Thursday, 26 March 2009
Kids and Karate
Sensei asked me to come in early last training session to help teach some kata to the junior class. When I arrived he asked me to take a young girl (aged 7) through pinan shodan as she is grading on Saturday. She basically knew the routine but performed it with a heavy heart and very little effort. She did it with me once and then refused to do it again. I asked her what was wrong and she said, 'karate's boring, kata's boring, I don't want to do my grading.' I asked her if her parents made her come to karate and she said yes. She had been told that she couldn't drop out until she had done two more belts. I actually felt very sorry for her (she's very cute) as she stood there looking the picture of misery.
Why do parents insist on making their children do hobbies that they don't want to do just because they think it will be good for them? I have seen several children in this predicament and they clearly get very little out of it. Many of them misbehave or talk when they should be listening and they often look miserable or bored. This is not sensei's fault , he works hard to keep the children occupied and varies the activities to keep the class varied and interesting. He is not afraid to rebuke particularly naughty children and will discuss their behaviour with their parents. But still these children get brought back to class week after week.
Martial arts is often sold to parents as 'instilling discipline', 'character building' or 'confidence building'. Lets face it, these claims are far-fetched. One hour per week is not going to instill discipline into an undisciplined child. Discipline has to start at home and any child coerced by their parents into doing a sport or hobby that they don't enjoy is going to have their confidence undermined, not promoted. Surely it's the characteristics that a child (or adult) bring into the dojo that determine their success. An eager, disciplined self-motivated person will do well in martial arts. They will bring life and enthusiasm to the class that may well rub off on less confident students and enhance the experience for everyone. The disinterested, poorly motivated student will be a distraction that can sap the energy from the whole class.
I had started to form the opinion that young children just weren't ready or mature enough to study martial arts and maybe shouldn't start training until they are about 11 or 12, but then you occasionally meet a child who is particularly good and inspiring - I have seen such children in competitions - and I think it would be unfair if these children had not had the chance. What is your experience of children in the dojo? Do you think 6yrs is too young to start?
To end on a positive here's some video of some excellent karate from some enthusiastic, well motivated children: