Sooner or later, most kids will find that one type of cartoon that has super-powered, battle-hardened warriors fighting against the evil bad guys for the sake of the universe. It’s an all-too-common trope, and the odds are that most of us grew up with a similar program when we were kids as well. For me, it was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I grew up wanting to be just like them, like many kids my age, and it wasn’t long before my parents enrolled me in a martial arts program. Of course, I was too young at the time, and I failed miserably, so it’s worth noting that you may want to wait until your child is at an age level where he or she can follow instructions and maintain attention. However, it was clearly the cartoon that brought me to the idea in the first place, and since there will always be shows pitting good against evil, it’s likely that your child is considering learning martial arts, too. If you’re looking to get your child into martial arts, it may be a good idea to consider integrating certain cartoons and anime into your child’s entertainment collection.
Anime is full of over-the-top fighting moves, huge energy blasts, and epic-scale combat, but it’s also filled with positive messages for children. Many of the writers and designers for battle anime purposefully create characters that are universally considered good and just; they stand up for what is right, and what they believe in. These characters, even though they’re fictionalized, serve as positive role models for our children. The main characters in battle anime often fight for their friends, stand up to bad guys (bullies), and refuse to be taken advantage of. These are all traits that we want our children to develop. Since our kids want to emulate the super-powered moves they see in the anime, they end up idolizing and revering these characters, and thus, they are prone to picking up on the positive traits of those characters as well.
It’s no surprise that many of these same traits are taught in martial arts. Martial arts is not just physical exercise, as many people might assume at first glance. Martial arts teaches discipline, focus, and an understanding for doing the right thing. This mirrors the traits found in the characters most often written in battle anime. Battle anime often depicts characters who are training in order to become stronger. When a child old enough to understand this concept sees this, he or she begins to comprehend the level of discipline required to learn how to protect themselves and what’s important to them, even if it’s only on a basic level.
Learning how to physically defend oneself is important for any child, but learning to stand up for yourself is a lesson every kid should learn. It’s fantastic that children often pick up on the desire to learn these traits though emulating their favorite heroes. Heroes have the traits we’d like our kids to have, and martial arts can teach them that. There’s no better combination than using anime and cartoons to influence your children into growing up to be like the heroes they want to be.
Some cartoons even fairly accurately depict the movements and techniques of real-life martial arts traditions. These are cartoons that rely on attention to detail and precise drawings of characters movements rather than choppy editing to create the effect of exciting combat. Here is a short list of cartoons that include well-choreographed martial arts sequences (please note that some animes involve mature themes, so it’s highly recommended you use your own judgment on what is appropriate for your kids).
Avatar: The Last Airbender – This award-winning cartoon, which originally aired on Nickelodeon, follows the adventures of twelve-year-old Ang and his friends as they travel through a fictional world trying to stop the destructive Fire Kingdom from its path to world domination. The show features very well choreographed fights inspired by various martial arts traditions including Hung Gar, Tai Chi, Northern Shaolin, and Ba Gua.
Moriboto: Guardian Of The Spirit – Based on the Japanese fantasy novel and manga of the same name, Moriboto follows the story of Balsa, a spearwoman who is hired to protect a young prince from his would-be assassins. This series features top notch weapons fighting that is exciting and easy to follow.
Cowboy Bebop – This science fiction series follows a crew of bounty hunter “cowboys” and their ship Bebop as they drift from job to job in the year 2071. Its 26 episodes follow a complete story arch that is not only well written and exciting, but appeals to both young and old audiences as it explores themes of existentialism, loneliness and the influences of the past on the present. Fighting in this series is relatively sparse, but when it appears, it is very well done.