Why martial arts?
Almost exactly 6 years ago I decided to repaint our front sitting room and put our martial arts values on the wall. At the time, one of the families in our martial arts classes for kids time owned a sign shop and was generous enough to create great vinyl lettering for the wording. Soon Confidence, Respect, Discipline, and Focus in shiny white letters were the first thing anyone saw when they entered our location. I did it because something unexpected had begun happening. When I asked a new student what they wanted to achieve through their martial arts classes the answer “I haven’t thought about it” was becoming common. One lady particularly stands out for her honesty, “I’m just looking for someplace I can drop my kid off for an hour”. To resolve this I wanted to be clear about what exactly we use our martial arts classes for at USA Karate Shakopee and I figured what could be better than to plaster it on the wall right by the front door. It worked perfectly.
The point is, martial arts training has tremendous benefits and provides an opportunity to develop critical life skills, especially for young children. Yes, we play games, build friendships, do obstacle courses etc. But, the core of our training is about the values mentioned above. We like to tell our students we’re striking a balance between serious and silly.
We often ask our students “What’s 1 + 1?”. Of course they always shout back “2!”. That is the essence of confidence. Knowing you know it. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to know everything to be confident. Instead, it’s about knowing you can learn to do it. That’s why martial arts training is so great for building confidence. It provides a graduated curriculum which is fun, helps to reduce stress, and provides legitimate but achievable challenges. Success inspires success.
I used to tell students in my martial arts classes the definition of respect was to treat others the way the student would like to be treated. I never really felt like that was quite right, though. Partly because we wanted our students to be better at respect than everyone else and not just settle for doing whatever made them feel good at the time. Eventually, I realized what we wanted was for our students to learn to build trust in others. We wanted our students to know how to build people up with actions and words. As a result we spend a lot of time training with partners and doing group activities so our students learn how to work with others and leverage that interaction into achievement.
Self-control matters. It’s easy to do something which makes you feel good but everything comes with a down side. Even your most favorite activity will sometimes be frustrating. At some point we all need to develop past the “Fun” mindset and learn to focus on the “Why”. Martial arts provides opportunities for exactly that growth. The training is definitely fun but it’s also mentally and physically challenging. Students are given achievable standards which they train at until met. Sometimes it’s easy and other times they have to spend extra effort getting it right. Once they do, though, they attend graduation and receive their next belt knowing it matters because they earned it. A traditional symbol of martial arts progress to wear with pride while they turn their attention to the next milestone.
The power of focus is one of magnification. Directing the greatest amount of your personal capabilities onto a task until it’s completed. Distractions are evermore available with phones, tablets, social media, and all of the awesome forms of entertainment at our fingertips. Learning to filter those distractions out and focusing on the task at hand is a critical skill which children often don’t get a chance to develop during their early years. Attending a martial arts class provides specific direction and structure to help students mentally focus. Even when punching or kicking pads, students are taught to look exactly at their target and direct all of their effort into hitting it perfectly every time.
The benefits of martial arts training really are extensive and there for the taking. Train with purpose. Wanting to do something fun and awesome is a great goal but remember to identify the other ways martial arts training can help you grow and take time to appreciate your progress as you do.