Family martial arts classes boost confidence, improve fitness, and cement family bonds
The following is an excerpt from an article featured in Prevention Magazine online:
When Pam Tucker of Leon, WV, signed up for her first karate class at the age of 18, she never dreamed that her passion for martial arts would be so infectious. Today, Pam, her husband, Frank, and their children, Mason, 13, Jake, 10, and Zaiah, 8, spend 3 days a week at the martial arts training hall (or dojo) and center their vacations around national karate championships at which they volunteer. "It's a fun activity that helps all of us stay in shape and feel connected to one another," says Pam.
Martial arts have become a family affair--for moms, dads, and children of all ages. Today, almost half of the sport's 6 million participants are kids between the ages of 6 and 17, and women comprise one-third of the student body, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association. There are hundreds of styles of martial arts, such as kick-heavy karate, wrestlinglike jujitsu, and judo, in which an opponent may be held or thrown. Each delivers a great workout and is good for self-defense. But those aren't the only reasons families sign up.
Martial arts are booming because they offer something for all ages. They help preschoolers develop social skills and improve their attention spans; they give grade-schoolers and teenagers a confidence boost while teaching self-control; and they leave parents with greater stamina, improved endurance, and a trimmer, toned body. "We've seen remarkable changes in the kids' attitudes and confidence levels," says Pam. "Our introvert, Mason, now jumps at the chance to talk in front of people."
Looking for a reason to tell your family to kick butt? Here are three great ones.
1. It helps bullyproof children
Bullies often torment kids who unknowingly send messages that make them become targets. "It's in the way they stand, their posture, their lack of eye contact," says Robyn Silverman, PhD, a child development specialist and director of character development at EEMA Fitness and Martial Arts in South Weymouth, MA. In martial arts classes, participants are constantly challenged and then praised for doing their best. That builds confidence, says Silverman. "Kids learn that their bodies and minds are strong, powerful, and worthy of respect," she says. "Once a child discovers this, his whole attitude shifts. He carries himself with an ease and assurance that tells bullies to move on."
Because martial arts are generally noncompetitive--kids set their own pace for earning stripes and belts--classes provide a safe environment for kids with fragile egos to heal and become stronger, mentally and physically. They learn to look aggressors in the eye, to think through hostile situations calmly, and to take a positive, no-nonsense stance when threatened.
Bullies benefit, too--and not because they learn to kick harder. A 2001 study published in Adolescence found that violent behavior decreased among middle-schoolers when they were taking martial arts classes, while their confidence levels rose. "Bullies act the way they do because they have low self-esteem, poor social skills, or little respect for themselves or others," Silverman says. The focus on respect and courtesy within martial arts sends the message that you don't have to be mean to earn a person's respect.
2. It sharpens focus for kids with ADHD
All martial arts emphasize concentration, so they might seem an unlikely sport for a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Yet some experts say the highly structured approach and repetitive patterns of movements (called kata) actually help ease symptoms of the disorder. "Impulse control is a huge challenge for these kids," says Richard B. Coolman, MD, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, CA.
"In martial arts classes, they learn to focus, clear their minds of distractions, and take control of their body movements." The environment can be a nurturing one for kids with ADHD if the philosophy of the training center is noncompetitive. "These kids are always being told they're doing something wrong," says Coolman, "but in martial arts, they aren't graded or criticized. They're not letting down a team if they lose focus. They're simply encouraged to give their best effort."
3. It empowers mothers and daughters
"Most women experience a feeling of vulnerability at some point in their lives, but once a woman is properly trained in martial arts, she knows she can defend herself," says Laura Kamienski, author of Training Women in the Martial Arts and director of Kicks Martial Arts for Women, a tae kwon do school in Lewisburg, PA.
Learning defense techniques is one of the most common reasons parents enroll daughters in martial arts classes, says Kamienski. "In the past, girls were discouraged from being assertive, but now moms and dads say they want their daughters to be able to protect themselves."
