This article is going to look more at younger age ranges – i.e., for young children, what is the best age to start training in Taekwondo?
For a number of years I taught junior Taekwondo classes. I mainly taught 7- to 12-year-olds, but occasionally also taught the 4- to 7-year-old class. I still regularly teach students aged 12 to 16.
The first thing to note is that in any of these age ranges, students are not taught ‘full’ Taekwondo – they are taught some of the aspects of Taekwondo that are appropriate to their age. ‘Full’ Taekwondo includes activities such as board breaking, joint locks, take-downs, and full-contact sparring – these activities are NOT taught to anyone under 16.
Taekwondo students aged 12 to 16 are taught forms (which are choreographed sequences of movements which have a variety of uses), general techniques in line work, some set sparring (which is a choreographed form of sparring), and some non-contact or very light contact free sparring, as well as aspects of general fitness such as flexibility exercises.
Taekwondo students aged 7 to 12 are taught a much reduced set of this. They will still learn forms and general techniques, but a much lesser variety of them. Sparring is replaced with non-contact games that use similar skills.
Considering that students in these age ranges are not taught full Taekwondo, one might ask: is there any point learning Taekwondo at this age? If you’re not going to learn ‘full’ Taekwondo until you’re 16, why not just wait until then and start at that age?
Even though under-16s do not learn some aspects of Taekwondo, there is definitely a huge advantage to starting at a younger age. Students who have been training since they were 8 generally remain better at Taekwondo than someone who started when they were 12 for several years (i.e., when both such students are 15 or 16, the one who started younger will still be a lot better).
When students start younger, they learn body co-ordination (the ability to move one’s arms and legs in a very specific way, as demonstrated by an instructor) much sooner, and this ability sticks with them for a long time. As people get older, they get used to certain ways of moving. People who start Taekwondo in their 30s or 40s often have to spend longer unlearning the way of moving that they’ve become used to, and learn to move how a Taekwondo practitioner moves. Students who start Taekwondo when they are 8 or 9 will often be very skilled black belts if they continue training in Taekwondo into their 20s and 30s.
There is a lower limit to this effect, however. Students aged 4 to 7 learn a VERY reduced set of Taekwondo-related activities. They will learn only the most basic forms, do a limited amount of line work, and will do no sparring of any kind. 4- to 7-year-olds will spend most of their time doing general, simple fitness activities, and fitness games. (At this age range, children aren’t really taught Taekwondo at all – classes that teach this age range tend to be general, martial-arts-themed, aerobic activity classes.) As such, they do not learn body co-ordination to the same extent as older students.
So I would say that students should not start training in Taekwondo younger than 7 or 8, as below that age there is little value in it. While students younger than 16 will not learn about all of the aspects of Taekwondo, they will be given a very good grounding in body control, stances, basic techniques, flexibility training, self control, and forms, which is very valuable when they are older than 16.