by Sherry McGregor
When your child begins
a new martial arts program, chances are good that you are hoping for certain
changes to occur. We all want to see our children grow in maturity, strength,
and spirit, and we want them to learn new skills and gain new confidence.
But what is the process,
and how will you know if its working and how long does it take? Everyone
is different of course, but I can explain some general expectations.
First of all, you
should expect to be given a few clear-cut rules for getting along in the
dojo. There are etiquette rules and rules for safety and for general behavior.
It helps if you learn and follow these rules as an additional example to
your child, and to show that you respect the dojo as much as your child
does. As an example, your child will be expected to show respect, be courteous
of the others they work out with and learn self-control and care for the
safety of others. Students are allowed to ask questions but will most likely
be directed to do so at an appropriate time as to not interrupt classes.
There may also be
times your child seems unsure of trying new things, like rolling or falling
for instance, as long as you feel the instructors supervise well and care
about safety, allow the instructor work through the fear with your child.
The best support you can offer is encouragement to keep trying and not
to give up.
At the beginning there
is usually lots of excitement about training. This is wonderful, but because
there is a certain amount of repetition evolved to become proficient, most
students may get bored or frustrated with training at some point. This
is normal and is actually expected. This is a perfect time to teach your
child patience and perseverance. Encourage your child, and remind her or
him that to be good at anything you have to practice over and over until
it becomes natural.
Some of the responsibility
also lies with the instructors who should recognize that repetition is
trying. Our instructors try to teach the same skill in many different ways
to minimize routine. If your child complains of being bored, share this
with your instructor and they should be able to help offer encouragement.
I recommend when starting
any new endeavor with a child that you and the child make a contract with
your child. Something like this: If you start this class (sport, project,
etc.) then we agree that we will dedicate one year (or other reasonable
time period) to it. There is no quitting until that time period is past.
This is a commitment for both you and your child so be sure that you can
set aside the time to get him/her to classes and activities. Let your child
know that you will not discuss quitting until the end of the established
contract. When your contract time is up, talk again about where we want
to go from there.
This approach allows
your child to begin to take the steps necessary to reach towards goals
of responsibility, reliability and respect. Not allowing your child to
quit when classes get boring, or tough teaches perseverance and strength
You can also explain
to your child that activities require investments. These investments include
time, dedication and money. In order to gain on those investments, you
have to work at them and care for them. Let your child in on what it costs
to go to classes and buy equipment, perhaps even make an agreement that
each new piece of equipment is purchased by the child through an extension
of his/her contract with you.
Physically, your child
may be sore at times from training muscles they are not used to using.
This is not a reason to skip class, in fact, skipping class will make the
soreness last longer and cause them to get sore over and over again when
that group of muscles is used again. The best way to work out soreness
is to keep working out.
Let me clarify that
I am talking about muscle soreness not an injury. I have also seen times
when there is a particular child that intimidates or hurts other children
when they work together. If there is a child that your child has a problem
working with or that intimidates your child then talk with your instructor.
Many times the instructor is aware, but occasionally the intimidation is
subtle or occurs outside of classes, so be certain that her/she is aware.
This is something the two children should work through and the instructor
can facilitate the process or take other actions as needed.
You should always
be able make time to talk with your instructor about issues that come up
during your training and life. If he/shes not interested, find a
child will go through ups and downs. This can be tough and I can assure
you that sometime during his/her training, he/she will want to quit. Martial
arts training requires discipline and self control and getting there means
wading through uncomfortable emotions. Frustration, anger and fear are
experienced along the way to confidence, pride and accomplishment. Be prepared
for a wide range of adjustments along the way. Instructors have the experience
of going through all the same emotions and feelings and should respect
the feelings of the students they teach and be able to help guide them
You can also help
by continuing to be supportive and encouraging while not allowing your
child to give up. Usually martial arts schools will be very supportive
of school work and getting good grades, in fact some give patches or rewards
academic achievements. They should also be supportive of extra curricular
activities for school such as band, football, etc. During these seasons
and times your child may not be able to be at martial arts training as
much, but keep them coming as often as possible, this will help with the
other activity they are doing and keeps them from going backwards in learning.
Martial arts training
helps promote: focus, ability to memorize, problem solving, self-confidence,
leadership skills, physical control, mental and emotional control, goal
setting, persistence, ability to think quick on your feet, respect, ability
to work with others, awareness. These skills will help your child in all
they do in life, school, work, relationships, handling peer pressure, responsibility
and making right decisions to mention a few. There is no price you can
put on learning these skills.
The most important
thing is not that your child can kick and punch; it is that these priceless
values are learned and those ingrained values will keep them out of trouble
and save their lives more often than a kick or punch ever will. Those values
are actually more important to self-defense than physical techniques, and
the lessons learned her will stay with your child throughout life.