13 Feb THE POWER OF THE BOW: INTRODUCING MARTIAL ARTS AT AN EARLY AGE TO PREVENT BULLYING
Children being mean to one another is nothing new; instead, it’s an ageless tradition born of insecurity and power struggle. Fortunately, our children are growing up in a time where public awareness is ever-increasing and children are taught empathy, confidence, and respect. School-wide anti-bullying programs are the norm, and it’s on nearly every parent’s radar. Despite these efforts, it still pervades our children’s day to day life. Rather than feel powerless against it, we need to educate ourselves to strengthen our children’s confidence and ability to prevent bad behavior before it happens.
One way to do this is through martial arts. The value of self-defence classes are timeless, with participants from all over the world singing its praises. Self-defence teaches awareness, composure, strength, grit, and confidence. Less obviously, it is a proven measure to prevent torment.
The physical benefits of self-defence are tremendous, with students exercising their core, their limbs, and their heart as well as their mental strength. While other aerobic activity can be fun and is also an important component of fitness, the benefits of self-defence merge both aerobic and anaerobic functions. Students will jump rope and perform jumping jacks to get their hearts moving, but focus more on the anaerobic functions of stretching, resistance, and gravity. This affords the participant enormous benefits in toning and strengthening their muscles. Students are typically lean, strong, and fit.
One of the best things we can do for our children is to help them build confidence. Having faith in yourself and feeling strong and empowered creates stability in relationships, jobs, sports, and school. If a child is constantly doubting their own abilities, they will suffer in a myriad of ways including being more prone to bullying. Unfortunately, bullies look for easy victims, and insecurity is pretty easy to spot.
Consider enrolling your child in a taekwondo or karate class and you will quickly see their confidence grow. The tools they learn in these classes will help them stand up for themselves early and often.
One of the foundational components of all self-defence classes is focus. Students are taught to use their whole bodies and whole minds to execute precise techniques. This is not the realm for generalized or imprecise movement. Since this requires such intense focus, self-defence students improve their ability to focus. This translates well to playground politics where antagonistic behavior can cause children’s mind to overload. They will find a remarkable composure the next time someone tries to mess with them. In turn, they will be able to make better decisions in those intense moments.
One important aspect of self-defence is the focus on individual achievement. Team sports promote relying on your peers in a group arena, while individual sports promote self-awareness, grit, confidence, and motivation. Your student will be determined to learn the skills to reach the next level, whether that is moving from a yellow belt to an orange belt or to a higher level of black belt. This process offers students a unique opportunity to finetune their sense of self. In turn, they will face conflict directly and with resolve, giving bullies no chance to pounce. self-defence students see themselves as self-reliant, a formidable opponent for a potential bully.
One of the first things you learn in self-defence is that the space where you study is sacred and requires a sense of reverence. Students call this place dojo, a word that encomapsses both the physical space and the practices and behaviors expected within it. Dojo promotes the importance of respect as a primary function in practice.
Most often, when we think of martial arts as a method of self-defense for the child who is receiving the bullying. However, it is also beneficial for preventing children for those prone to asserting power in the wrong ways. Since self-defense encourages respect of others, it engenders a more balanced power relationship amongst its students. Rather than trying to beat someone or win a game, students are taught to work on their own skills and consider themselves equal to those around them. In turn, this discourages the unnatural idea that your peers need dominating (an underlying subtext of bullying).
Anyone can do it!
Some children feel they are not athletes or may say they are not “into” sports. When they self-identify this way early on, it can be a difficult pattern to break. They may have joined a soccer team when they were four or attempted little league in first grade, only to determine that they lacked the hand-eye coordination or interest to continue. Break this cycle by introducing self-defence. One of the absolute best parts about being a student of self-defence is that it is so inclusive, meaning anyone can do it.
With no expensive or intimidating gear and no experience needed to jump in at any age, self-defence offers an attractive and inviting option for people of all ages. You will find that your child claims to not like sports, but takes really well to karate or taekwondo. Since there are few cost or gear barriers, this is a great way to foster confidence and health, thereby bolstering self-esteem.
How many adults do you know who still play football? Not many, I’m sure! Some sports are fun while you are young, but torture on your bones. One of the best attributes about self defence is that we can (and do) participate for life. Most martial artists never stop practicing and still attend classes as senior citizens. The classes are designed to be gentle on your body while you are gaining strength, so there is very little concern about blown out knees and torn rotator cuffs. Encourage your child to look at fitness as a means to initiate lifelong learning and health.
Teach your children to be strong throughout their lives with the power of martial arts.