It might seem counter-intuitive that allowing kids to hit and kick each other would actually teach them how to self-control and self-discipline. Because we are doing sparring in the advanced classes this block I wanted to talk about some of the not-so-obvious benefits associated with sparring.
Ok... so this one is sort of obvious, but... still worth mentioning. Kids need to learn to take a hit. They also need to learn how to hit. Why? It teaches them to overcome their fear. Fear of hitting and of being hit. Learning to overcome physical fear is a way of developing courage in our kids -- especially when it is a controlled environment, with helpful and supportive coaching. Learning to take a physical hit develops their confidence and translates over to mental toughness. When kids learn to deal with physical confrontation they also begin to learn the mental toughness necessary to deal with verbal and emotional abuse as well as dealing with disappointment and failure. Life can pack a punch and hit hard sometimes. The mental toughness to get back up and keep going is an important life skill.
There is something scary and overwhelming about someone standing in front of you trying to kick you, punch you or knock you down... even when you have protective gear on and referees standing by. Kids need to learn how to handle and deal with stress and to not collapse when under pressure. During sparring kids learn to deal with that stress. They learn to breath and stay relaxed, to be calm and composed even when challenged under pressure. This translates over to dealing with stress from parents, academics and even social pressure from their peers.
Aggression is a natural part of life. Watch your 2 year old have a temper tantrum and you immediately realize that anger is inherent in all of us. Unchecked aggression can be destructive. Sparring teaches kids how to turn on their aggressiveness and assertiveness and then reign themselves back in and turn it off. They learn how to flip the switch between being emotionally charged to being calm and controlled. Learning the self-awareness to stop at the appropriate time keeps kids out of trouble, especially as they get older and bad choices can have life-changing consequences.
Culturally and at school our kids are learning that "everybody is a winner". The truth is life doesn't play by those rules. In life there are winners and losers. Sparring teaches our kids that there are winners and losers but also allows us to teach our students to win with grace and humbleness. It also teaches our students that losing means there are still lessons to be learned and that we must work to make ourselves better. A winner cannot win if he doesn't have an opponent against whom he can demonstrate his skill. The loser has an opportunity to learn and to do better the next time. If you lose, don't make excuses... on that day or in that match the other person was just better. Deal with it. These are skills kids need for life. If they can learn to approach competition with both honor and humility (when they win and when they lose) they can do the same in life.
In the sparring ring things rarely go "as planned". Sparring is dynamic and unpredictable. Your opponent rarely complies and does what you want them to. It requires kids to take the things they have learned and improvise to make things work. They learn the physical attributes of balance, speed, timing and accuracy. Those physical skills have mental, emotional, and social counterparts. When students gain confidence in their ability to combine and create in the ring, they can take those skills and apply them "on the go" in life situations. The confidence gained here cannot be faked. It is confidence gained through competence. It is the kind of confidence that helps kids know they can handle bullies or stop aggressors, or that they can handle that algebra final exam, or anything else life throws at them for that matter.
Even though your child may be tentative about or fearful of sparring, or you may be scared for them... it is one of the most beneficial activities martial arts has to offer. The truth is kids injuries from sparring are extremely rare and mostly composed of bumps, bruises and occasional jammed finger, thumb or toe. While it is not entirely without risk, the skills learned from participating in sparring can help your child succeed in life.
Just as the parents of teens and older kids should know about online safety and social networking on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram... parents of younger kids and tween should get informed about video games before making making decisions about how much time their kids spend in front of a computer or TV screen. The web site Mom.me discusses the 8 following things you should consider when deciding how long your kids should spend playing video games :
While it would be an overstatement to say that video games are the primary cause of violent or antisocial behavior, studies show that violent games can be a contributor to the problem. Just watching violent movies can lead to more aggressive behavior in kids and exposure to violence in video games can contribute to aggressive behavioral issues.
This issue isn't a media construction. Kids really do need more exercise and less time sitting and eing couch potatoes. Yes.. more and more games requires kids to move around and be active, but for the most part, when kids play computer and video games, they remain sedentary. When sitting repeatedly replaces more traditional forms of exericse, kids are at greater risk for obesity.
When they play regularly, they want more and more, and they have a harder and harder time accepting "no" when parents tell them to turn off the games. As in so many areas with our kids, it's important that they practice dealing with limits and boundaries.
Here's one of the definite pros of video games. Hand-eye coordination and visual motor skills can improve when children play video games. A recent study showed that children who spent more time playing interactive electronic games were actually more competent in "object control skills" -- like kicking, catching, etc.. than those who don't play the games.
Another benefit is that many video games actually teach kids. Math facts, reading, geography and all kinds of other skills like critical thinking and problem solving can be enhanced by the right kind of game experience.
