How Martial Arts Training Develops Character in Children
Martial arts are offered in many schools as an extracurricular activity that children can participate in. Certainly, martial arts provide great exercise, but there are many other ways children can get exercise, so why choose martial arts? As the founders of many of the various forms of martial arts have known, training in a system of physical defense provides many benefits beyond physical health, particularly mental and emotional benefits. Parents often look to martial arts programs to help develop character in their children. Because martial arts require more than just physical ability, they provide an excellent method of affording character development to children.
The first quality that comes to mind when considering the ways in which martial arts can help build a child’s character is discipline. Certainly, we’ve all been exposed to the Hollywood martial arts movie trope that depicts an older master admonishing his young student over a lack of discipline. Clichés are clichés only because we have come to see their truth as obvious — martial arts are an incredible method for developing a child’s discipline. The more pertinent question here might be why place so much emphasis on building up a child’s discipline in the first place?
The best way to answer this question is to consider that no matter how talented an individual might be, if they lack the discipline to apply those talents in a consistent way they will rarely obtain the success they otherwise would through discipline. Developing a child’s character, particularly their discipline, sets them up for an easier path in life and greater success. Almost all worthwhile goals will require a long-term effort. Because training is a long-term endeavor, a student of martial arts must commit to regular practice for the long run. Involving a child in an activity that requires long-term commitment and regular effort towards a bigger goal is a recipe for discipline.
One of the most valuable qualities that martial arts help develop in a child’s character is also one of the most crucial qualities for success in life: patience. In our instant-gratification world where children are used to high-speed internet and fast food, enrolling your child in a martial arts program confronts them with a practice that has no option for shortcuts and fast-forwards. Practicing martial arts can extend throughout an entire lifetime; there is no quick fix to learning the next technique. Mastery of a move will require patience to practice again and again until the correct form begins to take hold.
Teaching a child patience is often sorely neglected in today’s culture; telling our kids to wait until after dinner before watching TV won’t yield the same level of intimate understanding of patience that a martial arts practice can. By enrolling your child in a martial arts program, they gain firsthand knowledge about the importance of patience in achieving a goal. Nothing is more rewarding than a child who has practiced a new technique for hours and hours unsuccessfully until finally achieving that moment of success.
Many parents often find themselves at odds with their children when attempting to coax them into applying more focus on their school work and other efforts. Parents know that the ability to focus is a vital aspect of developing a child’s character that will set them up for success in life. The child who cannot focus in school later becomes the adult who cannot focus at work—both struggling to meet the status quo with above-average achievement simply out of reach. The ability to focus on a task for extended amounts of time is what often sets apart those with equal talent.
Particularly today, when smartphones and entertainment are always within reach, martial arts are an invaluable method for developing the focus a child needs for success and good character. Martial arts train students in the ability to focus by requiring their concentration during practice. In order to learn techniques, a student must remain focused on their instructor and in their practice. Additionally, when sparring with other students, their focus is put to the ultimate test, as a lack of attention will result in a quick loss.
In thinking about building character, the obvious qualities of discipline and focus come to the forefront, but we cannot underestimate the value of confidence in developing strong character in a child. A child who lacks confidence will often hold themselves back from participating in things that could be highly beneficial for them, such as projects at school or social events.
Ensuring that our children develop character means also ensuring they develop confidence. Yet, growing a child’s confidence is often misunderstood as a process of applying constant praise. Telling our children they are wonderful stems from a place of love, but this favored parent pastime does more for us than for our kids. It’s a simple fact of the nature of self-confidence that it must be built up by one’s self. It’s important to understand the concept of confidence as being the belief that one has in their ability to succeed. Naturally, the only way we can test the validity of that belief is to make our own attempts at success. Martial arts is the perfect training ground for building confidence; a child is able to make attempts at success through their practice, ultimately growing their self-confidence as they train until they achieve their goal. It is only through a child experiencing success after effort on their own that they will grow their self-confidence.
Building character in our children is one of the most important duties a parent has. There are many aspects of character that a child must develop in order to be successful later in life, most notably discipline, patience, focus, and self-confidence. Each of these qualities often makes the difference between average and the above-average in adulthood. One of the best ways we can ensure healthy character development in our children is by enrolling them in a martial arts program. The study of martial arts has been used for centuries to build the character of its students by fostering discipline, patience, focus, and self-confidence. This ancient practice has never been more relevant to our modern parenting needs.