I have been a youth Martial Arts coach for well over 14 years. I have my B.A. in Psychology and I consider myself to be an expert in Martial Arts, even more so when it comes to kids in Martial Arts. I just read an article about kids in Martial arts. Others share my consideration because I have been around kids when interviewed about participating in Martial Arts by very well known media groups as well as producers. I could go into way more detail, but that isn’t the purpose of this blog. The purpose of my previous statements was to simply let readers know that I am qualified to express my professional and personal opinions about this subject.
Back to the business of this article I read. First I will go over all of the reasons they gave. Reason number one was that they (and you) will get more active. With this being true, it doesn’t necessarily differentiate Martial Arts from other sports or activities. Playing football, baseball, basketball, or any sport would obviously make them more active. To me, Martial Arts does encourage more activity than if your child would have otherwise been watching TV or playing video games. Is this a good reason to get your child in Martial Arts? Certainly it is if your child is not normally active.
Reason number two was that they will find focus and stillness. I can say that this may be true for most Martial Arts but I do object a little to this statement. Stillness AND focus? Focus certainly will have to be utilized if a child wants to excel at anything. Having a child focus on technique or remembering movements is a positive for sure. Stillness is the word I have a little trouble with. If you are speaking about Karate forms, you will deal with stillness, however when we are talking about martial arts like Jiu-Jitsu or Judo, stillness isn’t what your child is being taught. I guess there is context to this statement, but stillness is probably taught better in school than a Martial Arts studio. Teaching focus is a great reason, but stillness is limited to a very few Martial Arts.
Reason number three was an interesting one to me, and I quote “They’ll learn to take hits.” When considering Martial Arts, I always include wrestling and boxing. Your child will most certainly learn to take hits in most Martial Arts, but there are several that do not concentrate on striking an opponent. There are no strikes in Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Wrestling, or Submission Grappling. Maybe a better reason would have been that it would toughen them up in ways. Learning to take a hit or deal with pain (that isn’t an actual injury) can certainly add character as well as teach kids that not everything that happens to us will mean the end of the world. I agree with the philosophy behind the notion, but not with the practicality.
I agree fully with reason number four although it does put two concepts in the same reason. The article says that they will gain self confidence and self respect. These are two terms that are separate virtues.
Confidence and respect are not the same.
With that point aside, I agree that all Martial Arts, when taught correctly, help kids gain confidence in themselves. A child that has skills to defend themselves fears less. They fear social interaction with other kids less, they fear the potential of being bullied less, they fear authority less, and they fear impending failure less. Martial Arts is full of success and failure, so that is a lesson they learn. Self respect is a more difficult notion to sell but if you have respect for yourself, you will have more respect for the people and objects around you. Picking up after yourself, good hygiene, leadership, and sociability are taught in Martial Arts and all can help build self-respect.
This blog is getting long, so, to be continued next week…