BAM! Body and Mind
Physical Activity

Martial Arts Activity Card
martial arts expert Who's that guy in the cool black belt? It's Kenny Hashimoto, star of the second most popular sport in the world—judo! Kenny is a 16-year-old from Thornton, Colorado. He loves judo...and is totally good at it too! Judo is a martial art that was founded in Japan. It's full of wrestling moves and also teaches you how to be mentally strong.

Kenny first tried judo when he was five because "it was a family thing." (His dad and his uncle were into it.) He always had fun, but like most judokas (judo players), he started to get into competition too. He qualified for a national competition in Hawaii when he was just seven!

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Sidebar Top Background Parts of the Body Worked
Upper and lower legs Abs Arms Knees and ankles Hips and butt

Sidebar Top Background fun facts
In karate competitions, opponents are not allowed to actually hit each other. Their moves have to stop short of the other person.

The original five Chinese fighting styles that we call Kung Fu mimic the moves of tigers, cranes, leopards, snakes, and dragons.

Judo was the first martial art accepted at the Olympic Games. 197 countries participate!

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Gear Up
Most martial arts students wear white pants, a white jacket, and a cloth belt. For some martial arts, the belt color shows the student's skill level and personal development—from white (beginner) to black (expert). The colors reflect nature. For example, the white belt that students start out with stands for a seed. The yellow belt that they get next stands for the sunshine that opens the seed. To advance from one grade level to another, you have to pass loads of tests—five for the green belt, nine for the brown belt, and 10 for the black belt! You can get a first-degree black belt in two to four years, but after that, there's still more to learn... There are 10 black belt levels!

For sparring (practice fighting), go for full gear, including a mouthpiece and padding on your head, hands, feet, and shins.

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Play It Safe

Look for an instructor who's into respect and discipline, but still has plenty of patience. The class area should have lots of space and a smooth, flat floor with padding. The fewer students the better—more attention for you!

Wear all the right gear. Warm up and stretch so you're loose and ready to go! You need good instruction before launching into any moves. And when you do learn the moves, remember your limits. For example, white belt students shouldn't spar (practice fight).

When you are ready for matches, you've gotta have an instructor around to regulate. Some martial artists use special weapons (like swords), but it's almost a sure thing that you'll get hurt with them unless you're totally advanced... so, no weapons. During your match, make sure that your partner knows when you're ready to stop. If you let your guard down, your partner may think it's a good chance to take you down!
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How To Play
Martial arts—a special type of defense skills—started in the Orient (East Asia). Today, they're taught all over the world for self-defense and avoiding conflict, too. Body and mind control, discipline, and confidence are key. There are a lot of martial arts styles, but since certain types rough up the joints (like knees) more than others, these are some of the best for kids your age:

Judo comes from Japan and means "gentle way." It's like Jujitsu, one of the oldest martial arts, but not as hard core. Judo has lots of wrestling moves. It also teaches participants how to make good decisions and be mentally strong. Judokas (judo players) focus on competition.

Karate comes from Japan, and means "empty hand." It's Japan's most popular martial art. Feet, legs, elbows, head, and fists get used for kicking, punching, defensive blocks, and more. Karate stresses defense and uses weapons.

Tae Kwon Do comes from Korea and means "the way of the foot and fist." It's famous for high kicks. Tae Kwon Do became Korea's national sport in 1955 and is now the world's most popular martial art.

Other martial arts include Aikido, Hwarang Do, Kung Fu, Jujitsu, Kendo, Ninjutsu, Northern and Southern Shaolin Boxing, Tai Chi, and T'an Su Do.

Interested? The first thing you need to do is to decide on the style you want to study. Do you want to enter tournaments, or simply know how to defend yourself? After that, just get into a good class! See Play It Safe for more info on choosing the right class.


If you open your hands wide and shove something, your force spreads out across your palm and fingers. But if you hold all of your fingers together and hit with only the side of your hand or your fingertips, that same amount of force goes to a much smaller area and the hit is harder. If you try this on yourself, you'll see the difference. Just don't beat yourself up too much!
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