Martial arts can guide healthy rough-and-tumble play

April 11, 2016

A group of young kids runs excitedly up a grassy hill.


Roughhousing may seem like a dangerous way for kids to play. However, it’s actually necessary for development and not as frightening as it sounds. In fact, a little low-key sparring can help kids improve motor skills, learn to communicate both verbally and nonverbally, and develop self-regulation. What’s more, according the National Association for the Education of Young Children, rough-and-tumble play evolves into actual fighting in fewer than 1 percent of encounters.

With that in mind, it’s easy to see why kids should roughhouse. Of course, you can offer your kids a guided environment in which to play by signing them up for martial arts.

Martial arts and rough play

Rough-and-tumble play generally refers to spontaneous events in which kids do things like throw pillows, wrestle, tumble, jump around, etc. The definition includes a broad scope of physical actions, but if it looks rowdy, it’s probably roughhousing. Generally speaking, this kind of play doesn’t have a goal or a format. However, giving kids a space to channel their energy and learn physical actions associated with play can also be beneficial.

Like play, martial arts can teach physical and communication skills. Depending on the discipline, children will have to tumble, jump, kick, punch and practice with partners. Martial arts also offer other life lessons, such as discipline, restraint and perseverance. As your children develop these skills in a controlled environment, they’ll be able to apply it to roughhousing. So next time they playfully tussle with a sibling or friend, the encounter will be careful – your child will know his or her own strength.

Without a little rough-and-tumble play in their lives, kids can miss out on developing important social, emotional and physical skills. Including martial arts in their after-school activities can help facilitate roughhousing and teach kids safe play fighting for when they mess around at home.