While all activities that Manya is engaged in currently - art, swimming, dropoff school skills class - have been mostly driven by M herself, this is one thing that I consciously steered her towards - Martial Arts. I spoke to her about it and told her what she could expect and if she would be interested - she gladly said yes - anything to get out of the house for, I guess. She has watched KungFu panda and hopes to learn kung-fu soon. But oh well...
I firmly believe that children when involved in any kind of martial arts from an early age develop a positive body image - they learn to control and respect their body and become conscious of their own physical and mental strengths, a sense of discipline, respect for self and others and basic right and wrong. Actual self defense comes later. These are skills or values that a sport or a dance class would also inculcate - I was not very keen on pursuing these though because I feel she is too young to choose a specific sport and as for dance umm it requires some kind of innate skill- whereas martial arts is all acquired - i think that reinforces a greater sense of confidence in one's own ability and effort.
Sometime earlier this year, I finally found a school that completely aligns itself to my perspective. We had our first class today and I was absolutely thrilled - One, Manya loved the class and wants to continue. (I even asked her f she'd want to do a dancing class instead to which she very matter-of-factly replied - "I already know how to dance :P :D.").
Two, the class was structured exactly how I would have wanted - there's a lot of focus on physical posture, respectful behavior, and real life scenarios that require physical, mental and emotional processing.
I really hope M decides to pursue this long term - it does help that we got a brand new uniform and the white belt!