Your finest moments
Think back to your finest moments. Make a list. What do they all have in common?
If you’re like many people, your list contains sports, school, love, and work accomplishments. They all have the common basis of achieving something you truly cared about and had to work very hard to achieve. Although you may have had setbacks, tears, gaps, and disenchantment, in the end, you prevailed.
About ten years ago, one of the authors, Dr. Leasure, helped train a team of a hundred talented individuals at a large corporation. In one activity, they plotted the successes and failures of their lives. Not one of them had a life without significant challenges. They all talked about how those events steeled their willpower, taught them courage and mental toughness, and kindness and empathy. Their trials had taught them key qualities and then helped them to excel.
Will sports develop the qualities needed to thrive in life?
We often talk about our kids’ sports in the same way, that they learn their best personal and inter-personal qualities on the sports field. Sports may, just like life, teach us lessons if we have the gift to see and then seize the opportunities they present. Usually, however, the focus is on the skills of the sport and not the more important, yet secondary to the sport, lessons.
How is training in martial arts different?
Martial arts stand as the exception to typical sports. The different styles like taekwondo, karate, judo, jiu-jitsu, and kung fu, build upon a deeper philosophy that develops the qualities of the person who holds a black belt. In the martial arts, the skills of kicking, punching, and forms are the means to develop the qualities, rather than an end in themselves.
During training, students develop physical skills, confidence, self-esteem, self-control, and many others. Martial arts are inherently motivational, which is crucial to learning. The many situations in training challenge students to deal with failure, conquer fear, perform under pressure, and help one another. The training repeatedly challenges students beyond their current capability, and they grow to meet the expectations.
Do martial arts by themselves cause the growth we see in our children? No. A particular style provides the curriculum, the learning model, and the experiences that support the instructors, the families, and students to work together. It takes everyone to get the full benefit.
Children fail in martial arts without support from their parents. Yes, parents drive them back and forth, wash their uniforms, and encourage them. But success does not come automatically. Parents catch their children at critical moments and use the opportunities to reinforce life qualities. These qualities include managing emotions, persisting in the face of disappointment, learning to help others, and being positive.
The help you and your family need
We would like you, the parents and practitioners, to learn how to make the most of your martial arts training. With just a little effort and the understanding provided in this book, students gain much more than physical skill development.