“The martial arts are ultimately self-knowledge. A punch or a kick is not to knock the hell out of the guy in front, but to knock the hell out of your ego, your fear, or your hang-ups.”
- Bruce Lee
#1: They (and You) Will Get More Active
This is the obvious reason kids should do martial arts in this day and age - to get active and moving. In case you haven’t noticed, we have an epidemic when it comes to our nation’s obesity problem. We’re also increasingly unfit in addition to being overweight. The problem is particularly alarming as it relates to our kids. Youth sports and physical education programs are great, but not every kid is an athlete and many schools no longer offer PE. The martial arts offer many benefits, but when it comes to fitness, becoming a true martial artist means becoming a supremely fit person. Martial arts can help your child get fit and healthy.
#2: They’ll Learn to Find Focus and Stillness
Of the many challenges that parents face today, one is that we are constantly plugged in. While there are a great many benefits to the Internet, there are many more benefits in stillness and silence. Unfortunately stillness and silence seem to be rare to find. At some juncture in life, every one of us comes to learn that the greatest obstacle we face in this lifetime is ourselves. That battle is fought in the stillness of our hearts and the willingness to confront ourselves. As Bruce Lee pointed out, behind the punches, kicks, and knees, a true martial artist learns to sit with himself and see where his weaknesses are. As a martial artist, your child will learn what it is to be still, challenged, and focused.
#3: They’ll Learn to Take Hits
In the martial arts, your child will learn what it is to take a hit, whether that hit is a literal blow or a disappointment like failing a test.
Part of life is learning that we all take hits. The key is in learning how best to take that hit and get back up. Unfortunately, this lesson seems to be lost on many in our every-kid-gets-a-trophy culture. In the martial arts, your kid will learn to fail - a lot. But most importantly, they will learn that if you fail it is the first step to learning.
Personally, I want my girls to fail or lose at competition. Why? Because they learn that next time they need to prepare and try harder. I won’t always be there to protect them, so I do my best to prepare them not to let disappointment or failure defeat them.
#4: They’ll Gain Self Confidence and Self Respect
Part of being a martial artist is learning confidence and respect for yourself and others. Sometimes the other students are bigger or smaller that you. Playing with the big kids also gives all of us a little reminder of humility - someone is always bigger and stronger. If you’re the smaller one, it teaches you to find your voice and not cower just because someone is bigger than you.
The right martial arts school will teach your child that there are no tough guys. Every martial artist ultimately learns this sense of respect and true confidence. Your child will learn that confidence and respect for others comes from a deep sense of self-knowledge.
#5: They’ll Connect Their Mind and Body
What they don’t teach you at your local health club is how to really listen to your body. To listen to your body is to also see your thoughts and have heightened awareness of your emotional construct.
A martial artist is taught to see, feel, and listen - both internally and externally. Tapping into intuition, fear, and courage are examples of being able to put the physical together with the mental. How often have we heard the phrase “being paralyzed with fear”? Being able to combat such a thing is what you learn in the martial arts.
#6: They’ll Learn Conflict Resolution
People often ask me whether I have ever used my martial arts training in a fight. Indeed I have used the skills learned from martial arts many times to resolve conflict, but thankfully, never in a physical altercation outside the ring.
One of the things we learn is that words are not a reason to fight. That advice right there has saved me many times. In the martial arts, you learn that there is no such thing as “fighting” words. Instead, you learn to respond without reacting in the martial arts.
Having the self awareness and confidence to know you can walk away is the best self defense.
#7: They’ll Learn to Breathe
Of the many things I have learned in the martial arts and boxing, breathing is near the top. You can tell how someone fights just by observing how he or she breathes.
Indeed, nothing is more essential to the success of how we move our body than tapping into the life force of our essence - our breath. Ask a professional athlete, or an actor, dancer, or signer, and they will tell you that to succeed in any physical craft is to access your breath correctly.
I am shocked at times working with adults who never learned to breathe properly when under physical exertion. This skill can literally save your life. In the martial arts your kid will learn the essence of how to breathe and even relax under pressure. Which is also essential for any test taking or performance.