Despite the fact that research shows many students learn better while moving, we still find many classrooms in America where pupils are instructed to “sit still” and “be quiet.”
In a karate class, your child will be encouraged to move – to kick hard, punch hard and yell as loudly as possible. What could be better than that?
Karate, a Japanese martial art, has surged in popularity in the United States in the last 25 years. Why? The benefits are many.
- Physical fitness – Karate classes are physically demanding, with workouts increasing both strength and stamina, and helping overweight children to shed those extra pounds. For kids who are couch potatoes, classes can reinvigorate them so they have more energy throughout the day.
- Improved reflexes, flexibility, balance and coordination – Physical education classes can be the most dreaded part of the day for some children. Whereas not everyone is cut out for ball sports, karate classes will help with some of the skills necessary for these, improving a child’s performance and boosting his or her confidence levels.
- Ability to defend yourself – No one wants to be the target of a playground bully. Karate teaches children how to stand up for and protect themselves.
- Improved concentration and focus – Karate helps a lot of children gain the self-discipline necessary to complete schoolwork and homework. Having an outlet for stress and keeping your body fit help during those times when self-restraint and focus are required.
- Boosts confidence – Karate can seem like the magic elixir for the quiet and shy child. Mastering move gives such children confidence, allowing them to try – and succeed – at more challenges.
Tammy Callahan, co-owner with her husband, Cary, of Twin Dragon Martial Arts in Gainesville, VA, says parents who come to their studio are looking for discipline, fitness, confidence and a challenge for their children.
“Kids learn to be in front of a class successfully,” Callahan said. “They come out of their shell. They say, ‘I can do this.’” Callahan’s own daughter was naturally quiet and shy, and Callahan watched her transformation into a confident, self-assured child through classes.
And it’s not just the student’s attitude in relation to others that changes, but also his or her attitude towards schoolwork. “Schoolteachers always say they can tell which students take martial arts because they have better focus,” Callahan said.
Martial arts isn’t just for children, however. Twin Dragon has many adult students and a separate class for senior citizens.
Adults take karate classes, but they also take Kung Fu, for which students have to be at least 14 years old.
“Kung Fu is more interesting,” Callahan said. “It’s art, exercise and self-defense. It’s an entertaining and fun form of exercise that isn’t boring like a gym.”
Twin Dragon’s “Flow Motion” Kung Fu class for adults and seniors uses a slowed-down Kung Fu curriculum. “It’s great for range of motion, strength and balance,” Callahan said. Seniors who exercise often see more dramatic benefits more quickly than younger people for whom strength and coordination are still naturally occurring.
Callahan advises those looking for karate classes for themselves or their children to consider studios carefully. One size does not fit all, and those that award black belts based on participation are missing the opportunity to build character in students, who can be left with a false sense of their self-defense abilities.
“At Twin Dragon, you have to you have to gradually work toward earning a black belt,” Callahan said. “Quality varies from school to school. We’re not quantity, we’re quality.”