As you plan your programming, you want to add camp activities that are educational, constructive, and fun. Self-defense is one of the best lessons your campers can learn because it has so many real-life benefits.

Other than the physical benefits of learning basic martial arts, like balance, flexibility, and body awareness, it can also help kids develop more self-confidence. The most important reason to introduce kids to basic techniques, however, is to help them learn to defend themselves in an emergency situation.

“Self-defense is important for anyone, including children, especially in today's fast-moving world where kids are more independent than ever, they ought to know how to protect themselves and look out for danger,” according to Jeremy Pollack, a self-defense expert from The Home Security Superstore.

Pollack continues, “That being said, kids' martial arts classes are important for a number of other important life lessons as well, including discipline, respect, courage, humility, and honor.”

Test the idea with a one-time self-defense workshop for campers. Use the following tips to plan it for the first time.

Choose an Experienced Instructor

From Taekwondo to Jiu Jitsu, there are many “fighting” or self-defense styles. Which one is the best for a large group of campers of varying ages and skill levels? The best rule of thumb is to keep it simple because you have a limited amount of time and want your campers to learn the essentials.

Vet potential instructors by meeting with local martial arts and self-defense professionals, looking specifically for teachers who have experience working with kids.

Go over your goals for the program and share as many details as possible: How many campers will you have? How long do you want it to be? Do you want to offer more if this one goes well? This will help the instructor plan his or her lessons, determine if he or she has the appropriate gear or materials, and enlist other instructors, if necessary.

Communicate With Campers’ Parents

Make sure your campers’ parents know that you plan to hold a self-defense workshop. Stress your goal to parents: teach kids basic self-defense—the focus is not on fighting or violence. “Some parents may think they [martial arts] also promote violence, but that's a myth,” says Alison Hendrie from parenting. “The martial arts actually help teach self-discipline and socialization skills.”

Also, encourage the parents to remind their kids that self-defense should only be used in emergency situations. The kids should never use the punches, kicks, or strikes they learn to initiate a fight or harm another person if they aren’t in danger themselves.  While the instructor will stress this during the workshop, it helps if the parents can reinforce at home as well.

Set Ground Rules

It’s important that the campers know they can practice self-defense only during the allotted time for the workshop. This means they shouldn’t use any of the techniques they learn on their fellow campers.

Don’t forget to pair this with a discussion about real-life applications of the various techniques. A good instructor will likely have this built into their workshop plans, with opportunities to talk about unsafe scenarios and developing greater situational awareness.

“Situational awareness is being aware of your surroundings, the place you’re at, the actions of others, especially furtive actions,” according to Tyra from Preparedness Mama. “Teaching situational awareness can be lifesaving for your children.”

Continue the Lesson

While the campers can learn basic self-defense techniques during a workshop, they’ll only scratch the surface of what martial arts has to offer. They’ll need additional classes and practice to master the techniques and reap the major benefits. There are two ways to continue the learning:

  • See if the instructor will offer discounted classes for campers if they want to continue learning on their own. A martial arts class is a constructive after-school activity that can help a child develop physical strength, mental toughness, and discipline.
  • Bring another workshop to camp, or start a series of self-defense workshops throughout the summer so campers can keep practicing and learning.

With a little planning and research, you can use self-defense workshops to teach kids how to protect themselves and build self-confidence in every camper. Test it with one initial session. Assess the value and determine whether it should be a mainstay for campers for the rest of the summer.

Maile Proctor is a professional blogger and content editor. She’s a former associate editor of’s Fitness channel and has written about youth sports and fitness for Athlete Network and Nike Women’s Blog. She earned her Bachelor's in Broadcast Journalism from Chapman University and when she's not writing, she enjoys working out, running and hiking. Follow her on Twitter @Maile_Proctor.

Photo courtesy of Asphalt Green Summer Day Camp in New York, NY.