If you’re looking for an after school activity that will get your kids off the couch and off the Ipad then Karate could be just the thing.
First of all, do your homework. Not all Karate Schools (dojos) or Instructors are the same. Just about every Karate School follows a different testing system with different coloured belts, in a different sequence so it is practically impossible to compare a belt to a belt, for example. However, despite these differences, all Instructors should instil a sense of empowerment in your child and should introduce them to 4 basic skills – Goal Setting, Confidence Building, Self Defence and Fitness.
With practice, routine and discipline comes advancement.
100 years ago students in many karate schools would arrive at the dojo, practice their skills, learn new ones, get fit and go home, happy in the knowledge that they were doing something positive with their time, making new friends and building strength. They did this with no promise of a belt or new rank or even acknowledgement of their improvement.
Since becoming a Sensei more than 30 years ago I have seen the desire and need for visible recognition grow and grow to the point where students demand belts, tips, badges, certificates, medals and trophies for the most minor of achievements. Students should not compare Attendance and Participation trophies for seasonal sports such as soccer or netball with grades or belts or ranks awarded for development of skills in a karate class.
Students in a karate class should know that if they practice “this” they will eventually be rewarded with “this”.
Instant gratification does not exist in a karate class. What does exist is recognition of effort and attendance and improvement.
Practice makes perfect
With practice comes confidence. As a child masters the most simple of skill, so they become more confident. Perhaps they are asked by their Sensei to demonstrate this skill for the rest of the class? This too helps their confidence grow.
A good Sensei will see where the child lacking in confidence needs a boost. Children in a karate class are all individuals and the Sensei will make sure that the child lacking in confidence is given a task that is simple to perform to make them feel special – even if it is helping pack things away at the end of the lesson.
Learn to defend, not become a bully
Traditional karate is often mistakenly thought of as a fighting sport when in actual fact its true strength and purpose lies in the understanding and development of Self Defence skills.
From their first lesson a child should be told that karate is not to be used in an aggressive way. The skills they learn in a karate class are for Self Defence and should only be used physically if they can’t find any other way out of a situation.
Verbal and mental Self Defence skills are another thing entirely but this topic would take a series of articles to explain the intricacies of “what constitutes an attack”.
Basically if you can’t Talk your way out of a situation then the skills you have been taught in a karate class should prepare you for defending yourself against a physical attack.
With practice and regular training the skills children are taught in a karate class become second nature, ready to be called upon if and when danger strikes.
Fitness should be fun
Even walking around the hall is an exercise so participating in a karate class is probably the best form of exercise as it is hidden behind the games, drills and skills so that kids don’t even know they are developing fitness.
Since the start of this year I have noticed a big increase in all students, from as young as 5 years old, wanting to get stronger and fitter. Some of my classes even choose to do a fitness drill over a game which is unheard of!
The techniques a karate student learn are quite different from other sports and activities and so the karate student should be encouraged by the Sensei to develop core strength and a general overall fitness as well as developing certain muscle groups which are needed for good and strong execution of the techniques.
The front snap kick, for example, uses all the muscles in the leg and foot as well as the torso, stomach and back. A good front snap kick requires good balance and posture. It also needs to use both fast twitch and slow twitch muscles. It requires flexibility in the hips, leg and foot and recovery. Rather a lot for something that takes maybe 1 second to perform!