Why I’m Glad My Kids Chose Martial Arts
As the one, rather uncoordinated kid in a highly sports driven family, I did what any uncoordinated kid would do, and took up competitive swimming. Although my parents were far more comfortable in a hockey rink, than poolside, they fully supported my athletic endeavours. It is thanks to their support, that I reached a fairly high level of competition in both swimming and triathlon. I consider myself very lucky to have had the experiences I had in swimming and triathlon, which even include meeting my husband. Now, since I ended up marrying a fellow triathlete, most people probably assumed naturally, that we would have little triathlete kids, the thought may have even crossed my mind once or twice. However, here’s the thing, I believe I truly fell in love and committed to the sport of swimming because, I chose my path. My parents had allowed me the freedom to do so, and I fully intended to pay that forward for my kids. As it turns out, my kids settled on Muay Thai, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, both of which are forms of martial arts, and I for one, couldn’t be happier. In fact, I thought I should share with you why I think martial arts are so great.
For the Fun of It
There are many reasons, especially now a days with schools slowly cutting back on physical education, for your kids to get into organized sports. Luckily there are plenty of organizations who have caught onto this need, and offer a multitude of programs for your kids. That being said, it can be rather hard to choose between all these programs, how are you to know what the best fit is for your child? In my experience, the first thing you should ask yourself is, does my child enjoy this sport or activity? Each child is unique, and their reasons for choosing a sport may be as unique as they are, but basically you can break it down into four categories. The categories are as follows: social, sensation, success, and self-direction, and most kids are some combination of the four. I could probably spend a whole article breaking down these aspects, but for now that’s just say that addressing these areas is built in to most martial arts training already. That being said, perhaps you are more concerned with your child appreciating the value of exercise and discipline, and I would not discredit that. In fact, plenty of people seek out martial arts for their children because it builds discipline. If a child loves what they are doing though, they will generally choose for themselves to be more disciplined, to commit and to make sacrifices further down the road when they run into real challenges; they will build self-discipline! Those are the reason I believe fun is so important, but I don’t think I have to tell you why martial arts is such an easy sell for kids. Aside from crossing off the four categories of interest previously mentioned, martial arts has a huge influence in the media, in a good way! After all what kid wouldn’t want to emulate the superhero moves they see in the movies, and as parents, who would want to use that to your advantage.
If your child has already shown an interest in martial arts, you’re in luck, because martial arts looks at developing the child as a whole. By the child as a whole, I do mean martial arts aims to take into account more than just your child’s physical well being, but I will touch on that later. For now let’s focus on the physical, because as I mentioned earlier physical education in schools is not what it once was, which leaves parents looking for something to supplement that with. This is, of course, is easier said then done. From a financial and/or time management perspective, it can seem overwhelming to try to give your child the foundations they will need for a lifetime of physical activity. Many organizations out there are taking the increased participation in organized sports as a chance to push kids into specializing too soon, whereas, Canadian Sport for Life specifically warns against it, even if your end goal is to have your child be competitive. That doesn’t mean you have to put your child in every sport imaginable just to make sure you’ve got all your bases covered. But it is wise to choose a program that can ensure your child is building some solid foundations for their future physical endeavours. In martial arts, your child will develop a good base in the fundamental skills required for many sports, skills such as; coordination, balance, speed, agility and focus. Martial arts includes a wide range of movements and skills that will give your child options to choose to specify later, weather in martial arts or some other athletic pursuit.
Now that we’ve examined the physical benefits for your child, let’s take a look at how martial arts integrates their mental and emotional well being. Mentorship has long been the tradition in martial arts. By mentorship, I’m not talking solely about a one on one relationship between student and master. What I am referring to, is the system for learning in martial arts that, not only believes in passing on knowledge from one generation to another, but in offering up real guidance for students through and experienced teacher. When a child learns to not only ask, what can I get out of this? but also learns to ask what do I have to offer? You start to enter the realm of mental and emotional well being. Martial arts will demand more from your child, but it demands it in a way that builds your child’s self-esteem and self-confidence. The most common method is to focus on helping out those younger, or less experienced, which gives kids the chance to, slowly and with guidance, teach others. Trust me this is a practical and established way to build children up; as a parent and coach I have seen this practice fall to the waste side in far to many areas, where adults have taken to micro-managing the children. Thankfully martial arts has hung on to the long standing tradition, and it remains great way to engage all those involved.
Individual Pursuit, Team Environment
So we have covered some key areas to your child’s development and how martial arts benefits it, but I know there will be those out there who insist that team sports are the best or only way to foster co-operation in your child. Growing up as a competitive swimmer and cross-country runner, you might argue, makes me bias; However, I firmly believe that individual sports gets a bad rap when it comes to this debate. Most people don’t realize the amount of team work that goes into training for an individual sport. All the preparation the athlete must do, especially for younger athletes, requires training with others. Often times this means training with some of your fiercest competition, which is a great opportunity, because it is a lot easier for children to respect their competition when they are working and sweating side by side. It also most likely means co-ed training, which in my opinion offers up a world of benefits to both boys and girls. In my experience training on and coaching co-ed teams I have noticed the genuine and mutual respect between the sexes, that actually increases as they age. This is something I took for granted as an athlete, but as a mother, knowing how much people worry about their children dating, and how surprised they are at how little this phases me (yes even with my daughter), I have realized how beneficial it is. And let me be clear it benefits both genders equally, the easiest way to look at it is to compare it to training with your competition, respect is a lot more easily gained when you are witness to someone’s talent and hard work on a daily basis. Yes at the end of the day, martial arts is an individual pursuit, but that’s not a bad thing, it teaches them about ownership, responsibility, and how to think like an individual, all great traits if you ask me.
Life Long Pursuit
Last, but certainly not least, martial arts is a life long pursuit. This last reason essentially ties everything together, because it is the reason martial arts has incorporated all these different aspects. The true aim of martial arts is not to beat out all your competitors, or to win as many trophies as you can. The true aim of martial arts is to strive everyday to be better than you were the day before, not just physically, but intellectually and emotionally as well. Martial arts isn’t over when you’ve captured a world championship, or snagged a college scholarship, it sticks with you, in your habits and in your values. Those are the things I know my kids will truly come to appreciate when they grow up. They say it takes village to raise a child, and I couldn’t agree more, I also couldn’t be more thankful for our martial arts community and their efforts in helping raise my kids to be the best that they can be!