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Martial Arts for Kids

Want to help build your child’s self-esteem and confidence? Improve his balance and coordination? Or maybe you would simply like for your child to participate in a structured and fun atmosphere? For many of our clients Martial Arts training has been an effective way to address these goals.

There are a variety of martial art styles offered for children, including judo, aikido, taekwondo and karate. The different styles emphasize different techniques. However, all of them offer an opportunity for your child to learn a new skill set of different movements, and teach children to set and achieve goals. In addition, the practice has been noted to help boost children’s self-esteem, help them gain more confidence and improve their overall physical ability.

Two local martial art schools have been recognized by our parents for offering unique coaching for children needing more attention than most programs are able to provide. If you are not nearby, the qualities exhibited by these programs can be a guide to you as you interview other programs for the proper fit with your child.

Master Instructor Roger Park of Chang’s Tae Kwon Do Academy in Morton Grove attended the 7th Foreigner’s Tae Kwon Do Instructor Training Course five years ago in South Korea where he worked with children and adults with developmental and mental challenges. Since then, he has had students in his academy with a variety of special needs, including autism, ADHD, sensory integration dysfunction, motor and coordination impairments, processing issues and learning disabilities.”I really enjoy working with the kids,” said Roger, who manages the Morton Grove location. “They are so thankful for how you are helping them.”

During a class at Chang’s Tae Kwon Do Academy, Roger, as well as higher-ranking black belts, moves among the students providing individualized instruction. Roger is especially keen at tuning into a student’s particular learning style. Whether a student requires a hand-over-hand kinesthetic approach, needs to have steps verbally or visually broken down into many small elements, or requires him to move in parallel so that movements may be imitated, Roger adjusts his teaching style to accommodate student-by-student. He wants all children to feel empowered and take that sense of self with them into life outside the dojang. “The teachings of Tae Kwon Do are intended to influence the life of the student inside and outside the dojang. It is our goal to help build strength of character that will carry our students through whatever challenges they face in the future,” he said.

Sensei Jeff Kohn, director and founder of North Shore Dojo in Glenview, shares a similar sentiment for his students.

The skills learned in North Shore Dojo, such as learning to listen to direction and learning to focus, are meant to emphasize mental and physical skills that will help students succeed outside their karate practice, he said.

“It is so inspiring to see them work hard,” he said. “We want them to believe and think ‘I can do it.'” Sensei Jeff Kohn, kicked off in May the Kids Can-Do! Program and Foundation. North Shore Dojo teaches Shotokan karate and the new program offers specific classes for children with challenges including ADD/ADHD, autism, behavioral problems, sensory integration disorder, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome. The Kids Can-Do! Foundation is a nonprofit organization that aims to give children who previously may not have had the opportunity to take karate. It also aims to work to get karate into the special and Para Olympics.

Inside the North Shore Dojo is an array of fun games and apparatus for the children to use. On one side sits a balance beam for the kids to walk across, punching bags, and an uneven surface to walk across. During class, Jeff may work with one or two of the students while at least two other black belt instructors are working with the other children. In the Kids Can-DO! Foundation, younger black belts volunteer to teach, with at least three instructors present during every class.

“The beauty of this all is that each child is being taught to do the same thing, however, the path at which they choose to get there is different,” Jeff said. “And the dream and hope for me is they all get there.”

For more information on Chang’s Tae Kwon Do Academy call 847-966-8002. For further information on the Kids Can-Do! Foundation and children’s program at North Shore Dojo visit or call 847-729-0001.