As a parent and as an instructor, I can not begin to to tell you how important martial arts are to our kids. On a personal level, I can tell you that one of the most important things my parents did for me was to get me involved in wrestling as a 5 year old boy. Yeah, I know some will think wrestling is not a martial art but it is! We did not have a martial arts program in our small town. The lessons I learned from wrestling carry me to this day. It was one of the most exciting, frustrating, and down right hardest sports I did. I learned how to win and how to lose. I can say that I cried many times coming off those mats. Sometimes I wanted to quit, but my mother and father would not let me. They were never overbearing about the sport, but looking back, they knew it was making me into a independent young man. In the late 70's, there were no participation medals or making the team simply because you tried out. No way! There was an A team, a B team, and the dreaded practice squad. I never remember my parents coddling me or feeling sorry for me when I didn't make the A team. I do remember my father telling me that I had to practice more and try harder if I wanted to make the A team. They never had a lot of money, but I can tell you I never missed a camp that I wanted to attend. Those camps never came free (I did lots of yard work and other work). I, in turn, worked hard to make my teams and t0 win matches. My friends were my push. I always wanted to be as good as them, if not better. My senior year I had a wrestle off every week during lunch with a young man two years behind me that was honestly better that me by all accounts and went on to be a state champ after I left. He never beat me in those wrestle offs. I can say on my side it was because of all the lessons I learned during my years of wrestling and hard work plus having a coach that always believed in me and held me accountable even when I gave excuses or didn't come to wrestling practice when I was younger.
Fast forward to 3 years ago when my daughter was old enough to take class. Now, this is easy for me, as I own my own gym and instruct all classes. I started our Mini Rhino's class for 3 to 5 year olds. This class is only 30 minutes long and we work core skills in the class, but the kids love it. We have a loyal 20 kids in the program. Our parents do not miss a class and always tell us what an improvement they see in their kids. For my daughter, it has helped with her self esteem, her balance and strength, and most of all she is very confident(maybe from her mother) but I say it started with her martial arts training. I have now seen her and some of our other kids that have moved onto the bigger kids class and they might be scared for the first class but they blend right in after that first class and do very well. I attribute their easier transition to their earlier training as opposed to the brand new 6 year old coming into our big kids class. I have also seen so many of our 6 to 13 year old's flourish in our programs. Some come in as total brats and end up being such great kids. Other's need a little push with confidence and let me tell you nothing can give you confidence better than martial arts and competition. I have seen kids come in and be so scared of just trying class to standing on a medal podium a year later with such confidence.
So again, why is martial arts training so important for our kids? I believe there is no other sport, outside wrestling, that is going to teach kids the ability to process on individual level. It is a team sport when it comes to training and preparing for competition, but in competition, there is only you putting it on the line. There is no team to blame for lack of aggression or missing a move. I believe having to rely only on yourself is a tough thing for a young person and teaches them so many core values.
Processing Losing - How to process losing is not easy. They learn that skill early and use it everyday in training. No one likes losing,but they have to be able put it behind them and start another match right afterwards. they have to process through that loss and get right back in the game. I know a lot of adults that need this lesson. Think how some adults react when they lose. For most, it is devastating and they will not get back out there and try again. These kids, more than likely, will never encounter that as adults as they learned that process earlier in life.
Obstacles- Martial arts give you more obstacles that you can count: from new moves to rolling with someone who pushes you or beats you. These kids not only tackle those obstacles but beat them in most cases. This is such a great life lesson to give our kids.
Winning-I can not speak for all schools but at our school, kids know that winning a match or mastering a move is not the ENDSTATE! They learn what they did correctly and how to repeat and improve that process. Once they master a move, they are taught how to advance that move into something more. Again, this is another great life lesson.
Lastly is Envy- So many people want what others have without knowing their journey . Martial arts teach you that your journey is your own and only you are in charge of how you train, compete and react. No one else can step on those mats and do the work for you. Do not worry about what belt rank others have; worry about how you get to that point.
In closing, I can tell you that as parents it is our duty to give our kids a head start in life and the life lessons to make sure they can process through what that life will throw at them. So why not try out martial arts for your child? It may change their life.