Works For Me: Karate

WfmwheaderThere is not an athletic bone in my body.  Not a one.  I’m a huge klutz, and I have the bruises on my legs to prove it.  I have actually managed to twist my ankle while standing perfectly still, which is so bizarre it’s almost impressive. 

My poor dad tried to instill some basic athletic ability in me when I was younger.  There were the swimming lessons, in which the teacher had to PRY MY FINGERS OFF THE CHAIN-LINK FENCE to get me into the pool.  There was the basketball team in the 6th grade in which I understood NOTHING that was going on, so I simply sprinted up and down the court as fast as I could and tried to look busy.  (I still remember after the game, my sweet daddy saying, "Well, Shannon, you’re, um, fast…").  There were tennis lessons in high school which my parents (unwisely) let me take with my best friend, and we spent much more time giggling and trying not to break our nails.  That poor teacher.

Two of my sons inherited their father’s agility and athletic skill.  But A Son Of Mine Who Shall Not Be Named, God bless his sweet heart, got mine

He’s had some real struggles with lack of muscle strength and coordination–he’s even had some leg pain directly related to this.  We took him to a physical therapist some time ago, and her number-one recommendation for him was to enroll him in martial arts.

I was hesitant.  Would he be in over his head?  Would a contact sport like this one cause him anxiety?

About nine months ago, we took the plunge and signed him up for karate.  And my boy–I’m so proud of him–has blossomed.  The muscle strength he has gained is remarkable.  (On the first day of class he could barely do one push-up.  Now he can do 60.)  He is more confident, more coordinated and more fit.  In the course of our martial-arts experience, I’ve talked to many other parents with similar positive experiences.  If you have a child with coordination and strength issues, this is an avenue worth serious investigation.

Additionally, martial arts teach tremendous life skills as well, such as self-discipline and respect.  A good teacher will teach a child to defend himself but never to initiate any aggression.  (In my son’s program, doing karate outside class is a major infraction.)

Here are some things to consider:

  • There are many types of martial arts from which to choose; a trained teacher can give you more thorough information than I could.  Ask around, and find the style that best suits your child.
  • Some programs are more intense than others.  We specifically looked for one that was laid back, with a greater emphasis on building confidence than competition.  Again, you’ll get a solid feel for this by talking to the teacher.
  • Martial arts can be expensive, but do your homework.  Especially if you’re a first-timer, look around at community centers, YMCAs, park services, schools, etc.  Such programs often aren’t as pricey as the classes held at a dojo.
  • Be assured that the kids don’t start sparring with another person on the first day of class (this was what worried me)!  Sparring is only done after very specific training, under very close supervision, with the proper safety gear.
  • Any other words of wisdom from you martial arts parents?

Karate has been a God-send to our family, and it most definitely works for my green-belted boy.  I couldn’t be prouder of him, for trying so hard, stepping outside his comfort zone, and making it work.

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59 thoughts on “Works For Me: Karate

  1. Kim Priestap says:

    Thanks for this post. Once my daughter with hypotonia is up to it, I am going to enroll her in marital arts. My husband swears by the benefits of martial arts, and has a black belt in Karate, which he got years and years ago.

  2. Overwhelmed! says:

    Sounds like Karate has been a wonderful experience for your son! Snuggle Bug is a bit young for this now, but perhaps we’ll look into it in the future.

  3. Carol says:

    I will never, ever regret putting Ruben in karate. The non-physical benefits have carried over into all aspects of his life. The physical benefits rock, too! And, at age 10, he’s only three belts from black.
    My sage bits of wisdom: those early belts come really fast. The intermediate and advanced belts take a lot longer. Be patient and allow the child to advance at their own pace rather than trying to keep up with a classmate.
    Good one, Shannon!

  4. Jessica says:

    Hey, we’re all about the karate at our house: my husband and I are both black belts! (He’s a second degree, I’m a first.)
    Our school has lots of little kids in it, and lots of families. I really enjoy seeing parents do karate alongside their kids, although it’s uncomfortable when, occasionally, the parents contradict or try to take the place of the instructor . . . ooo, no fun for anyone.
    So, yeah, if I had any suggestion, it might be to try it alongside your son – you might like it!
    (Cool fact: my sensei is also my priest. Yep, our church is pastored by a fourth-degree black belt. You have to be careful going up for communion . . . 😉 )
    peace of Christ to you,
    Jessica
    p.s. My second suggestion would be, if you do try it with your son, be careful. I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit to breaking both of my arms (at the same time) in my pursuit of a black belt. Um, nursing moms shouldn’t try to break bricks. Stick to the softer boards while you’ve got a little one leaching the calcium from your bones daily. NONETHELESS, karate really is pretty safe. The arm incident was largely my own fault – if you want more of the story, just email me, I’d be glad to share it. It might be enough to say: I felt comfortable enough with the school to go back to it after my arms healed.

  5. Barbara H. says:

    I was very much the unathletic type, and my guys, though better than me, aren’t real sporty. I wish I had looked into martial arts when they were younger. I was always afraid of the underlying Eastern teaching/philosophy, but I am guessing that probably varies from teacher to teacher as well — probably some are really into it and some never mention it.

