Children in our society are being exposed to ever increasing levels of violence through music, television, movies, and internet content, often in not so positive ways. This can develop into unhealthy attitudes of defiance and self-centered conduct in their interpersonal relationships both at home and at school. However, parents are sometimes reluctant to reinforce the negative behavior they see in their children by enrolling them in the martial arts, believing them to be a further extension of the violence and defiance they feel is creating the problem in the first place.
However, nothing could be further from the truth. At the core of martial arts philosophy one does not find aggression, but rather informed self-defense, self-control, personal responsibility, and a disciplined respect for others. The emphasis of the martial arts is on peaceful, non-violent conflict resolution skills and the avoidance of physical altercation whenever possible.
In today’s electronic age, kids are often so accustomed to receiving instant gratification in their everyday lives that lessons in self-restraint aren’t always easy to come by. This often leads them to have unrealistic “me-centered” expectations from their environment and from those around them. They often feel and express disappointment and frustration when they do not get what they want when they want it. But while we may not be able to control the world around our children, we can most certainly engage them positively and constructively within their environment in order to counter these trends. Through martial arts training, kids are continually reminded of the merits of self-discipline, goal setting, and the long-term benefits of delayed reward. Although the focus of martial arts training is in learning effective self-defense, stranger awareness, and personal safety, it is also much more than this.
Unfortunately, today’s youth culture doesn’t always include respect for authority, adults, or those in advanced positions. Through martial arts training, children learn to respect both their instructors as well as their peers. Self-confidence and self-respect are most powerful when tempered by empathy for others, and the martial arts are designed to unlock these valuable social skills within appropriate parameters. The martial arts strive to foster a healthy respect for the interconnectedness of life and a sense of belongingness that comes from training with others of all levels and abilities. Training also gets kids active in a time where the average child spends more time in front of a screen than they do actively relating to the world around them. The fact is that we have survived as a species for many millions of years not because of our ability to sit and stare, but because of our ability to move, and when it comes to fitness, the martial artist means becoming a supremely fit person, requiring dedicated physical activity away from screen time.
Far from the “lone fighter” movie stereotypes that many associate with training, the martial arts in fact serve to boost positive socialization. Through martial arts training, kids are able to get to know one another through shared pursuits. Partner-driven drills foster camaraderie, as they encourage kids to pair off and build their skills cooperatively, with a sense of teamwork, and positive social interaction. Kids also learn to manage disappointment and come to realize that although they may not always win, they do get better over time. Ultimately, they come to understand that their improvement in the martial arts, as in life, is often dependent on both hard work, as well as the support of those around them. Most forms of martial arts are based on an accomplishment system of colored belts that signify the wearer’s degree of skill, and it is through higher degrees of belt achievement, that kids learn to set and achieve goals across time, rather than instantaneously. Through such achievement comes confidence and increased self-esteem within an atmosphere of cooperation.
The martial arts teach and encourage kids to find realistic avenues to achieve their goals, and in a plugged in society this is increasingly hard to come by. The underlying Black Belt principles that form the basis of our particular martial arts approach are those of Modesty; Courtesy; Integrity; Self-Control; Perseverance; Indomitable spirit; and as such, any Martial Arts facility you attend regardless of style should be dedicated to creating better human beings, and not just better “fighters”.
Professor Jason Figliano
Owner and Head Instructor
Canadian Black Belt Academy