Identity theft, cyber-bullying and all kinds of other dangers lurk and time kids go online. Online video games can pose a threat to kids who can't protect themselves. For those who don't have an adult supervising their game playing, these dangers are much more signifcant. Realize that any time your children are on the internet, they can send and receive information that can lead to real and significant dangers. My comment: Our mat chats discuss safety issues students that reinforce what parents are teaching about safety at home.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents limit screen time to an hour or two each day. That's the key: limiting. Kids brains need to be exercised in other ways as well -- by playing outside, being creative, reading, participating in team sports and other group activities, taking part in community service and even by figuring out what to do when they are bored.
This is perhaps the most important question to consider when it comes to which games and how long you let your kids play. It's important that we do our research and make decisions about what we're ready for our kids to know about -- and what we're not.
In the end, parents have to decide for themselves how to handle video games with their kids.
CommonSenseMedia.org is a site where parents can look up games (movies and books as well) by title and read about their specifics. You can also receive guidance to help you make decisions you feel good about.
Some things to keep in mind about your child's participation at 3T and how we can help with the video game dilemma. Karate builds strength, endurance, flexibility, coordination and agility and improves gross, complex and fine motor skills as well as hand-eye coordination. Respect and dicipline are foundational life skills we teach in our karate that help students learn limits and boundaries. This includes understanding the importance of anger management and controlling aggression. Our emphasis on the importance of good grades and our mat chats on personal safety reinforce the values and lessons you as a parent are teaching at home. Because we support so many of the goals you have for your children, karate is an ideal match for those parents who want to create an environment of physical, mental development and character development for their kids.
In defining what is the most important element to success in any endeavor, you would be hard pressed to find anything more important than attitude. This week we will discuss the basic principles of developing, maintaining, and demonstrating the proper attitude in order to shorten the process of goal attainment.
In Japanese, the word for attitude is "Shisei" which is made up of two kanji meaning shape, forces. In other words it is the attitude that shapes the forces in our lives. Modern success coaches state the same thing when they explain that whatever you believe in, with conviction, will become your reality. It is this process, in which the karate-ka learns the proper attitude in dealing with conflict and begins to learn how to display Tamashi or an indomitable spirit. In reality, it is this attitude that may be more important in victory on the battlefield than specific tactics or strategies employed.
At the foundation of proper attitude is the belief that you are guaranteed victory as long as you do not quit. The classic saying "nana korobi ya oki" or "fall seven times – get up eight", represents this indomitable spirit or winning attitude. As a student develops confidence through his martial arts training, he begins to demonstrate this winning attitude in a variety of ways, including speech, posture and deeds. The dojo is filled with the sounds of the karate kiai. The kanji for kiai translates as energy, join or in other words, "come meet my energy." The student learns how to overcome temporary discomforts on his path towards victory. He understands that all worthwhile accomplishments come through hard work and perseverance, and a warrior is the epitome of those qualities. After all, if it were easy, everyone would do it, and then it would lose its value. Indeed the warrior attitude is priceless and cannot be bought. It is only earned through hard work and discipline.
The senior karate-ka learns that all actions have consequences and through this process he or she learns to predict the actions of others, simply through the kamae or postures that we maintain. In combat, one never shows a weakness in his abilities, unless of course, it is a ploy used to pull an unexpected opponent into an ambush. On a day-to-day basis, the modern streetwise warrior uses this same tactic of total confidence in every action. You notice it as they walk across the floor or talk to others. There is a sense of total confidence and security, hard to describe, but felt nonetheless. Add to that elegance in action or shibumi, and you begin to see the proper attitude of the modern warrior.
Most modern self defense coaches understand that criminal acts are more prone to those who demonstrate a lack of confidence through their nonverbal communication. They therefore train their students that by working on their posture and walking with a sense of purpose, they can actually diminish the possibility that they may be attacked in the first place. In some cultures, it is believed that if you learn proper posture then your confidence and attitude will improve. Some believe that if your self-confidence grows your posture improves. Whichever school you come from, there is a direct correlation between attitude and posture. Remember that the next time your Sensei adjusts your body alignment during kata training.
The way you dress, move, talk and even think all define your attitude. I recently saw a report that several companies were doing away with their dress casual policies and were asking their employees to go back to suit and ties. It is amazing to see that during slow times, getting back to basics and understanding that posture has a direct impact on the bottom line impacts the business world. I can assure you it is equally important in your own personal world as well.
Having a proper attitude is not a coincidence. A winning attitude is the result of doing the right things to produce this result. Like karate, attitude cannot be learned from a book or from watching a video. You must find people who have this attitude and surround yourself with them. Attitude is very contagious and if you hang around people with weak spirits, it will soon drag you down. On the other hand, if you surround yourself with people with warrior attitudes, you will share in the process of easier victories in goal attainment. Having the right attitude is not a specific goal; it is a process that we work on everyday. You must be diligent in what you read, what you think, who you spend time with and what you do on a daily basis.
A proper attitude increases a person's self-esteem and self-confidence, allowing him to overcome his fears and set higher expectations for himself. For centuries, warriors have understood that if you show no fear then your odds of winning in combat go up considerably. A few understand that having no fear is even better.