Sunday, 22 July 2012

Choosing a Martial Arts Class - Children

Martial Arts can help kids develop a strong sense of self


’ve taught - and continue to teach - martial arts to a lot of children. 1,000s over the years, some of them as young as 3.

They all have come to my classes via 2 ways. Either the child has chosen to join (friends already in the class; everyone says it’s cool; the influence of movies, TV and video games; pushing back against bullies; making herself stronger).

Or a parent has decided that my martial arts class might have a positive influence on his or her child because -

1.  He needs the self confidence

2.  She’s too shy

3.  He needs the socialization skills

4.  She’s being bullied

5.  He needs to learn to focus (ADHD, low marks in school, etc).

6.  She’s too much of a follower, influenced too easily by others

7.  Exercise (He doesn’t like competitive or team sports)

8.  She has anger management problems and/or is a bully

9.  He’s sad, keeps to himself (a change in the child’s life)

10.  She’s new in the neighbourhood and needs to make new friends

11.  Health problems

12.  Looking for the competitive side of martial arts (tournaments)

Kids can develop strong friendships in  a class


The trick is to achieve a balance in expectations - between the child, the parent and the instructor, so that everyone involved has a clear view of the directions the child will be going. And most importantly that the child is comfortable - and happy - attending the class.

In my experience, I found that -

1.  Children generally move about in a world that isn’t specifically designed for them - doors, chairs, tables, cars, buses…everything they touch is ergonomically designed for big people. Except perhaps places inside nurseries and schools.

Everything is bigger than they are.

All important decisions - and most of the minor ones as well - are made for them 24 hours a day…where they live, how they dress, what they eat, what school they attend, what they should learn.

Today they have a place (a home, friends, a feeling that they belong); tomorrow they may be totally uprooted (parents are splitting up; there’s a For Sale sign out on the lawn).

Classes should be a happy experience


2.  They are powerless - except for their ability to cry, run or hide. From a very early age, many children develop a liking for dinosaurs, tigers, lions, snakes ….creatures that are big and powerful. Better yet, they anthropomorphize these creatures: they talk, they do human things, they by-pass the humans in the child’s life and speak directly to the child.

Martial arts can build self confidence


3.  Children articulate their feelings and events in their lives in different ways. They often don’t have the experience to let others know directly how they feel about something that has happened to them. That experience is acquired, and sometimes comes at a cost.

They’ll “act up”, withdraw, draw the event with a crayon instead of speaking about it, confide in a pet instead of an adult - because the pet speaks any language that the child speaks, even a private language.

(I’ve taught many military families. When one parent is deployed, 3 and 5 year olds, even the older ones, will exhibit a wide range of changed behaviour. Often, they’ll have trouble listening to the other parent, or focusing in school. As soon as the parent on deployment returns, the child’s behaviour changes back to normal).

So, martial arts instructors, those are the little people that are coming in through your door!

And that’s why teaching children is so rewarding. An instructor can help that child coming through the door achieve her or his fullest potential as a human being. And can help that child find a place of importance in the world.

In the next post, I’ll list some things parents should look for in a martial arts class.

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