Marjorie Haley, 46, and her four daughters, ages 12 to 17, participate in karate classes at their YMCA near Chatham, NJ. "The moves for escaping someone's hold on you seem so simple, yet they're extremely effective," Haley says. "Knowing that our daughters have these skills gives my husband and me tremendous peace of mind."
Powerful Role Models: Seven Ways to Make a Positive Impact on Children
Article by Dr. Robyn Silverman, Child Development Specialist
Role Models are people who others imitate, emulate or look to for guidance. There are good role models who inspire greatness in others and bad role models who are what we call "bad influences." There are even anti-role models, pegged by the media as "bad girls" or "bad boys" who serve as good examples of what NOT to do if you want to become a successful, respected person.
Every parent wants their children to have positive role models who have the characteristics that inspire them to want to be (and become) their very best. While there is some variation in every parent's definition of what it means to be a good person, the following 7 characteristics remain constant.
Positive role models;
- Model positive choice-making: Little eyes are watching and little ears are listening. When it comes to being a role model, you must be aware that the choices you make don't only impact you but also the children who regard you as their superhero. Someday, they will be in the same predicament and think to themselves, "What did s/he do when s/he was in the same situation?" When you are a role model it's not enough to tell your charges the best choices to make. You must show them how it's done.
- Think out loud: When you have a tough choice to make, allow the children to see how you work through the problem, weigh the pros and cons, and come to a decision. The process of making a good decision is a skill. A good role model will not only show a child which decision is best, but also how they came to that conclusion. That way, the child will be able to follow that reasoning when they are in a similar situation.
- Apologize and admit mistakes: Nobody's perfect. When you make a bad choice, let those who are watching and learning from you know that you made a mistake and how you plan to correct it. This will help them to understand that (a) everyone makes mistakes; (b) it's not the end of the world; (c) you can make it right; and (d) you need to take care of it and be accountable right away. By apologizing, admitting your mistake, and repairing the damage, you will be demonstrating an important yet often overlooked part of being a role model.
- Follow through: We all want children to stick with their commitments and follow through with their promises. However, as adults, we get busy, distracted, and sometimes, a bit lazy. To be a good role model, we must demonstrate stick-to-itiveness. That means; (a) be on time; (b) finish what you started; (c) don't quit; (d) keep your word; and (e) keep going even if things get difficult. When role models follow through with their goals, it teaches children that it can be done and helps them adopt an "if s/he can do it, so can I" attitude.
- Show respect: You may be driven, successful, and smart but whether you choose to show respect or not speaks volumes about the type of attitude it takes to make it in life. We always tell children to "treat others the way we want to be treated" and yet, may not subscribe to that axiom ourselves. Do you step on others to get ahead? Do you take people for granted? Do you show gratitude for others? It's often the little things you do that make the biggest difference in the way children perceive how to succeed in business and relationships.
- Be well rounded: While we don't want to spread ourselves too thin, it's important to show children that we can be more than just one thing. Great role models aren't just "parents" or "teachers." They're great learners and challenge themselves to get out of their comfort zones. You may be a father who's also a student of the martial arts, a great chef and a treasured friend. You may be a mother who's a gifted dancer and a curious photographer. When children see that their role models can be many things, they will learn that they don't need to pigeon-hole themselves in order to be successful.
- Demonstrate confidence in who you are: Whatever you choose to do with your life, be proud of the person you've become. It may have been a long road, but it's the responsibility of a role model to commemorate the lessons learned, the strength amassed, and the character developed. It's true; we can always improve, however, children need to see that their role models don't suspend their confidence until they achieve "one more win" or "lose 5 more pounds." We must continue to strive while being happy with how far we've come at the same time.
While it may seem like a great deal of pressure to be a positive role model; nobody is expecting you to be superhuman. We certainly wouldn't expect that behavior from the children who are looking to us for guidance nor would we want them to expect that kind of flawless behavior from themselves. You can only do your best. And, if you mess up today, you can always refer back to tip #3 and try again tomorrow. Good role models earn multiple chances from the children who believe in them.