Teaching Children Martial Arts in the New Millenium

BUDO BLACKBELT MAGAZINE, No. 24, December

Today a number of alternative views abound on teaching children – many successful ideas have been explored, for example interactive-homework based programmes, specifically designed to bridge the Martial Arts history lesson.  Martial Arts therefore bridge the gap between the parent in the home and the teacher in the schools.

 The mere mention of Martial Arts and history may bore the reader, but the history of children in the martial arts is but a few years old.  The Arts founders never intended Martial Arts as a benefit for children.  Only when the film industry and computer games glorified the Martial Arts and captured their attention, did it lead to a sudden mass interest from children.  Some instructors geared their Martial Arts to suit the child, most unfortunately did not.  The majority of practitioners frown upon any changes in the Martial Arts.

Today many martial arts programmes are geared specifically for children.  It has taken 10 to 15 years to reach a point where the fundamental basics of discipline, self-control and respect are taught using the Martial Arts as a positive platform.  While these tenets were there all along, they tooksecond place to the hard liner attitude of the “blood and guts era” instructors had graduated from.

When Sylvester Stallone made the Rocky movies, it set a chain reaction that boasted and elevated the sport of boxing into new levels.  Even the title track, The Eye of the Tiger, was used before world title fights at major shows.  Young and not so young flocked to boxing gyms to learn the glorious art of boxing.  The martial arts also got a big movie break in the Karate Kid.  It portrayed an old master Myogi…..

Teaching children, no matter what the subject, isn’t easy.  Society today bombards our offspring with pressures unheard of.  Recent government surveys indicate that a school teacher is one of the highest stressful occupations.  Even more frightening is what happens in the worst case scenario if children lack control and discipline, the hard crime statistics of children joining the ranks of hardened criminals. Teaching children against the backdrop of overcrowded classrooms, violence and media pressure can easily discourage even the most charismatic educators.

We know the good news.  We know that children who attend Martial Arts classes twice a week have improved their concentration and attention span.  We are all only too well aware of the tremendous physical attributes.

The challenge therefore is not only simply to teach the physical “kicking and punching” elements of Martial Arts, but to educate both the children and the parents on the character, the emotional and the mental development that a systematic martial arts programme can offer.  Why the parents?  My independent statistics show that if a child is taught something positive, the more the exercise is reinforced and encouraged in the home, the better interactive development follows.

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