Martial Arts to the Rescue!

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Our Martial Arts journey began with a movie.

While binging on old-but-great movies with my family, in the year that shall not be named, during the beginnings of a global pandemic, we watched “The Karate Kid” (the original from the 80s). I am pleased to announce that my kids loved it as much as I do. I was never in karate as a kid myself, but I sure thought the kicks and punches that Daniel LaRusso performed at the end of the movie, while injured, were the absolute best I’d ever seen. They felt the same. As the credits rolled, each of my kids were attempting their bests at “The Crane” and if I am being honest, I was too (cue pulled hamstring).

“The Karate Kid” in its totally 80s way, showed my kids what resiliency and grit can look like for an underdog and someone who isn’t in typical team sports. Watching the movie allowed us to talk about the many character-building moments Daniel faced, and guess what? Those lessons are 100% relevant today too. Grit and resiliency are characteristics that are challenging for youngsters to understand, so I took this teaching moment and ran with it, wax-on, wax-off style.

One of the hidden gems in the movie was the style with which Mr. Miyagi taught Daniel. Daniel worked extremely hard, earned his keep, and generally kept his complaining to himself most of the time. His sensei, Mr. Miyagi, quietly taught Daniel by disguising life’s lessons in terrible household chores (just like my parents used to do). My kids found it fascinating that daily living skills could translate onto the karate mat to improve Daniel’s fighting skills. They were picking up on the fact that attitude plays a huge role in each activity.

My kids also found it shocking that Daniel was allowed to fight. From when they were littles to the big kids they are now, we’ve preached to them, “No fighting!” (actually, this morning I had to say it too!) What they didn’t understand initially, was that martial arts has rules too, just like other competitive sports.

When my kids’ entire world went virtual in 2020 (gah, I said it!), I knew I had to get a little creative and find them an outlet for their cooped up energy. Then, it hit me- like an upper-cut to the chin– my kids could do kung fu from the very own comforts of our home!

Guinea Pig A (my then six-year-old daughter) started her martial arts journey in March 2020. Witnessing her tenacity jab out during sparring (both metaphorically and literally), was probably one of the most memorable moments we had at home. Even though in the beginning her sparring sessions were virtual, she still learned self-discipline, self-control, and had a way to expel energy she otherwise wouldn’t have. Seeing her stubbornness translate to something positive, and her channels of energy become useful (haha), was exceptional.

Once we saw the changes in Guinea Pig A, it was non-negotiable that my son would join her and participate in martial arts (he’d been holding out for soccer or football, but both ended up canceling). After a few classes of martial arts, we noticed my son’s voice (which was originally tentative and insecure with strangers) become stronger and more confident with each new skill, and his begrudging attitude became anticipation and excitement.

Double score, right? We found something for BOTH my kids to stick with, where they can go at their own pace and own skill level.

Yes, but there’s still a bit more to the story.

Not long after my two children earned their First Degree White belt, my husband couldn’t resist any longer, and he also joined them. He’s never had any karate experience, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that each time they practice, they all show up to learn, and they try their best, while exhibiting respect, self-control, and a good attitude. For me, seeing a grown man interact with his kids in a place where they are all there to better themselves, that’s what it is all about. That translates to real-life so much better than a first-place trophy from junior league football.

For us, martial arts is the culmination of team sports, individual sports, life lessons, and more, all rolled into one activity. I know, I know, it sounds too good to be true, but in the wise words of Mr. Miyagi, “Trust the quality of what you know, not the quantity.”

I’m just happy that the movie I am writing about isn’t, “Honey I Shrunk the Kids.”