By John Parke
Admit it. When the going gets tough at home, we've all plopped the kids in front of the television and breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, we can get started on dinner, maybe check email or sort that massive pile of laundry.
But when your five-year old yells at you "Mom, Kids Rule!" or your ten-year old horrifies you with language that would make a sailor blush, you realise there must be something amiss with what these "family programs" really teach our kids. And sadly, its happening all over the media today, from sports to cartoons, and our children are learning things that we, as parents, vowed we would never teach them. Old fashioned values like respect and self-discipline, seems to have been forgotten, replaced by the dreaded "bling bling" pop culture of today.
Just the thought of your angelic three-year old morphing into a designer-clad, smart-mouthed, money-worshipping, me-obsessed lay-about is enough to make any parent consider that threatening military school brochure, but there is a solution out there to consider.
From Ninja Turtles to The Karate Kid
You and your kids have all seen the flying kicks, battle cries and mighty chops of their favorite TV characters, as they beat the bad guys to submission - but, you may ask, how on earth can these acts of violence teach my child anything worthwhile?
First, know that what you see on television (save perhaps the Karate Kid) is a far cry from what real martial arts are all about. The fact is, martial arts training is based on non-violence.
Originating in Asia (mainly Japan, China and Korea, although Thailand and Vietnam have their own practices as well), martial arts range from a variety of types and styles, all of which are based on well-rounded, moral teachings. The beauty of learning martial arts is that it encompasses not just the physical aspect of the "sport", but mental and emotional lessons as well.
Comparing that to other kid's activities and sports, where fierce competitiveness and "winning at all costs" seems to be the order of the day, it's not surprising that many children grapple with issues of self-esteem and misplaced aggression.
Now imagine your child actually learning valuable life lessons, skills that he will take throughout life, laying the foundation for a happy, well-adjusted and fulfilled adult life. If only karate for kids was popular in the 70's, when I was growing up!
Kung-Fu Master or Ninja Warrior?
Before you sign up Junior for the first martial arts class you see, take some time to check out the different methods available, and match it with what you know would suit your child best (see Choosing a Martial Arts Style and Club). This is a good way to avoid any problems that may sprout from a conflict of your child's personality and the training techniques.
Is your little Zach a sensitive soul? Then maybe a class that doesn't center on sparring (fighting) but rather, slower, defensive maneuvers would fare better for him. Kids with an aggressive streak, however, may prefer the more forceful moves and thrive in competitive sparring.
Here's a quick primer on the kid-friendly martial arts training you're likely to find:
If you have an idea of the type of martial arts class you'd like your child to participate in, the next step would be to find the right school. Finding the right class that not only matches your child's and your needs, in terms of teachers you feel comfortable with, the price, facilities and so on, are all important factors.
Say you've found a local place that specialises in Karate for Kids. What are the things you should look for?
1. Good Instructors
Check out their qualifications, teaching methods and watch carefully how they interact with the other children. It should be a fun learning experience!
2. Space and Safety
Obviously you would want to entrust your child in as establishment that is safe, well-maintained, and clean with ample space as well as decent facilities and equipment.
3. School Values
Different martial arts schools inevitably go by different values, for instance, one kid's karate class may handle aggression in one way, while a judo class would have a different approach. Take some time to observe which school's ideals match your family's principles.
4. Prices and Schedules
Prices for martial arts training can vary according to school and location, so make sure you the instruction you choose represents fair value. Finding the most effective way to fit martial arts training into your family's lifestyle is also essential, knowing what works best with your schedule and other activities.
Starting your child young in karate training is ideal (children as young as the age of four are usually accepted, as it is also a good way to hone fine motor skills), and lots of parents have found that in as little as a year, their children who were involved in martial arts had noticeably gained positive traits such as increased self-esteem, respect and overall physical fitness.
Ironically, many parents also opt to join martial arts once they realise how beneficial it is.
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