Anna Balyakina is the director of Mariposa Homeschool Co-op, where she also teaches creative writing and art. Among the co-op’s many offerings for kindergarten through sixth grade students and their families are martial arts classes. Anna joins us on the blog to describe how martial arts can enrich learning and life.
It’s Friday night. The doorbell rings, followed by a rush of children running down the stairs. The room smells of pepperoni and cheese. The kids hop onto the couch, and the previews begin. They picked Kung Fu Panda 1 and 2 for movie night because they cannot wait for the third one to come out. Soon the living room is filled with the sound of giggles as Po the panda enters the screen. Your mind wanders to martial arts as an extracurricular activity for the kids.
What are the benefits of martial arts? Below are eight reasons you should consider martial arts training as the perfect activity for your kids—or even your whole family.
1. Self-defense. This is most likely the number-one reason most people decide to try martial arts. I hope that you will not find yourself in a life-threatening situation, but having martial arts training gives you the ability to defend yourself if you need to.
2. Focus and improved listening skills. When you challenge yourself to try something you’ve never done before and you accomplish the task, it makes you feel better about yourself. It also develops mental toughness and focus. This mental toughness is a type of courage. It is being able to realize you have doubts and taking them head-on. It is believing you can handle anything that is thrown your way, no matter what. Taking martial arts classes requires a great deal of focus. You have to be 100 percent in. Because of the physical and mental demands martial arts require, you will find that your thoughts wander less and you become present in the moment. Going through numerous mentally challenging drills, techniques, and training scenarios while under pressure is a personal growth experience.
3. Teamwork and positive social interaction. Taking martial arts classes creates lifelong friendships as well as an awareness of others and their needs. Martial arts classes often emphasize the importance of respect, courtesy, kindness, and sensitivity to others. Students learn to use self-control when working with partners during techniques, takedowns, and sparring. As children mature, they find a sense of belonging, a sense of identity. A good martial arts school provides a positive social network and support group for like-minded folks who are focused on personal development and living a healthy lifestyle.
4. Self-esteem and self-confidence. The great thing about martial arts is that you are not competing against anyone else. It allows you to focus on your own self-improvement at your own pace. Students are able to set goals and achieve new rank levels, which gives students a sense of accomplishment, leading to improved self-esteem and self-confidence.
5. Self-discipline. To move up in rank level, students must commit to their training. The harder they work and the more they practice, the faster they will achieve their next goal or rank level.
6. Accountability and responsibility. A martial art does not just teach you techniques and principles that you can use to defend yourself. It teaches you about the power that comes with these techniques and the responsibility that accompanies them, such as knowing when and where to use this knowledge. Children are taught that they are responsible for their actions and to help others who cannot defend themselves. Students are also taught that they are accountable for their peers and instructor for the way they behave inside and outside the dojo. There is a strict code of conduct and level of expectation for martial arts students. There are consequences for their behavior, both good and bad.
7. Improved overall health. Martial arts increase muscle strength, which can help prevent injury from daily activities as well as reduce body aches and pains as you grow older. Regular training sessions increase cardiovascular endurance and allow you to engage in physical activities for longer periods without feeling short of breath. Martial arts practice also helps reduce risks of obesity, improves cardiovascular health, and increases flexibility, speed, and balance.
8. A structured, safe haven for self-growth. Children do not like feeling embarrassed or out of place or that they are stupid because of mistakes they make. A good martial arts program can provide a supportive environment for children to feel safe about making mistakes, learning, and growing. It can also provide guidelines and boundaries to channel their feelings of independence. This structured environment found in a martial arts class sets the necessary boundaries while still providing plenty of room for freedom of expression.
Registration is open now for martial arts and other classes at Mariposa Homeschool Co-op. The spring term begins January 6.