What Karate Taught Me as a Kid
One of the most common assumptions people make about me is I must be some stellar, kick-ass, champion fighter because my dad teaches Karate. That is not true. But just because you were more likely to find my nose in a book rather than doing any sort of sport as a child, doesn't mean I didn't learn anything. Karate does not need to be a lifelong practice to have an extremely valuable or relevant place in a child's life. So, here are the two main messages I took away from my sporadic karate and self-defence practice growing up.
Firstly, it showed me the power of hard work.
Practicing can be boring. Repeating the same moves over and over can be boring. But there's a lot of things in life worth doing that are boring because they lead to something great. For example, studying for a compulsory course in my first year at university was not my favourite way to pass the time. I have a terrible habit of only wanting to do the things I'm interested in. But, in order to get to the point where I could study what I wanted to, I had to learn a ton of things I didn't want to.
Fortunately for me, this was already a lesson I learned from all those hours as a child practicing the same Kata moves for hours on end. You have to do all the repetitive, boring parts to achieve your goals. That is a lesson that inspires and motivates me to this day.
The second thing I learned from Karate is much more practical: it has empowered me in everyday life and in potentially dangerous situations.
My parents aren't naive. They knew one day I would find myself at a work/school event, party, or walking home from a night class where there would be a potential for something bad to happen. Young people find themselves in all sorts of inherently dangerous situations, whether they intend to or not (give them a break - their prefrontal cortex is underdeveloped). Because of this, my dad worked with me as a kid to prepare for those “what ifs”: what if someone is trying to slip GHB or another date rape drug in my drink? What if someone is harassing me? What if someone tries to touch me without consent? What if someone follows me home? I could go on and on.
But you don't want the first time your child is thinking about what they would do in any of these situations to be when they are faced with it.
I've been in many situations as a young adult at work, a school event, or even hanging out with friends where the inner monologue of “Be aware!” pops into my head. My dad conditioned me to always be asking: Who is around me? What are they doing? If I needed to defend myself in this moment what can I use? (quick tip: walking around campus - especially after those late classes - with a mechanical pencil in your pocket can be used as an emergency weapon while ensuring you are always prepared for an exam. You would be surprised how many students scramble for a writing utensil right before the exam - haha). Karate changed the way I think in every situation, even in adulthood and taught me to avoid dangerous situations rather than fight in one.
So the main lesson I’d like to share with all of you is:
It doesn’t matter if your child’s interest in Karate stays in childhood or becomes a lifelong passion: there's value in it for everyone.