I was posed the question, “What can my children get from doing martial arts?”. I was slightly taken aback. Such a simple question caused my mind to race. Martial arts are my life. Through martial arts I’ve traveled the world, made lifelong friendships developed the ability to protect myself. Through Marital arts I’ve developed physical, spiritual and emotional health. I’ve even made a successful career out of it. How could I summarize my life’s purpose in a simple, succinct and accurate response?
Over the course of your (or your child’s) martial arts journey, you may also wonder, “What are the benefits to practicing martial arts? Is it worth the time and money?” In reflecting on the value of martial arts, I wanted to share with you just some of the many things you can get from training martial arts!
1. Black Belt. A black belt carries significance. It is the gold standard for proficiency in martial arts. I encourage my students to be sure to put their Black Belt achievement on their CV when applying to colleges. Beyond proficiency in our academy’s curriculum, a black belt demonstrates their ability to commit to their goals, and see them through, even if they take 3-6 years to complete. It speaks to their determination and resilience. It’s obvious why universities and employers would appreciate that type of commitment.
2. Leadership and Communication skills. The Chinese Martial Arts Academy is proud to present the Junior Instructor Leadership and Teaching Program. Developing group management and interpersonal communication skills are the cornerstone of the programs agenda. In addition, the study of learning theory and education play a pivotal role as the students become teachers and take theory to practice. Students who enroll in this program will receive the CMAA Junior Instructor Leadership and Teaching Program Course Guide. Once they have completed the course requirements, they will receive the red rank bar on their black belt indicating their status as a Junior, Senior or Master Level Instructor, as well as a graduation certificate. This qualification will be a meaningful addition to their CV as they apply to college.
3. Letter of Recommendation. I have been proud to write letters of recommendation for my students. To date this has included college, military, private schools and even a young women’s leadership organization. I am proud to recommend CMAA students who are engaged in a meaningful extracurricular activity outside the school setting. As a martial arts teacher, I don’t know much about my students academic performance, but there are a great number of relevant qualities I can assess including a student’s work ethic, communication skills, willingness to accept leadership responsibilities, ability to assist others, grit, courage, social skills. I am happy to speak about the positive character traits and nature of a successful student at our academy!
4. Competition. We learn important lessons when we compete and martial arts offer all types of competitions for those who seek to benefit from competition experience. From small tournaments to national and international tournaments, individuals can choose to compete in either individual forms or various types of sparring. From goal setting to developing the confidence to perform in front of a large group, it doesn’t matter which events they choose, the benefits remain numerous. From learning to deal with loss and disappointment, to winning gold, qualifying for a national team spot or competing internationally, important life lessons will be learned. Additionally, achievements can also be listed on student’s CV’s.
5. Cultural identity. Martial arts are an incredibly exciting aspect of traditional Chinese culture. For many of our students, it has not only helped them become excited and involved with traditional Chinese culture, it has also helped them bring that culture out to the local community in spectacular fashion. What better way to understand culture than to embody it and develop a sense of pride through it!?
6. Cultural Awareness. For our non-Chinese students, learning an exciting element of another culture can help us appreciate things outside what we know to be familiar. My interest in martial arts led to live in China for 4 year and in my undergraduate degree in International Studies, and my MA in Advanced Chinese Language and Culture with a focus on politics. Martial arts served a gateway to my education, traveling, living internationally, making friends worldwide, and greatly enhancing my life experience.
7. Physical Health and Wellness. Martial arts training is a powerful tool in developing superior physical attributes including strength, speed, stamina, flexibility/mobility, balance, coordination and proprioception. The formal development of these assets, with close attention to not only what techniques are performed, but HOW techniques are performed, will not only help children the ability to perform complex movements, but how to perform them safely, and optimally. This type of formal movement education will carry over to all other types of physical pursuits.
8. Passion and Discipline. For myself and many others, martial arts can ignite a passion and help students get motivated, disciplined learn to love hard work! I was passionate about other things before martial arts including playing guitar and skateboarding. However, for me, the culture surrounding these two wonderful pursuits lacked an inherent discipline. Once I started martial art I saw how focused, driven and disciplined my role models were. In high school I would my alarm clock for 3:30am to train several hours before school! I was able to translate this same passion from martial arts to academics as I earned a 3.92/4 GPA when I received my MA degree.
9. Self Defense. While I hope that our students should never need to use their martial arts skills outside of the academy, knowing they have the real ability to protect themselves is incredibly powerful. What’s the value of carrying yourself with enough confidence that a would be predator decides you look like too much of a real challenge for them? What’s the value of your child being able to protect themselves in a violent confrontation with the bully at school or later on in life? I’m not one to promote martial arts for the sake of violence but whether or not you ever need to use your self-defense skills in real life is secondary to the fact that you have them should you ever need them. This is priceless.
