Sitting here, I was thinking about how many students I have that stop taking karate, to take a couple months off for a little league sport or other activity. I hear instructors and studio owners talking about how hard it is to run a martial arts school, because of the up and down tuition and enrollment issues due to outside the Dojang (Dojo) activities. I have to admit, it is frustrating when you get that e-mail or phone call stating that Little Johnny will be out for 2-3 months for a sport after you spent a year with him and he is now excelling in discipline, school grades, respect, courtesy, etc. You have seen him excel in so many ways as his instructor. But, mainly, because as long time instructors, we know that the likelihood of that student returning is slim to none at best, mainly because they get out of the routine of coming to class and its like pulling teeth to get them back in.
Being a child of the 80’s and starting martial arts at 5, I did all the sports myself. At times, quitting karate as well. Yes, I am guilty too! So its hard for me to cast stones. But, now that I am older, and have children, I see that as a parent you want your children to get all the experiences they can. But I have to wonder, being that I have been in martial arts so long (almost my whole life) and seeing the benefits of the art, is this really doing your child a service? Or are you teaching them habits that may carry over later in their life?
Lets think about it for a moment, shall we? You are effectively allowing (as parents) your kids to commit to something, such as karate, then tell them (or show them) that when something else comes along, its fine to drop what your doing and pickup something new. So the commitment you made is thrown out the window. And I am sure the intention is to return to karate, but after being out 2-4 months, how likely is it they will return? For a kid like me, I always did. For most kids, almost none do. So, the parents don’t push it and Little Johnny feels like its fine to start something and commit to it, quit for a seemly good reason to some, and then never return. That somewhat lessens the whole idea of commitment.. wouldn’t you say?
Karate teaches discipline, respect, focus, self confidence, anti-bullying tactics, situational awareness, life long health habits (stretching, eating right, listening to elders), self defense, a positive atmosphere with people who care, and so many more things besides the kicks and punches that goes along with karate. I challenge to you to research and see if you really think that little league football, baseball, or soccer, offers all those things. And once high school is gone, will they still be in those activities? There certainly is no argument that they would still possibly be in martial arts, and still getting benefit from the training later in life.
But, I am not trying to belittle sports. I had a blast playing sports. I made many great friends in sports. But after the season is over, that’s it. You are done. And your kids go back to playing XBox or Playstation and living their lives, normally not returning to karate. If you decide to allow your child to play sports, then you should also find a way to honor your commitment to karate, and therefore teaching your child that the commitment made is of importance. But I also understand, karate isn’t for everyone and at times people go their separate ways. And that’s fine. Out of 100 people who start karate, maybe 10 make black belt. Out of 10 black belts 2-3 may go higher. And, out of that 100 that started, 1 may make 4th Dan (Master Instructor or higher). Its a hard road and only those who commit and have parents that help them understand commitment will succeed. But, the by-product, is they learn that a commitment is not something to say or do, and then cast aside whenever you like something else a bit better.
I often tell my parents that the key to getting a Black Belt and beyond is simple. You just have to come and attend class. A LOT! Even when you don’t want to. Even when you feel like you would rather watch T.V. There is no secret and no, you do not have to be Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee, or anyone else to achieve a Black Belt and beyond. Just commitment and perseverance. So why aren’t there more? We, as a society, have an issue with commitment. Back in East Asia, it was considered a honor to be allowed to take martial arts from a good instructor at a school of some type. Now, there is one on every corner in the US. So kids have no reason to be committed, and as parents, if you don’t teach them commitment, to finish what you start, then you can expect this behavior in other areas of their life and the issue to grow to be a more severe problem in the future with other areas of their life.
Every child is different, and I hope that parents realize that martial arts is something that can benefit their child for a long time, possibly their lifetime. It is due in part to martial arts that I am where I am today, and I hope that parents can realize that sports aren’t bad, martial arts is great, but teaching values such as commitment to their kids is very important for their future success.
the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc. “the company’s commitment to quality”