Friday, January 18, 2008

Children and the Martial Arts: The Art of Trying New Things

My 5 year old daughter hates soccer. I’ve never seen her so completely stressed over anything like this before. She was apprehensive and fought us a little with swimming, but eventually got the hand of it. Even with Judo she didn’t feel like going sometimes. But once she got there, she was fine. Now, it’s her thing. So my wife and I thought she would be OK with soccer after a while. That’s what we thought.

This was different. She would start agonizing over soccer on the Sunday before the Wednesday practice. An hour of games, a lot of sunshine and time with her friends how horrible can it be! You would think that she was heading off to war every time she put on her little cleats and shin guards.

Well, like every parent, I want her to learn about new things. Growing up I played four sports, studied martial arts and even attempted music (no such luck there). I half expected her to take to soccer like a duck to water and get in there and do her best Mia Hamm impression. Well, that didn’t happen, but then again, she is only 5.

But, we were determined, like before, a little crying and whining NEVER got her anyplace, so what did Dad and Mom do…we practiced with her. In fact, she even asked us to practice. And we did, almost everyday until the next practice.

Did it work? Kind of, she still stressed but managed to get through. However, it was a vast improvement over the last practice which consisted of crying and running off the field (Not me, my daughter).

But don’t phone in our parent of the year nomination just yet…

Yesterday my wife received a call from our daughter’s teacher saying that our child was completely stressing and upset at the prospect of having soccer practice after school. It was like all the anxiety form the week before had built up and unleashed its fury this week.

So what did concerned parents who want to instill a good work ethic and moral fiber do?
Well, considering she is only 5. In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter? No, not a bit. This doesn’t even come on the radar screen. But we did have her watch practice, which she did happily.

That’s why we have the one month intro program; because “I feel your pain.” I know what it’s like to see a child twist themselves up over nothing. But I also know how important it is to see your child find something they enjoy. The relief on a parents face (mine included) when they come to the dojo. The pleasure I feel when a mom says, “Judo is the only thing my kids like coming to.”

Well for now, soccer is going to have to wait. We’ll try dance, gymnastics, singing, music and whatever else, and if she finds something she enjoys half as much as Judo I will be happy for her.

Martial Arts, Self Defense and Children's Martial Arts

Sunday, January 6, 2008

I’m getting too old for this…Are you too old to study martial arts?

Who hasn’t said this at one time or another? On vacation last week I overheard a friend saying just those words as she talked about her failed attempt at “skim boarding”. Thinking that the fact that she was pushing 40 had everything to do with why she wound up in a pile of limbs and sand after a brief but agonizing moment on top of her son’s board.

Listening to her I heard the echoes of dojo and the same lament from a lot of you. Sure your body wears out and reflexes slow, but it’s not nearly as bad as you think.

Think back to my friend, what did she expect, the most “athletic” activities she has done in the past 22 years are jog and play bacci ball. Though these are noble endeavors, they are a far cry from skimming along the surface on a piece of wood.
How much of a chance did she give herself? I mean, really.

When you are young, everything is new. You are used to learning new skills and being challenged ALL of the time. You have too. As an animal, your very survival depends on your ability to adapt and think. When you are young, you can’t be afraid to try new things because EVERYTHING in new!

Now as you age, you become more sedentary. Being good at kickball is not as important to you when your 30 as it is when your 10, unless you’re me of course.

The problem is:
1. We expect too much from ourselves
2. You don’t give yourself a chance to learn

The solution is:
1. Set the bar a little lower
2. Be patient with yourself

We all want to be perfect, we all want to succeed. But no one can be and no one ever is. All you have to do is be a little better than the last time. And before you know it, you’ll be waking up those nerve endings and reflexes again.

Worry about the little victories, making it through warm ups, trying to do perfect push ups; just take care of the little details and the big details will take care of themselves.

Martial Arts and Self Defense