Martial Arts Classes for Kids and Civilization’s End

Martial ArtsI was walking to the local supermarket to get Gatorade because my right kidney has bee hurting and I just learned that Prilosec is only supposed to be taken for two weeks and I’ve been taking it for years. So I thought I would get some electrolytes in me and cut down on the tea and then start drinking water and maybe stay alive for another decade. And then I had the interaction with the martial arts girl.

In the same shopping center as the supermarket is a martial arts “academy.” I see all the little tykes in there doing their moves. They are kind of cute in their ways. But there are also olden children. And the girl was one of them. She was dressed up in her white fighting uniform with her big bag and she intimidated me out of her way, even though (1) I had right of way and (2) I am an old man.

This is not totally unusual for me. My life in public is very much one of trying to not be seen. And I generally find young people terrifying, but only because they are awful. But the encounter crystallized a question that had been vague in my mind for a long time: why would parents have their young children study martial arts?

I understand why people make their kids learn musical instruments. They do it because music is great. Learning an instrument provides the child with a lifetime of greater enjoyment of music. But on a more fundamental level, it allows them to play music: alone, with friends, in a band or orchestra. Are the parents who take their kids of martial arts classes expecting that their children will get into fights? Are they assuming that their kids will have to physically protect themselves later in life?

Now I know: all that martial arts stuff is tied into lots of ideas about honor and respect. I think that’s just compensating. For one thing, it’s never struck me as anything but affectation. But in all my years studying music very seriously, I never had an instructor give me a lesson about respect and the proper use of what I was learning. That’s because what I was learning did not involve breaking someone else’s nose.

The Paranoia of Martial Arts

We in the modern world get such a distorted view of the world because of the news. It is never reported that all the children from the local grammar school all got home safe and sound. So we end up with this skewed impression that the world is a very dangerous place. And when that leads to things like kids wearing bicycle helmets, that’s great. But I really do think that these parents are taking their kids to martial arts classes out of the same fear.

I understand that there are bullies out in the world. But martial arts classes are not the answer — they are the problem. Because if people think that it will just be the bullied who get this training, they are sadly mistaken. In fact, I suspect that the testosterone fueled environment of the martial arts class only encourages it. I think these parents are being shortsighted. And it’s ruining our civilization.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

15 thoughts on “Martial Arts Classes for Kids and Civilization’s End

  1. Having taken the training as a kid-because it is FUN! It looks cool and it teaches you something while being super fun.

    I would send my kid there since I would want them to have fun, not because fighting is good against bullies. Especially since my kid would probably be assumed to be the bully as my family breeds fairly large. The nephew is 6′ 4″ at 16 for example.

    • Yeah, I’ve been getting pushback various places. Dance, music, math, botany — all these things are fun too. And far more edifying. And better for society.

        • I know. I also know that these “academies” spring up and are marketed. I don’t however see it as especially different from teaching kids to shoot guns. In those cases too, great care is taken regarding safety and respect.

          It’s not a big deal. It’s just that society defines itself by what it does. I’m far more concerned about continuous war and income inequality.

          • I suppose there is a point behind doing some quality control for the sport. But it appears to be a less damaging sport then say football.

            • That’s definitely true. I studied Karate for some time and I never hit anyone ever. It was rather like learning a new instrument: about perfecting movements that are not natural. And there is much to say about that. I don’t think children should be allowed to play football. There’s too much potential for physical harm.

              • Indeed-football, even with the equipment, still results in a great deal of physical harm. Whereas various martial arts results in you maybe having to block someone if you use the right one.

                • Yeah. I did enjoy Karate, because it was so precise. It was very much like learning a musical instrument. I still have great concerns about it. But I’ll go along with James and admit that the teacher is a big part of it. I’m just concerned about why people are having their kids do it. And I suspect that a lot of it is this modern middle-class thing where kids have to be in programs every day. They think they aren’t good parents if they don’t. So I suspect more are doing it for admirable (but not necessarily good) reasons.

                  • I would have sent mine for the same reason that Mark did. And as I said, it is always considered cool. My kid would have had enough negatives to deal with so anything that would help him or her be slightly less dorky is a win in my book.

                    Plus no one in my family has any musical talent so unless something weird happened with the other half of the DNA, dancing and music probably would not be in the cards.

  2. What horrifies me are those death matches so popular on TV. For people who don’t find boxing brutal enough. If it were legal, Americans would watch gladiators.

    • Yeah, most violent people on the planet, but we can’t show the carnage of our wars on TV. It might reduce support for “the troops” (that is: support for constant war).

  3. I enrolled my son in a martial arts program when he was about seven, and a big fan of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Learning ways he to defend himself, if he ever became embroiled in a difficult situation, was secondary. Learning to “fight” was way down the list of potential benefits. To emphasize this we selected a studio that taught their students various ways to escape holds so they could run away – as a first choice option.

    I believed the value in the training was more in his opportunity to learn about himself. As a he moved through the various levels of development, the additional skills taught become progressively more difficult. The concentration, balance, and self control necessary to progress required ever greater levels of commitment and determination.

    Eventually sparring was added – under very controlled and extensively padded conditions. Still, the inevitable punch in the nose, or errant kick, would knock him down, presenting him the opportunity to learn that he could “take a punch” both literally and figuratively, then get up to reengage.

    But, with all of that, I think the greatest value came from the necessity of setting goals, then striving to reach them, over and over again until he finally achieved his “Junior” Black Belt at age 12. He went on to play baseball in high school, while maintaining excellent grades. Rowed crew in college while earning a degree in chemical engineering, then went off to teach science and mathematics on the other side of the world as a Peace Corp volunteer.

    My son is not a fighter (physically), nor is he a bully. He grew up healthy and smart, is kind and caring, but has also learned to take on challenges, and master them. I do not know how much his time on that mat contributed to the person he has become, but I suspect he considers his time in that studio well spent.

    • Like so much else, it probably depends on the teacher. There are ways for teachers in sports to bring out the best aspects of those disciplines and teachers in music or math to bring out the worst.

    • That’s a good argument for it. There is something to be said for trying to perfect anything. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’ll give it more thought.

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