Five months ago we enrolled the kids in Karate. We had tried lots of different after school activities, gymnastics, basketball, soccer, swimming, etc. Every time we tried something new, the kids were excited for the first few weeks, but eventually the novelty would wear off. I’m a firm believer in finishing out what you start. So we would complete the session, and eventually move on to something else. I liked the idea of exposing them to a variety of different activities, and then letting them choose what they liked. As part of our school’s after school activities, they offered Karate and the kids begged me to try it out.
At first, I was a little worried that it would teach the kids violence and to be more aggressive towards each other. To my surprise, it was exactly the opposite. Here are just a few ways Karate has changed our lives (for the better). As a result we now do after school Karate and at Pro Martial Arts of Carrollwood and I would recommend it to anyone and everyone!
1. Respect: The very first day, the instructor explained, that in order to earn their white belt, they would need to memorize seven words of respect. The words were, “yes sir, no sir, yes ma’am, no ma’am, please, thank you, and your welcome.” I mean…you had me at “yes sir”. Then the kids were asked to remove their shoes and socks, place them neatly in a cubby, and bow onto the mat. Again a sign of respect for the space where they were about to practice and learn. Loved it! The instructor was not mean, or forceful in his tone, he actually was quite soft-spoken but his demeanor elicited the kids attention and respect. And I’m sure the fact that he was wearing a black belt didn’t hurt.
2. Attention: Focus and attention has always been an issue for us at home, especially for my little one. He is in high gear from the moment he wakes up in the morning until the second he passes out at night. It’s a challenge for him to sit still for an extended period of time unless he is completely engaged in an activity. I was thoroughly surprised to see him sit and attend to the instructor throughout the class. Even when my little guy would get restless or begin to test his boundaries in the class, the instructor would redirect him, or keenly mention which students were sitting like black belts. This technique always seems to spark his competitive side and it gets him right back into line.
3. Balance and Coordination: For my older son, we are always trying to find ways to get him active. Karate has been the perfect solution for increasing his physical activity and flexibility. As part of the structured routine of class the kids begin with a warm-up consisting of stretches, strengthening, and running laps for endurance. This has done wonders for his self confidence. He now takes pride in being able to help lead the class in the warm ups and will often “practice” warm-ups with his brother being the student at home. Anything that keeps them away from the iPad or TV is OK by me!
4. Self Discipline: This piece has been the most rewarding for the kids. It has also been the most life changing in regards to the dynamics at home. In order to move up from one level belt to another, the kids are required to complete a weekly chore chart or self discipline card. The concept is simple, but has made a huge impact on the kids self motivation and independence at home.
Basically each time the kids independently complete a task without being told or reminded, they get a check mark on their list. Once they complete the list they get a stripe on their belt, which gets them one step closer to earning their next belt. The days of bribing with desserts, or toys, or screen time have since passed. Things like putting dishes in the sink, clothes in the laundry, and unloading their backpack after school have now become routine, and we are working on skills that have fostered even more independence.
5. Leadership: Our karate studio offers a leadership program. My kids have shown an interest in participating in this from the very beginning. It is a group that requires special invitation from the instructor, and it’s definitely a privilege to join. The boys have made a marked effort to work towards being invited to leadership. As a family, we have definitely noticed the kids making attempts to demonstrate leadership qualities outside of karate. Both at home and at school, we have seen them take initiative to offer a helping hand. Our older one especially, has started to consciously remind the younger one to make “leadership” choices.
All of these things combined have made a huge difference in our everyday life. Values and qualities that we have been working hard to instill in our kids, are reinforced on a daily basis through Karate. There are plenty of martial arts studios throughout Tampa Bay. Many offer summer camps and parent’s nights out. Our studio offers a family membership which allows parents to participate during certain classes. Another great aspect of many Karate studios, is that they offer self-defense and bully prevention classes. Overall, martial arts is fun for kids, but has lasting effects on the whole family!