Martial Arts for ADHD Children: Improve Self-Esteem, Focus, and Coordination

A martial arts instructor explains the many mental health benefits ADHD children experience when participating in this kind of sport.

Rodger Pyle's Teaching Tips for Students with ADHD

Sensei's Teaching Tips

*Provide structure and stay positive.

*Tell students to “show you” to redirect them.

*Keep students busy by giving them jobs.

*Give short directions and demonstrations.

*Be teachable -- watch and learn.


Martial arts teacher Rodger Pyle was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) as a child, but he didn’t let it hold him back. “The public school didn’t know how to channel my energy, but I knew I could learn. I needed direction,” he says. Pyle found direction in martial arts. It gave him the confidence to work toward his goals.

Today, at the USA Seibukan Martial Arts Training Center, in Columbus, Ohio, he helps kids with ADD/ADHD achieve success. “My job is to look beyond a student’s diagnosis and find ways to motivate him while playing up his strengths,” says Pyle. Pyle knows from personal and professional experience that, with direction, students with ADD/ADHD can achieve exceptional results.

ADD/ADHD-Friendly Instruction

“I tell my instructors that they can’t just do what’s easiest for them, they must do what’s best for the student,” he says. Pyle incorporates visual, auditory, and kinesthetic cues into his instruction, and keeps his directions and demonstrations short. When a child is distracted, Pyle redirects him by having him show a “ready stance.” The rapid pace of the classes -- and the moves practiced -- keep students alert and focused.

Studies show that a complex physical activity, like martial arts, strengthens neural networks in the brain, and enables ADD/ADHD kids to practice self-control. Movement helps them develop coordination while building strength.

My daughter, Beckie, took classes with Pyle. He noticed that she talked throughout the class. Rather than punish Beckie, Pyle listened to what she was saying. “She encouraged and instructed other students,” Pyle says. So he used her strengths by pairing her with students who needed extra help. Beckie gained confidence. Today, she is a black belt and works with Pyle as he teaches classes.

Another secret of Pyle’s success? He lets kids know he enjoys being with them. “These students are fun and engaging, and they make me laugh,” he says. “With understanding and direction, they will achieve their dreams.”

More on Sports and Exercise for ADD/ADHD Children

ADD/ADHD Parenting Advice: Boosting Your Child's Self Esteem Through Sports
Tae Kwon Do as ADD/ADHD Therapy
How Exercise Impacts ADD/ADHD
Game On: Picking Sports for ADD/ADHD Children


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TAGS: Behavior in ADHD Kids, ADHD and Discipline, Sports for ADHD Children, Exercise and ADHD

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