial artists. The very name MMA implies that they are mixing different systems. All fighters train in several different arts so they can use and defend punches, kicks, takedowns, and ground grappling.
Do not enroll your child in a martial arts program where you hope for them to learn self defense and they are only learning 2 ranges of self defense. I have talked to many people that were black belts in martial arts schools that only taught two ranges, and had to defend themselves in real situations, and it was a BIG wake up call. You do not want your child to find out the hard way that they are not prepared for a realistic self defense situation.