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In film and TV, martial arts are too often depicted as gory, violent, and inherently aggressive – something that is simply not true. Unfortunately, this perceived image leads some parents to shy away from enrolling their children in martial arts. Although martial arts do contain a physical component, they also emphasize values more than many other sports and activities.
If you’re trying to convince a friend, peer or other acquaintance to allow their child to sign up for martial arts, or if you’re a parent weighing the merits of martial arts for your child, here are a few of the values that you should know about, that martial arts teaches.
In Korean, one of the many languages and cultures connected to martial arts, courage is expressed as Yong Gi (용기). The first character, yong, is enough in itself to denote the quality of bravery. The second character, gi, is the same that represents the energy of focus martial artists channel when they strike. Thus, the ‘courage’ definition that youth learn in martial arts is one which encompasses a certain spirit of bravery. It is not simply acting without fear, but is channeling an internal energy to act in spite of fear. Courage is a transferable skill, a moral value that allows students to set goals, overcome challenges, and meet success in the dojo and in everyday life.
One of the other key martial arts values is respect. Children are taught to respect the masters who came before them, their instructors, their peers, and themselves. Quality martial arts instructors focus on this value consistently, encouraging students to carry it with them beyond the studio. Self-respect and respect those both above and below them in status are essential character qualities that stick with kids throughout their lives.
Leadership is a value, a personal quality, and a fundamental skill. Some young people have inherent leadership qualities, while others develop them with proper mentorship and growth opportunities. Martial arts is a sport which encourages and stimulates young leaders with chances to help lower-level students reach their goals. With these skills, children can be empowered to take positive decisions and act as role models within their school, family, and community.
Discipline can be one of the most important martial arts values that transfers into other aspects of a child’s life. It goes beyond respect for authority who use correctional leadership and punishment, but rather focuses on self-discipline practices. In martial arts, the definition of ‘discipline’ doesn’t mean punishment, but the ability to control one’s emotions and short-term desires while productively working towards more meaningful long-term goals. In the dojo, this is instilled through the use uniforms, repeated practice of techniques, and use of respect-oriented customs which lead to greater focus and concentration.
When students work towards their goals and see themselves succeed, they begin to feel empowered with self-confidence. In this way, martial arts teaches children that hard work and focus can help them accomplish what they set out to do. Kids learn how to work with their own strengths and weaknesses and believe in their own abilities. They grow with self-assurance, a quality which makes them more confident in other aspects of life.
Martial arts also teach children the correct way to fail. Their coaches will warn them that they may not always win when they participate in tournaments or matches, and, on a smaller scale, they may have days where they struggle in class or find it difficult to learn a new move. Instead of getting discouraged, kids in martial arts learn to view failure as a learning experience. These kids will have the confidence to try more new things when they don’t see failure as something to fear.
The mental and physical challenges of martial arts require attentive focus from students. This is important for correctly learning a technique with diligent practice and for channeling one’s energy and strength. Like other martial arts values, focus is one that is needed for success beyond the dojo as well. When kids learn this skill in their martial arts class, they can begin to apply it to homework, chores, and other personal goal-setting as they move into adulthood.
7. Physical Fitness
Like other sports, martial arts keeps students physically fit. They also learn to value the quality of being fit, as it becomes necessary for reaching their goals and maintaining the other moral values imparted within the dojo. Various martial arts can include cardio workouts, strength training, relaxation skills, and flexibility. Healthy bodies also tend to have positive impacts on other aspects of life, such as increased energy levels throughout the day, effective concentration, and positive endorphins for good moods and healthy social interactions.
These crucial values and skills will impact a child far beyond the dojo. While self-defense skills are one of the more tangible outcomes of martial arts practice, positive morals contribute to lifelong character-building and development of soft skills for success.
If you’re a martial arts instructor and teach classes to children, make sure that you bring up these values when talking with parents of new or potential students. Actively promote them in your school, and both you and your students will reap the benefits.
Want to do something else great for your school? Attend the 2018 Martial Arts SuperShow in Las Vegas this July. You’ll learn tips for every facet of running a school, from student retention to instructor training. If you specialize in kids’ classes in particular, you also won’t want to miss child development expert Melody Shuman’s pre-con event, “The Ultimate Instructor Development Course for Anyone Teaching 3- to 6-Year-Olds!” This special 3-hour event gives you the tools you need to turn a good class into a great one.