The reason why karate is a beloved art form and way of life is because of the beautiful paradox that it presents. Karate is about learning to fight so that you don’t have to.
The crucial lesson that karate-do teaches is for one to learn how to master his or her own self. It’s about being able to discipline yourself and not giving in to a basic, primal instinct to be violent.
This is why karate-do is especially beneficial to children. The values that karate-do promotes can be taught at a young age so that a child develops in a non-violent way and sees that violence isn’t the best option.
Children are playful and have a tendency to engage in physical banter. The chances are that they will inherently punch or kick each other not because they are violent, but because it’s all part of a child’s locomotive development to move these bodily parts in a way that can inadvertently hurt another child.
Karate practice with a sensei will help a child direct their excess energy in a more positive way. They will learn boundaries and about physical contact that is acceptable to others.
Children who study karate are more poised, collected and careful with their actions and gestures. Children who do not get the opportunity to study karate miss out on this lesson and may be more prone to flailing their arms and legs carelessly whilst play fighting. Karate helps children to learn self-control, discipline, good motor neurone skills, resilience and respect.
Karate is just one of many martial arts that, by virtue, promote and adhere to respect, loyalty, dignity and honour. It is the gentle nature of karate-do coupled with the ferocity of battle that creates this careful balance that grows within every karate student.
Because karate-do is an individual’s journey to perfect his or her own character, there isn’t a personality that best suits training. It can benefit all types of personalities since you are not conforming to any personality archetype apart from your own. Karate-do can be as beneficial to badly behaved, aggressive children as it can to well-behaved, quiet ones.
Across the board, classes are strict and bad behaviour is promptly dealt with. Students are trained to respect their masters and their peers. They learn to be still and patient by controlling their breath and to not respond with a ‘knee jerk’ reaction when faced with conflict. This encourages perseverance and self-restraint on the primal level. With regular training, a student’s self-confidence quietly grows to the point where they no longer feel the need to prove themselves by posturing or using physical violence.
On the other hand, introverted children learn how to express themselves physically and make friends and socialise with others simply by sharing the same interests.
Most children enjoy playing video games, using social media and computers in general. Many spend far too long indulging technology and this has proven to detrimental to their development and fuels an unhealthy lifestyle. Karate-do is a HIIT workout with excellent cardio vascular benefits. A typical karate session will stimulate a child a child both physically and mentally. The production of feel-good hormones and endorphins contributes to a healthy body and mind.
Karate-do teaches children about losing and how to learn lessons from failure in a controlled environment. This develops resilience in a child. So the belief that karate training makes people violent and aggressive is wholly untrue.
This misconception contradicts the experiences of real karate students. I’ve trained in karate and other martial arts for many years. Without a doubt, the vast majority of martial artists I’ve met have been kind, gentle and honourable people.
With children being exposed to excessive violence on TV, in films and by playing +18 video games, is it any wonder that many lack discipline, empathy, respect for others and self-control. So instead of showing our children graphic scenes of violence and giving them a distorted view of life, let’s teach them all about acceptable behaviour and boundaries. Let’s teach them that violence is only acceptable in self-defence and the protection of others when there is no other alternative. And let’s encourage more children to be part of the solution to our increasingly violent society and not the problem.