As a father of 2 children, I have the good fortune of meeting many parents and naturally, our discussions often lead to what our children do for after school activities. Soccer, hockey, baseball, among other things often come up and many times as parents, we always seem to feel that time flies or that there is never enough time as our lives and childrens’ lives are so busy with all the good activities we involve them with. This had me thinking, since we cannot have our children take part in all activities, we must choose our activities wisely. Now please forgive my bias here as a Taekwondo teacher, but in my opinion, there are 2 sports (disciplines) that every child must have as part of their social, physical, and emotional development: swimming and martial arts.
Swimming simply for its safety and overall safe muscle development. We live in Vancouver! A city surrounded by water. If we fall in, we must swim, period. Children must learn how to swim.
Next, I believe martial arts are a necessary part of every child’s development because it helps instil focus, confidence, self defence, and respect. Of course, there are many other benefits that come with martial arts training (improved motor skills, teamwork, physical fitness, perseverance, etc…) but I believe these 4 traits I listed are the top of the reasons why children and youth must take martial arts classes. There are not many activities that will teach your children how to effectively deal with bullies and the basics of street sense and stranger safety while helping them become physically and emotionally stronger. Also, martial arts is one of the few activities that will DIRECTLY teach your child these important life skills.
Let’s take respect for example. Today I was at my son’s soccer practice and the coaches had them doing some drills. Now, please do not get me wrong here, the coaches did a decent job making sure the kids had fun teaching them drills and having them play but if you were to compare a typical soccer practice with a typical martial arts class, you will see some major and fundamental differences. In a typical Taekwondo class, respect is taught in 3 very clear ways: cognitively, physiologically, and repeatedly. In a Taekwondo class, we first explain what the word “respect” means – being good to oneself and others in a way one would like to be treated. Students are challenged to demonstrate the word in all areas of life, namely, at home, at school, and at ‘soccer practice’. Next, the instructors model physiologically the word respect by bowing, smiling, shaking hands, and helping one another in a positive environment. Finally, the word “respect” is repeatedly used. It is not uncommon to hear the word “respect” 5 times in a single class.
While sports like hockey and soccer will teach our children many of the same values, I believe these skills are acquired indirectly whereas, martial arts will teach these life skills in a very direct and clear way.
In sum, I believe there are many benefits to exposing our children to many different sports but if as a parent, you must choose only a couple, I believe they would have to be swimming and martial arts. Now its just a matter of seeking out the best swim club and best martial arts club to make sure our kids benefit the most – I hear North Shore Taekwondo is pretty good at teaching martial arts….:)
-Master Tony Kook