How Martial Arts Training Benefits Kids Returning to School
by Bill DeGrafft
Ponte Vedra Martial Arts Academy
There are a number of benefits that come from martial arts training, especially as children are getting ready to go back to school. Among those are perseverance, respect for self and others, appreciation of structure, improved confidence, and acceptance of responsibility. Martial artists tend to overcome obstacles, treat others the way they wish to be treated, and understand the importance of taking personal responsibility for their actions.
Martial arts students learn that there are good days and challenging days. The latter are not bad days, but rather involve one obstacle or another that students must work through to successful completion. No obstacle is too big for a dedicated martial artist and no achievement is gained without hard work, and yes, sometimes a student of martial arts (as well as a pupil in school) experiences failures along the way. Martial artists are taught to learn from their failures and grow, whereas others might be consumed by their perceived inadequacies and surrender.
Respect of Self and Others
The tradition of martial arts begins and ends with respect. Respecting each other on the mats leads to respecting others in school and on the playground. You learn that your opponent is not your enemy, for without your opponent you can never rise personally. Therefore, martial arts training allows you to discover more about yourself and the amazing connection between mind, body, and spirit. More importantly, you learn that finding and maintaining balance in these three areas gives you better control on how you respond to the world around you, including how you react to other people who might seem at first to be roadblocks but are, in actuality, merely hurdles to jump over (or future friends to win over!). Martial artists also quickly grasp that tradition is important, and that we need to reflect on where we have been to see where we need to go.
Structure and Goal Setting
Martial arts training involves a good deal of practice and as each level is achieved students set new goals to reach so they can rise to the next stage of advancement. They also learn that regular practice yields continued improvement, that minor setbacks are temporary, and that the only people they need to compare themselves to are themselves.
Martial arts training builds confidence through overcoming challenges, not only in the dojang (the martial arts arena), but especially at school. Confident children also tend to be less targeted by bullies. Confident children are not easily influenced by others; they know who they are and who they want to be. They are a source of positive peer pressure, giving aid to others who are perhaps less courageous.
Martial artists learn responsibility for themselves, their families and friends, and their communities. They learn that doing their very best in class makes them feel good about themselves. This reward for hard work transitions to home in the way they contribute to the family through taking on chores willingly and by honoring their parents respectfully. It also extends to their communities, as martial artists tend to look for ways to give back. For example members of PVMAA regularly participate in “Giving Back” events where they contribute time and effort to local improvement efforts. Such as the charity kick-a-thon, food drive, and beach clean-up.
To sum up, martial arts training improves any child’s mental outlook. Much like exercise in general, it activates endorphins that make participants feel better about themselves. Even when the lessons are hard, overcoming difficult challenges makes it easier to surmount obstacles in general, such as making new friends in a new school, or standing up for someone you don’t know who is being bullied. Martial artists are not bystanders, they are participants in life who live fully for themselves and for others.
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