As a self-defence / martial arts Instructor, this topic crops up once in a while and so I thought it best to write about it so to pre-empt the question but also to give parents a little heads up which is only the right thing to do considering what an important part they will be playing in their child’s martial arts training.
As a parent, we always try our utmost to do what’s best for our child…….I know as I too am a parent. However, our actions as parents naturally depend upon our own knowledge of things and it is not right for me as a martial arts Instructor to assume that each and every parent will already know all the benefits that martial arts training brings, especially as most parents have never had martial arts training themselves.
For many parents, a martial arts class is simply another activity which their child is doing to pass time and have fun in and is not so different to other activities. Tell this to a martial arts Instructor, and they will most certainly cringe inside. This is not out of some superiority complex or some false sense of ego. This feeling comes from having ‘real’ personal experience of both training in martial arts themselves and also in teaching martial arts and seeing the many different changes it brings into a student’s life.
To give you my own personal experience as both a martial artist and a parent, I have told all of my children that martial arts training for them is not an option. For them it is a necessity, so much so that for them to even play one hour of Xbox, they must first do two hours of training. Why?:
- Well first of all, they’re not just sitting around in front of the TV but are actually getting off of their backsides and doing some great exercise and becoming physically stronger.
- They are also increasing their level of body mechanics and movement.
- And most of all, they are honing their self defence skills to be able to better handle a physical confrontation which in turn also helps them to better be able to handle a verbal confrontation, all of this massively boosting their overall confidence and self-belief.
- And the great thing is that all of these benefits are easily transferrable and do in fact have a positive impact into other areas of life, be that at school, doing another sport, for a job interview, at work, in a relationship etc.
There are countless of benefits for a child (and even an adult) to train in self-defence and martial arts, benefits which are both mental and physical. But the amazing thing is that it doesn’t just stop there because on top of this all, we then also have the other great benefits of character building such as inculcating respect, discipline, humility, inward strength and so on. Having done various activities and sports throughout my life, I can wholeheartedly say that there is no other activity that produces so many positive results within a person than training in martial arts does!
I personally see on a regular basis how with martial arts training a shy child who can hardly say a word to me at first, is able to then speak in front of an entire audience, or how an overactive (and even troublesome) child slowly begins to learn how to control themselves in a more positive manner, or when I hear from a parent how proud yet surprised they are of their child standing up to a bully because they would have never imagined their child being able to do that before.
So once again, no other activity in my experience or knowledge to date can produce these same amazing results as martial arts training repeatedly does, time and time again.
But then what happens when your child has started their martial arts training and after a while decides that they no longer wish to continue? What do you do at this point?
Do you simply agree with the child or do you speak to them and help them to understand the need to continue and how it will benefit them?
The first thing to remember is that this feeling is very natural as there are times in all of our lives when we don’t feel like doing something even though we may love doing it really. For example, children love playing games but there are times when they are just not in the mood to play. Most people love going out but at times just want to stay at home. It doesn’t mean that they have stopped loving playing or going out, it simply means that at that particular moment in time, they just didn’t feel like doing it and this is a very human trait to find.
Our job as parents is to continue encouraging the child to still go for their martial arts class and most likely what you will find is that when they are there, they will have completely forgotten about not wanting to have come and will end up enjoying the class and having a great time. I even have adult students who occasionally tell me that they had a really hard day at work and initially felt too tired to come to their class but then were so glad that they did because they really enjoyed it and was a great stress relief for them.
The other thing to keep in mind is that children often do not know what is good for them and it is up to us parents to guide them and at times make them do what is best for them. We as parents do it all the time:
- We make them eat their vegetables.
- We monitor how much time they spend watching TV.
- We make them do their homework.
- We make them go to sleep on time.
- We make them go to school even when they don’t want to.
So as you can see, we already make our children do so many other things in life which they at times may not want to do and we do this because as parents we first understand ourselves the need and the benefits in doing so i.e. we have the right knowledge. So when a parent begins to understand the true value of martial arts training, it really does make all the difference to a child’s training in the long run. And this can only be a good thing, especially when the world in which we are living in is becoming not only more dangerous but also more competitive and more stressful in so many ways.
As one parent said to me, “the best gift one can give to their child is to teach them how to stick up for themselves”. If one takes a moment to really think about this statement, they will realise just how deep and profound it truly is.
I hope this article has given you a little more insight into the world of good you are doing for your child by giving them such wonderful training. And I am not saying this because I am a martial arts Instructor myself……I am saying this as a father of three children, all of whom train in martial arts and will continue to do so.
Thanks for reading and please feel free to share!