Updated: Aug 14, 2019
There are so many great attributes to be gained from the study of karate. Focus, respect, self defense, and confidence are among the top five reasons why parents enroll their child in karate; rounding out the top five is discipline.
Parents know that discipline is a character trait that can bridge the gap between dreams and goals. Discipline is the major factor in success. When we think of discipline, sometimes we think of parents scolding their children or kids being 'grounded' and losing privileges when they defy their parents wishes. Karate, however, teaches a different approach to discipline, more appropriately named 'self-discipline'; it teaches children that making good choices (even when it's difficult) can bring about good outcomes in their own life.
Self-discipline is far more effective and far reaching into a child's future because it demonstrates to a child that they are in control of the outcomes in their lives. When children have the realization that they are in charge of their destiny they feel empowered and more aware of their choices. This is not an overnight process, however, and the journey has it's share of mistakes as children begin to understand exactly how their choices play an active role in their lives.
Karate, in part, is so effective in this process because of it's build in ladder approach to goal achievement. The belt ranking system allows for perfect "bite-sized" goals to be achieved, leading kids to feel motivated to continue trying. In the early stages of karate, this is quite a confidence booster for children and it's an instructor's favorite thing to see happen to students.
In time though, just as all things do, karate looses it's 'newness' and children find themselves feeling a desire to 'try something new'. This is the exact moment where children begin learning self-discipline; and parents play a huge role in their child's success.
Because learning karate is a journey, it is structured in two phases. The beginning of the journey brings about the small, bite-sized goals mentioned earlier to develop and instill confidence; while the second phase focuses on an increase in mastery and self discipline through patience. It is in this second phase that a child truly begins to understand how being disciplined and dedicated to a goal can lead them to success.
Most often, however, children need guidance during this time. This is when a parent plays a crucial role in the martial arts journey. Just as with attending school, or eating vegetables, the study of karate is beneficial to a child. Far too often, parents who originally sought karate for it's self discipline properties allow their child to discontinue their training in fear of being too 'pushy'.
In most cases parents mention that their child has begun to protest attending karate but is always glad they attended when they leave. This is quite a normal part of the self-discipline learning process. It's where children learn that sometimes the hard choice is the best choice.
In my thirty years of teaching karate, I have seen countless children who were pushed to continue their training during a slump only to come through their journey grateful that they were not allowed to quit; and I have seen many more who were allowed to give up on their goals make a return to karate feeling regretful that they weren't pushed a little more to work through it and achieve their black belt.
I have been that child, the one protesting class and being made to attend, and I have been the parent that pushed my own child to continue; both scenarios ended well and because of that I have learned to trust the process.
"As an instructor, the only way I can help your child gain the benefits of karate is to have them at the dojo." ~Sensei Jen