Children (and adults) struggle more than ever with mental distraction and difficulty staying focused on tasks. Mental and physical effort is typically avoided and swapped for online entertainment. Most kids now find it impossible to spend even 5 minutes NOT being distracted by the computer on their desk or the one in their hands.
We can all see the negative impact of these distractions in our kids and our own daily lives. We might feel powerless to counteract it. However, there is an ancient practice that can reverse some of these negative effects and give us back our inner discipline, focus and confidence. It is traditional martial art training.
Martial arts is a path of training that has been on Earth for at least 4,000 years. It was used in Ancient China not only for self-defense but as a method for training Royalty, military leaders, scholars and people of education and action. The step-by-step path of martial arts training is a transformational discipline with built-in milestones and rewards. The ever-increasing challenge keeps us interested by setting the bar higher all the time. In our Austin Kung Fu and Tai Chi School, kids love traditional Chinese Kung Fu because they learn a vast array of ancient animal styles forms but their favorite part is usually of all the traditional weapons. As they overcome each of the small obstacles and achieve the milestones, they start to believe in themselves in a new way.
Parents sometimes worry that martial art training will encourage their child to fight. They worry their child will see violence as a way to solve problems. However, research shows that violent behavior in kids and teens DECREASES with martial art training.
Self-Belief is at an All-Time Low
Confidence and belief in one’s self goes hand in hand with life success. Our kids have higher educational requirements now than at any time in our history. They are staying up all hours trying to earn hours of college credit with AP classes while still in the middle of high school. They are learning subjects that were previously only taught at a college level. And yet many are suffering a lack of self-belief and confidence. They are disconnected from their bodies and do not see physical activity as a way to empower their daily lives.
Martial arts unify body and mind on a path that teaches deep lessons. It rebuilds a person’s belief in their ability to try, sometimes fail and eventually succeed. It teaches resilience and perseverance. The best part is that it is so fun to learn and do that it “tricks” someone to stay on the path so that these deep lessons stick for life. In our school, we have many kids that started at age 4, achieved black belt years later and begin helping teach the kids classes themselves during high school. They still come back from college during breaks and jump into a class. They learned the most important lesson of life; that hard work and effort always pay off. They learn that they are in charge of their own success in this world.
How to Get Started with Martial Arts
Martial arts schools that teach children often start them at age 4 to around 6. They usually have some sort of free intro lesson. However, make sure to ask about the long-term plan for your child. The majority of professional schools now use an intro program to start kids, but this program will not actually allow for very much advancement. They will often require big rate increases and long contracts to move into a different program that leads to black belt and beyond. In every school you try you must ask the question “will this precise monthly rate get my child to black belt?” No parent wants to withdraw a wonderful experience for their child because of an unknown rate hike that moves the class out of their budget.
Master Joe Schaefer, 8th degree black belt and Ph.D. is the owner of Austin Kung Fu and Tai Chi, a business that has been in Austin for 30 years! Visit their website for details about programs and classes. Online and in-person options are available.