Sports & Activities

Improve Self-Esteem, Focus, and Coordination with Karate

Your child doesn’t need a black belt to battle ADHD—martial arts can develop coordination, boost confidence, and improve focus.

Children with ADHD practicing martial arts in studio
Children with ADHD practicing martial arts in studio

Martial arts teacher Rodger Pyle was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (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 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 ADHD can achieve exceptional results.

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 kids with ADHD 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.”


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.

Leave a Reply