8 Ways Karate Helps Kids Improve Communication Skills


2007 Windingland family karate picture

Participation in karate offers many benefits for children (and adults).  The physical benefits are obvious (endurance, strength, flexibility, coordination and balance), but there are several mental benefits as well, including improved communication skills.

Karate is even seen as a way to help kids with autism improve communication skills (CBS.com Video).

As both a student for the past 8 years and as an instructor at Rogers Professional Karate Studio, I have noticed the following communication benefits from karate:

1.        Focus. Paying attention pays off in karate.  As students focus on learning, their skill improves and they earn the next belt.

Communication benefit:  focus is critically important to understanding the flow of conversation.  Being focused on the other indicates interest.

2.       Listening. If students don’t listen and follow instructions, they literally will be out-of-step.  Students must also confirm that they have heard and understood the instructions by saying, “Yes, Ma’am” or “Yes, Sir.”

Communication benefit:  Listening isn’t just waiting for your turn to talk.  Good listeners are “in-step” with their conversation partners and reflect back that they have heard and understood.

3.       Respect and Courtesy. Instructors and other students are to be treated and spoken to with respect.  Instructors are addressed by Mr., Mrs., or Ms. Last name.

Communication benefit:  Talking respectfully to others, even if you don’t agree with them, keeps the doors of communication open.  Knowing when to address others formally also makes a good impression.

4.       Reading Body Language. Reading body language is especially important in sparring.  Students need to react to their sparring partner’s stance and movements.

Communication benefit:  Many studies show that 50 percent or more of communication is non-verbal.  Being attuned to what other people are “telegraphing” with their body or facial expressions will greatly enhance communication.

5.       Confidence—and how to appear confident by proper stance, eye contact, body movements and voice.  Confidence grows as new skills are learned, but learning how to appear confident is also a skill.

Communication benefit:  First impressions matter.  Appearing confident will make a good impression.

6.       Clarity. As a student moves up in belt ranks, other students look to him or her for guidance.  When a student helps another student, he or she learns the value of clear and precise language.

Communication benefit:  Clarity in word choice and expression leads to greater understanding.

7.       Show vs. Tell. Showing someone what you mean or how to do something is often more effective than telling them how to do it, especially when a student is learning something new.

Communication benefit:  Showing, either by physical demonstration (which is the usual method of “showing” in karate), or by vivid description, creates a picture in the other person’s mind.  Pictures are easier to remember.  Let me give an example of narrative telling vs. narrative showing . . .

Example of telling:  I was car-jacked after grocery shopping.

Example of showing:  On a moonless, cool summer night, just after I got into my van after grocery shopping, a short Asian man flung open my van’s passenger door.  He climbed in, pointed a gun at me, and told me to start driving.

Which is more interesting or memorable–telling or showing?

Finally, the make-or-break communication skill:

8.       Attitude. A positive attitude is attractive, contagious and encourages communication.  Bad attitudes are expected to be left outside the studio.

Communication benefit:  Being able to rise above circumstances and exhibit a generally happy, can-do attitude attracts others so they will want to communicate in a like-wise positive manner.

Help your kid get kick-butt communication skills with karate!

Diane’s website


About Diane Windingland
I speak for organizations that want their people to have better, more profitable conversations.

One Response to 8 Ways Karate Helps Kids Improve Communication Skills

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