Language Learning: One of the Least-Discussed Benefits of Martial Arts

Look at any martial arts website, and you’ll often find a list of benefits of martial arts. No matter the source, the lists of benefits are usually pretty accurate.

However, something I have never seen mentioned is the benefit of learning a foreign language.

Benefits of Martial Arts Learning a Language

Vocab study notes on a sticky note are great to attach to a mirror or cupboard so you can look at them every day!

In martial arts, often, it is required for the student to learn vocabulary in a foreign language. The actual language depends on the art. It can be as simple as learning to count to ten, or as complicated as learning to recite dojo creeds in another language.

Granted, the instructor may not be a native speaker. But generally speaking, exposure to a foreign language at a young age does cool stuff to the brain.

Additionally, martial arts is a kinetic activity, involving movement. By learning in a way that connects language with movement, children may also become more flexible learners.

Children who learn or are exposed to foreign languages at an early age gain a variety of benefits, including:

  • Higher test scores, including on SAT and national tests;
  • More advanced critical thinking skills than their peers;
  • Early development of memorization skills and memory skills;
  • Better vocabularies in their native language;
  • Better understanding of their native language;
  • Early exposure to foreign language can make it easier to learn another foreign language later on in life;
  • Early acceptances of different cultures, open-mindedness;
  • Connection to the ethnic or cultural heritage of a student’s family.

For adults, learning even a few words in a new language can be challenging. For many people, the greater the challenge, the greater the reward in overcoming it. Adults CAN learn languages too, but they may need more time and different study methods.

Either way, learning some vocabulary in another language is usually a required part of martial arts. You can choose to make it fun (or painful). Like any other aspect of martial arts, it requires constant practice and review. Repetition is key.

Here are a few tips for learning and practicing vocabulary:

  • Start right away. Don’t cram before a test.
  • Make yourself a quiz, or have a family member help.
  • Spend a few minutes on vocab every day.
  • Break the vocab into pieces. If you know “geri” or “chaki” is for kick, then it becomes easier to learn the variations that make it round, side, or front kick.
  • Leave yourself sticky notes around the house.
  • Make flashcards. Use them normally, or use them to play Go Fish, or other games.
  • Use colored index cards–there is some evidence to suggest that color helps things stick.
  • Mentally recite the vocab as you do the technique in class, or out loud as you practice at home.
  • Do a form or drill and name each technique and stance as you do it.
  • Utilize oral & visual methods of studying.
  • Make up mnemonic devices to help your recall.

The benefits of martial arts are many and varied. This one definitely deserves a shout-out!

About Sensei/YDN Caitlin

Sensei Yudanjanim Caitlin is a 2nd degree black belt, senior instructor, administrative assistant, and student of Tae Kwon Do, Karate, and Arnis at Northwest School of Martial Arts.
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