10. Kungfu mindset. People think Kungfu (Gongfu) means “martial art”. But what if I told you that Kungfu isn’t a martial art at all? Kungfu is compound of two words, combining Gong meaning "work", "achievement", or "merit", and Fu which translates into "man", so that a literal rendering would be "achievement of man". Its connotation is that of an accomplishment arrived at by great effort of time and energy. In this sense Kungfu is greater than “Martial Arts”. I teach people that excellence is possible only through persistence. Exercise, respect, discipline and focus are all the byproducts of this one idea. Because of Kungfu, martial arts have a much greater value in modern society than ever before. While I take great pride in teaching the highest quality martial arts and paying the closest attention to perfect technique, the reality is that this is all for the sole purpose of instilling the values inherent in obtaining Kungfu: hard work, persistent, unwavering diligence, humility and respect.
11. Athletics. Not all kids play traditional organized sports. Martial arts can take the place of traditional sports like soccer and basketball for kids who prefer individual sports over competing in team sports. For kids who don’t like competing, martial arts can be a physical and spiritual outlet that let them focus on individual development and achievement. Not everyone needs to be involved in sports, but everyone needs to tend to their physical health and wellness. As described above, martial arts can be a powerful tool in helping to do so. For students who are not interested in competing, being a part of our performance and demo team can give them an opportunity to be a part of a select group, share the spotlight and take responsibility and pride in their team.
12. Confidence. Confidence can come as the results from many things. In can come simply in the form of having fun trying something new. Students who are initially hesitant to try a new activity, in a new environment full of unfamiliar faces, teacher, routine and activity but have a positive experience will be much more likely to try new activities with a positive attitude in the future. Students who achieve success, will become more confident and have expectations of achieving success in other activities. Students who develop unique skillsets in movements (flexibility, strength, balance, acrobatics) who develop the associated confidence along with their new abilities. Students who learn practical forms of self defense and spar, will also develop confidence that they will carry with them into all situations. Confidence is an important quality that can carry over to all other aspects of life from job interviews and to dating.
13. Friendship. This social life can give them a group of friends to socialize with outside of school. From birthday parties, to sleepovers, summer camps and social media groups, I see students from our academy form meaningful friendships that will last a lifetime. Additionally, one unique aspect to these friendships is that they often exist between boys and girls and students of varying ages. For example, I see younger students turning to adult students for advice about dealing with situations in school. I see these same young students playing with the little kids during game time and assisting them during class, tying their belts and shoes, and helping them learn their routines. The social experience of training at a martial arts school and the team and indeed even family like atmosphere is truly unique and can have profound impacts on boys and girls of all ages.
14. Stress relief. Hard exercise, that requires mental focus, in a supportive environment, with group of friends can be a powerful form of stress relief. The hard training, can wake up a fatigued mind, or help burn off extra energy that has accumulated during a long, sedentary day. The mental focus required to perform a sword routine or spar, helps clear the mind of other distracting thoughts. It's hard to be bothered by other types of pressure when you’ve got a demanding task at hand. A positive environment, full of friends is the perfect atmosphere to train in. A nice coach and friends can encourage us to work hard when the time is right, and while still being able to make mistakes and simple laugh them off! Training isn’t meant to be an activity that will solve your problems, or avoid dealing with them. Training, can often give us an opportunity to step away from stress, do something positive and then return to those things with a better mindset!
Remember "a black belt is just a white belt who never quit"! All the reasons you should keep going!
1. Learn what it really means to be a martial arts master. You won’t ever know if you quit now.
2. All your friends at practice miss you when you’re not there.
3. Sometimes you’re teammates are having a tough time in training and they could really use your motivation and support! Every practice you miss might have been one that a teammate needed you.
4. Shifu is so proud of what you’ve accomplished but you and he both know you’ve still got so much potential. Keep training and see just how far you can go.
5. You are a martial artist. It’s your identity. Think of what Shifu or the hero in your favorite movie would do and stay the course until you reach your goals.
6. Your younger kungfu brothers and sister look up to you! Set the example by working hard and showing them what it means to be persistent.
7. We’ve got sash tests, competitions and demo’s to prepare for! Get to practice so you can rep’ your team, Shifu and yourself to the best of your abilities.
8. Wushu Kungfu is an AWESOME martial art and sport. You’ve accomplished a lot but there’s still more you can do. Keep training and learn what it’s like to have the skills that only a few disciplined few ever develop.
9. It is great exercise. You have to go to school to study and be smart. Training Wushu makes your mind strong and your body smart as you develop discipline and focus, as well as speed, power, flexibility and coordination.
So, what’s your reason for not quitting?