I attended a soccer game for one of my friends’ kids and realized things have changed in the world of youth sports. Don’t even get me started on the no header rule and how unsafe that is or the ridiculous fact that girls won’t play 11 v. 11 until they hit high school. Not to date myself here, but when I was a kid, if you weren’t good you sat the bench until you improved and you only got a trophy when you actually won something. Now, everybody gets to play no matter what and they hand out trophies for participation.
Recognition is great, but I don’t see how these practices are building any character. I participated in youth sports when I was a kid and I’m certainly not knocking it. As a young girl participating in sports I became more likely to have higher self-esteem despite what you may hear in my stand-up act. I also became much more likely to leave an abusive relationship. I just can’t shake the feeling that today’s kids are being given the wrong idea about what it is to earn something. That’s a pretty big concern when it comes to character development and the lessons they’ll carry through to their adult lives.
Is there an alternative out there? Yes there is. It’s called Martial Arts. If you’re worried your kid might get pigeon-holed into one Art, fear not! There’s a ton out there to choose from. There are grappling arts like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Judo. There are striking arts like Muay Thai, Kung Fu, Jeet Kune Do (JKD), Karate, and American boxing. They can even learn weapons in arts like Kali. It’s also worth mentioning that kids who practice Martial Arts are a lot more likely to stand up to a bully or intervene on behalf of someone else who’s being bullied.
But Martial Arts can be dangerous! My precious little snowflake might get hurt! Right but teaching kids to put their cleats up near another kid’s head instead of simply teaching them to HEAD THE DAMN BALL PROPERLY is perfectly safe! Martial Arts are not dangerous if they’re taught by a responsible instructor who’ll create a safe environment and insist on the use of proper safety equipment. Think of it logically: a good instructor wants students to teach and if they allow students to get hurt, then pretty soon they’ll have nobody to teach. Nevertheless, ask around and do your due diligence to find a good school with responsible instructors near you.
Remember what Arya Stark said: Every bruise is a lesson and every lesson makes us better. Yes, there may be the occasional mat burn or slight bruise but life is going to give your child a few knocks from time to time and yes it’s hard to step back and watch it happen but how will they ever survive to adulthood if you never let them take their knocks? It’s simple: they won’t. You know what happens when a kid doesn’t take any knocks in life? Joffrey. Evil ass Joffrey from Game of Thrones is what happens when you don’t allow your kid to take their knocks.
Will there be trophies for participating? Dear God no. Remember how we talked earlier about building character by teaching kids what it is to truly earn something? Well kids that do Martial Arts get something way better than trophies and that’s rank. There’s a lot more to earning a rank than just showing up. You have to prove you can perform at a certain level, demonstrate good listening skills, show respect for your instructor and your peers, and conduct yourself properly.
That belt, sash, ikot, or what have you is not just an empty symbol. It means that you’re no stranger to hard work and sacrifice. It means you hold yourself to a standard that befits that rank. It means that you passed physical and mental tests. You try remembering a technique you learned a month ago while sweat’s dripping into your eyes. It’s not easy.
Rank is earned, people! It’s earned through sweat and yes sometimes even frustration and nothing teaches a kid how to manage frustration better than a good instructor who enforces consequences when they don’t. No kid wants to do push-ups while their peers are learning new things.
The fact that you’re paying the instructor doesn’t mean that you own them and get to tell them how to do their job. My God the teachers in your child’s school must hate you! What you have to go through to earn your rank in Martial Arts is nothing compared to what you have to go through to earn the level of knowledge and proficiency to teach; not unlike the teachers you’re harassing for no good reason.
My father was a teacher and he didn’t try to tell my teachers or coaches how to do their job or act like he owned them because he was paying tuition for me. In fact he told them if I screwed up, to make me pay for it. If he thought they were too easy on me, he took it upon himself to come down on me. I missed two ground balls at second base in a little league softball game when I was 9. The next day, he took me out and made me field 50 grounders and catch 50 fly balls. And look at me! I survived to adulthood! Your precious little snowflake will, too. Never fear.
If the instructor is worth his/her salt, s/he cares a whole lot about your kids and has a lot of respect for you, too. Organized sports are great and all, but if your kids take an interest in Martial Arts, support it. You’ll probably notice that they listen better at home and see them blossom into amazing human beings and when that happens, mention this blog if ever we meet and you’ll get a high five for the parenting win.