A Child’s Journey into Martial Arts: A Parent’s Perspective.
Posted: April 01, 2021
It is obviously no secret that I believe Martial Arts are a wonderful activity to get into at a young age! The training provides structure, discipline, exercise, confidence (I mean I could go on for a while, but) everything a developing young mind and body needs in abundance! I know that I owe a lot of who I am, and where I am, to lessons I learned on the mat many years ago.
However, I don’t expect you to take my word for it. So, for this month’s post I thought it would be really cool to give you, dear readers, a slightly different perspective on what we do for our younger students here at the Shudokan.
Now, the title may have given away the big reveal, but humour me regardless.
So now I shall hand you over to two people far more qualified than I to tell you about what we do for our younger students, two parents whose own children have been students at the Academy for many years, Christine and Sensei Jo!
Queue applause etc…
First, Sensei Jo
When my eldest daughter was young, she showed a big interest in Martial Arts. Mainly Karate which I was not keen on her doing. I did not really have much knowledge of Martial Arts at the time. Bruce Lee was probably all I knew, and I just thought it was a lot of people kicking hell out of each other, so the whole thing was dismissed.
A few months later she came to me and announced that her school were doing a six-week course in Aikido, which again I knew nothing about. Anyway, I agreed to let her do the course thinking it would get the whole Martial Arts thing out of her system, but after the course she announced that there would be a graduation at a Dojo in Sherwood. I then took a car full of kids down to Sherwood (none of the other kids’ mums drove so it was down to me). When we got there, she was determined to carry on training.
So, the journey began.
She was training regularly, enjoying her classes, and making good progress. At this point my youngest daughter decided she would also like to train but did not want to go into the Little Dragons (she was technically too young to go into the Junior/Cadets), but they eventually allowed her to go into the Junior/Cadets.
I now had both girls training on a regular basis and progressing well. They were also both doing well in school, making new friends, and keeping fit and not out playing on the streets.
It was a joy to watch, going in the dojo, watching them do gradings, socialising with the other kids, and taking them away from the stress of doing exams. It even inspired me to get on the mat and train. It had a real family atmosphere.
They both did their Junior/Cadet Black Belts, and my eldest daughter then went into the Adult class at 14. By the time she was 16 she did her Adult Black Belt test, 17 GCSEs with nothing below a B.
Both girls did well at school and went on to do apprenticeships. And now they both have good jobs with great prospects.
I would like to think Martial Arts had a big part to play in this. I am glad I agreed to their request!
Thank you, Sensei. Next, we are going to hear from our wonderful receptionist (and joint Dojo Mum) Christine!
Whilst some of you may be used to seeing me behind the reception desk at the Shudokan, my first involvement goes back almost ten years when we first enrolled our youngest child in the Junior Cadet class.
No one was more surprised than me when this happened as I had previously been rather anti martial arts, as I mistakenly believed it was all about teaching kids to be competitive and aggressive and that was most definitely not what I wanted for our ten-year-old son. However, he was such a fidget with bags of excess energy and we had tried gymnastics, ice skating and several other activities with little result, when a friend suggested Aikido would help. As luck would have it, Shudokan were running an advert on the local buses and so I called up and made our appointment to visit and have a go.
From the moment we entered the building I knew this place was different. We were made to feel welcome and at ease from the start. Sensei Jo showed us around and I was invited to sit at the back of the room to watch the class and see how my son got on. I was impressed with how the class was structured. The time was broken down into small chunks of listening, watching and trying the techniques. The sensei were in complete control, managing the energy in the room by mixing fun games, serious learning, and discipline. My son was engaged, having fun, and fidgeting far less than usual and couldn’t wait to tell his dad all about it when we got home.
We enrolled him the next day and before long he went from training twice a week to training every day. This took some effort on our part as I don’t drive so we were catching four buses a day to get there and back, but the effort was well worth it. I could see him not only learning the Aikido techniques and developing an awareness of what was happening around him, but also learning how to cope with disappointment when he didn’t pass his grading first time; to develop patience whilst waiting to be invited to help out on classes and learning to adjust to not necessarily being the most accomplished student in the room. More importantly, he was making friends and had somewhere else to go where he felt welcome.
Becoming a Swat (A junior assistant teacher) and helping out on classes added another opportunity for gaining important life skills, such as learning how to communicate ideas to other people, work as part of a team and gain confidence in his own abilities. And when he hit that phase in his life (as all young people do), where he felt that the rules at home about keeping his room tidy, doing his chores and getting his homework done were just something we made up to stop him having fun, sensei Matt and sensei Martin were there to reinforce what we were saying, both through the Mat Chats and the Way of The Warrior Life Skills as well as the occasional ‘friendly word in his ear’.
As he grew older and moved on to training in the adults the dojo gave him a safe alternative place to go and spend time outside the home, instead of hanging around on street corners or in pubs. Their outdoor self-defence sessions gave him the opportunity to better understand the dangers around him, how to recognise them, avoid them and deal with them if he had to, skills which proved helpful when he moved on to college and when he was meeting friends in town.
All in all I can honestly say that the Shudokan has given many opportunities to help our son grow and develop and provided a key role in supporting us as parents, and has been well worth the time and commitment we’ve all made.
Thank you too, Christine!
I know that for some people, the decision to enrol a child in Martial Arts can seem far from positive, even reckless or iresponsible, but I hope the accounts you've read here today can help you argue the case for the other side. If you or anyone you know is on the fence about signing their child up for Martial Arts lessons, show them this and see what they have to say after that.