Martial Arts as P.E., part 2
Beside a great physical work out, martial arts teaches many skills that are important in life. They teach self-control in the physical as well as emotional sense. They encourage students to set goals. The good thing here is that the goals are individual. A goal might be to learn the next three moves of a form, or to test for the next belt rank or to go for a national or world championship. Tae Kwon Do also teaches respect for those above and those below you, whether that is age or rank. Honor and integrity and respect are also key tenets of martial arts. For students with attention deficiencies, martial arts have been shown to improve behavior and academic performance. It is important to know that most martial arts are not taught in a manner that is mean or aggressive. Most martial arts are considered defensive rather than offensive and therefore do not encourage students to strike first or to start fights. And anyone can be a martial artist. At a tournament I recently attended there where students with physical disabilities, students with cognitive disabilities, young children, old people, athletes at the top of their form, and out of shape people who had decided to move in an attempt to improve their physical state. All are welcome.
There is another aspect of martial arts that I personally consider very important. At least in our form of martial art, there is no sideline coaching from parents. What this means is that there is not the over achiever parent, living vicariously through their child, yelling commands from the sidelines. In some team sports, even if you, as a parent, are not yelling at the children from the sidelines, there is another parent, yelling at their child, and by proximity, your child is being subjected to the yelling. There is not “team” pressure either. Each student of martial arts is not trying to meet another’s expectations. The ultimate goal in martial arts is for each student to live up to their own personal best.
In the grand scheme of things there are many positives to including a marital art in your child’s physical education program. The added bonus to the practice of a physical activity that can continue into adulthood is the fact that many of the virtues taught and practiced while participating in martial arts reinforces good character and a strong moral direction. This is done without assigning a religious aspect to that moral character. If you and your fifth grader are looking for a family friendly physical activity you should consider martial arts. Our Black Belt family did and we have only one regret – that we didn’t start sooner!