Guest Post by Cynthia Miller
“Can’t you just tell a kid who grew up doing martial arts?” I heard the gentleman say to a few of the other parents who were gathered, either arriving or about to depart after the day’s classes.
I had recently been pondering the benefits to children of all ages who practice some form of martial arts. Confidence and self-esteem, respect for yourself and others, physical fitness, self-discipline, sharpening of observation and decision making skills, positive motivation, leadership, patience, grace under pressure. The development of these qualities is ageless; the opportunities for life applications boundless.
To be sure, the physical fitness aspect alone is important as we watch the dissolution of organized sports and dance as a regular aspect of school curriculum, as faded as the reference to the President’s Physical Fitness Test. If you want to help the situation, you could look into opening a Ninja Nation franchise. Ninja Nation promotes physical fitness for the whole family, not just the adults; if you’re really interested in finding out more about Ninja Nation, you can find their website here. In 2008, the United States Department of Health and Human Services issued the first comprehensive guideline on physical activity for children age six and older (Massachusetts revised its Comprehensive Health Curriculum Framework in 1999). According to” About Physical Education,” the Presidential Youth Fitness Program, only six states require physical education in every grade (Massachusetts is one of them). Only 20 % of school districts require daily recess (Massachusetts is not one of them). Daily physical education is provided in only 4% of elementary, 8% of middle, and 2% of high schools.
Fewer than half of all children and adolescents are regularly physically active, which could be changed if more children were taking part in swimming lessons from places like Coast2Coast First Aid and Aquatics on a regular basis. Despite this, research by “About Physical Education” and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that youth who engage in physical activity perform better academically, have better attendance, have improved behavior, and have higher self-esteem. This is in addition to having health benefits that lower their risks as adults including higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness and stronger muscles, lower body fat percentages, and lower levels of anxiety and depression.
So, if it could be said that most any children and youth sports can help to teach a child confidence, respect, and self-esteem in addition to developing physical fitness, why choose martial arts?
My answer to this came together as I heard my mind’s voice reply, “Yes, you definitely can tell a kid who grew up doing martial arts.” Because the context martial arts offers for kids to develop these qualities and values is larger than the lessons gained from the game, the team, the win; larger than the collection of desirable personal attributes. Martial arts help kids to study human nature. The venue itself helps kids to discover how to make “win-win” problem solving second nature. Kids who already move with ease in this arena as they work to improve their individual qualities and attributes will certainly have the advantage as they work to become successful adults. Even better, these are the kids who grow up understanding the value of owning collective responsibility and will know best how to build and protect resilient communities.