As much as we may want to, it can be nearly impossible for parents to give children everything they need at all times. We want to instill good values and teach our kids to discern right from wrong, but we can’t always control that. A lot of other factors will shape their perception.
This becomes especially true when children go to school and, for the first time, experience society solo. As with any internal culture, these children learn quickly from one another how to behave, what gets attention, and what’s cool and what isn’t (don’t be a baby.)
Despite all efforts to make our kids feel special, smart, and valuable, negative experiences at school with their peers can paint a fractured glaze over all of those efforts. The feelings of not being enough that may result, no matter how small, can lead to acting out in class, ditching school assignments, and developing an unnecessarily defensive attitude.
Can we blame them? Often, in bullying situations, kids haven’t even yet formed their own sense of self or don’t know how to use their resources. They might not even be able to articulate the events and feelings to themselves.
Martial arts connects you to your body
While traumatic experiences like getting bullied can fragment our sense of self and cause dissociation, movement-based activities can help us reintegrate body to mind. Physical touch helps our bodies to let us know we’re safe: martial arts helps us build awareness around where we end and another person begins. The more strength we find in our own bodies, the stronger our force field becomes.
Besides learning self defense, when we study a martial art, we begin to form a set of values that stand outside of schoolyard BS, and you study these values with your entire body.
In a martial arts setting, it’s “cool” to be a good partner, it’s “cool” to help new kids feel comfortable and show them the ropes. It feels good to get picked to roll, and know you’re somebody’s favorite training partner.
As kids better their self-image, their confidence blooms because the set of standards they measure themselves up to becomes more clear. They become more confident about their place in the world, and carry that condition with them into all of their surroundings. They gain discipline that helps with things like doing their homework and chores, and they develop the skills to catch themselves before an unnecessary outburst. They’ll know how to react in a bullying situation, and when to get a grownup involved.
Tricky waters of youth
Navigating the tricky waters of youth should not be minimized, and sometimes those of us who have completed that task forget how hard it can be. At Easton Training Center’s martial arts academies, we strive to create a space where children can have fun and enjoy learning Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai while also learning how to be an honorable martial artist. They’ll gain self-defense skills, body awareness, and a new set of values for what’s considered “cool.”
While the goal is to never have to actually use what we know, seeking to resolve conflict with words first, it doesn’t hurt to have an entire arsonal in our tool belts.
Martial arts isn’t a bandaid – it’s a lifelong commitment, and the commitment to a journey. We never want to allude that it will “fix” anything. It does, however, provide the tools that you and your kids can take as far as you want. A feeling of safety with which to show up in the world starts with feeling safe within your own body.