As a Martial Arts instructor for the last 35 years I have seen a great many children walk through the doors of our studio. Some come through with no idea of what they are coming into, their parents have heard that Martial Arts training will be good for their child and in they come. Quite often we get children turn up and crumple in a heap of nerves, never getting close to walking on the mat, where five minutes before they have been all up for starting to train, the idea being more powerful than the actual act of doing.
So what is it about training in the Martial Arts that parents find so appealing?
Well the reasons are varied and apart from the obvious of wanting them to be able to defend themselves, it could be that their child is very shy and timid and needs to gain confidence and self esteem, they may need to learn how to be more socially active and engaging with other children. It could be that the child is unruly and mis-behaves and in need of discipline and respect. Or maybe they are a little lazy and unfit, too much TV and/or X-Box/Play Station in their lives. Whatever the reason, one of the base effects of martial arts training on a child is an increase in confidence and self-esteem. It has been said that confidence is a child’s first weapon.
Of course we must not forget that one of the common reasons, that unfortunately we see way too often, is that age-old problem of bullying and to understand this subject in a lot more detail please refer to my earlier blog on this site, which delves a little deeper into this complex subject.
In our organisation, we know the benefits and how to achieve these aims, our motto is “BUILDING CHARACTER THROUGH MARTIAL ARTS” as good character contains everything that the majority of parents strive to embed in their child’s life. Having respect for themselves and others and discipline in all areas of their lives, including self discipline. Being thoughtful and caring to others, helping others, having fun, but knowing when to be serious. Ensuring a child is confident and socially active ensures a good transition into adulthood and sets them up for a lifetime.
This brings me to one of the most critical and pivotal points in any child’s training and that’s the relationship and interaction between all three parties involved and yes, have no doubt about it, there are three! The instructor, the student and the parent, without all three working together it’s all too easy for apathy to set in and a child’s training to drop off. Once this sets in the child begins to fall behind others in his group and ultimately loses interest, but really this is just an excuse, as without support from their parents in bringing them regularly to training and keeping them on that path, they are not able to keep up with their peers and so begin to hide behind excuses as to why they do not want to train anymore, so parental support is an absolute crucial element and must not be undertaken lightly when deciding to start your child learning any martial arts discipline.
It could be argued that the two most important qualities taught within the Martial arts is respect and discipline and the two things that are lacking in many of our mainstream Schools in today’s age is exactly that! Every child needs to have an understanding of these qualities, without them they are heading down a path that we have all too often seen. You know the one! the one that bullies, uses profanities, stays out late, never listens to authority, starts smoking & drinking at an early age and don’t think for a minute that your child is too young for some of these. The really fortunate thing is that once set on this path, changing it is not as hard as you think, they just need the right motivation and support.
Notice that up to now the one thing that I have not mentioned is that Martial Art training teaches a child to “fight” and that’s because fighting is the very last thing that we want our young students doing. In our organisation, if we find out that any of our students are misusing their skills, then they enter a strict warning schedule, with the 3 strike rule ending in them being asked to leave. Having said that, our aim is to teach a very efficient and effective method of fighting that can hold its own with and exceed any other Martial Art, if the need arises, this results in a very confident and socially aware child. We teach every child to become aware using the color codes of awareness. This Code of Awareness has its origins in the U.S. Military, it was adapted by the late Jeff Cooper, USMC(ret) and founder of Gunsite and is used in many martial art schools today. Condition White, for instance, is where you are completely self absorbed with your own thoughts, you may be engaged in a phone call, listening to music on your earphones while walking down the street, this is when you will get taken by surprise. The last thing that most people would do is walk across a busy road with no regard for the danger it possesses, yet so many walk the streets today oblivious to the dangers that surround us. Avoiding this state could be the difference between getting home or not.
There are so many different martial arts out there today, that makes choosing one to achieves a parent’s aims a lottery, so a word of advice, research what you are entering into. Make sure that you are happy with what could be one of the most important decisions you make in your child’s life. There are many martial arts organisations out there with Instructors of limited experience with no lineage, that have no defined syllabi for different ages, choosing to teach the same material to every age group, including adults!! That’s like sending your child to school where there is only one class room and everyone gets taught the same thing! It is so important to ensure that each child achieves within their group, has goals to work for, yet is not in over their heads. Most parents and even some martial arts instructors themselves have no idea what damage can occur when maladaptive behaviour is taught to children, it is therefore so important that whatever martial art you choose has the necessary knowledge and experienced established Instructors to not only teach your child to protect themselves, but to do so in a safe and effective manner with attention paid to correct biomechanical movement as well as having a sense of respect, self-esteem and confidence to live their lives fully.
The value of Martial Arts training and your child’s future and confidence is so often never seen, hopefully this will help parents appreciate how important the decision is to start your child on their Martial Arts path of learning and the level of commitment that is required.