  6. Mrs.B says:

    I have really enjoyed taking part in WFMW, thank you so much for hosting it!
    Oh and I we don’t have children but if we did I always thought Martial Arts would be a wonderful thing to explore. (o:
    Blessings,
    ~Mrs.B

  7. The Preachers Wife says:

    I would love to have the power to totally whoop someone if the need presented itself. Honestly, wouldn’t you love to be able to get your hubby in a headlock, just because you could…??!! I’m totally signing up..:))

  8. Emily says:

    I’m a first degree black belt at the same school as Jessica and her husband. It really is fun to have all the families learning together, and I’ve been amazed at the calm confidence that can be gained even by the youngest children involved in the school. I’m glad that karate is working so well for your son!

  9. Jane says:

    Many of my students have benefited from martial arts. It is one of the first recommendations we give for shy or lonely children because it is so good at building confidence. I think you were very wise to choose a less competative school.

  10. Brandy says:

    Shannon & others, what about the spiritual aspect of Karate and other martial arts? We’ve steered clear of martial arts because we didn’t want our kids taught ungodly truths or to be led to focus on something other than Christ as the source of energy and strength.
    What kind of spiritual focus do these arts teach, does it really contradict godliness as I’ve been led to believe, and have any of you had problems in this area? (I have heard of Christian martial arts, but I’d like to know experiences with regular martial arts schools.)
    Brandy of The Building Brows

  11. Sarah Joy says:

    My hubby is a blackbelt. It is great for kids, because they can compete against themselves. They get to make accomplishments, learn how to teach others as they advance, and go at their own pace. At the same time they are challeged to better themselves.

  12. MrsLady says:

    Sorry, I did it wrong again and didn’t post a discription by my name the first time. Ooops!
    Anyway, thanks for letting me participate in WFMW-I really appreciate this outlet!

  13. Jenny says:

    I’d have to say I’m with Brandy on this one. There is too much spiritual things involved with martial arts. My husband and I have also agreed not to allow our children to participate in martial arts. Dans have been known to tell of their spirit guides who sit on their shoulders and tell them what is going on behind them. There are other practices of certain types of martial arts which actually teach how to stop your heart and then start it again as a show of control over your own body. Dangerous! And such an open invitation to all sorts of nasties. Be careful, and thoroughly research your arm of martial arts.

  14. Connie says:

    My kids all tried Karate when they were very young – almost 15 years ago. We took them to the YMCA for classes. That might be an option if the cost is a concern. They tried it for a 6 months but never really loved it.

  15. Stephanie says:

    My son took martial arts a few years back. We did have a couple issues with the instructor, but were very pleased with the physical aspects. The whole family could join in the class. It was a major work out.
    As for the spiritual aspects. We were concerned to and watched a few classes before signing up. I’d call the class we were in spiritually neutral. There are Christian instructors out there. Before we had kids a friend of ours taught martial arts and incorporated Christianity into the physical disciplines.

  16. Stephanie says:

    My son took martial arts a few years back. We did have a couple issues with the instructor, but were very pleased with the physical aspects. The whole family could join in the class. It was a major work out.
    As for the spiritual aspects. We were concerned to and watched a few classes before signing up. I’d call the class we were in spiritually neutral. There are Christian instructors out there. Before we had kids a friend of ours taught martial arts and incorporated Christianity into the physical disciplines.

  17. Jennifer, Snapshot says:

    This is lovely, Shannon. I, too, am no athlete. My husband is, and I’m afraid my third grader might be taking after me. She’s still young enough not to know better, and she does enjoy it, so. . . .
    I just posted the first WFMW on a new Christian finance blog–Finding Contentment in the Suburbs (#62)

  18. Eva says:

    My son sounds a lot like yours in terms of strength and coordination. Thanks for the tip; we’ll look into karate and see what it’s all about. My concerns about this in the past have been ones about spiritual influences, and reading some of the comments here has helped.

  19. Melissa R. Garrett says:

    We’re going to be looking into martial arts soon, too. I’ve heard it does wonders to help children with behavioral disorders, and I’ve got a five-year-old son just recently diagnosed as ADD. He is also teetering on the autism spectrum, and his pediatric psychologists won’t rule out Aspergers. He has a very difficult time controlling himself, and I think some for of Karate would really help. Thanks for this post – I really appreciate it!

  20. MCMilker says:

    I love the focus on finding the right sport for your child. This reminds me of the many women who have benefited and become strong from yoga – many of them who would consider themselves non-athletes!

  21. the cherrio queen says:

    ok love your tips and totally love this column! I try and participate when I can. I participated today and covered the taboo subject of “spicing up our romances” I hope it did not sound like a big sales pitch. 🙂
    take care
    cheerio queen

  22. Carrie J says:

    Could be worse Shannon. You could be 6ft tall and have a family of giants and none play basketball or any sport for that matter. My kids friends call our home The Land of the Giants. We all constantly hear ” I bet you all play basketball!” Hmmm…no.

  23. Karen says:

    Shannon, I took Karate lessons as a kid, too. Not only is it good for the body, but it teaches discipline…which is a fabulous thing for your kids to learn. :o)

  24. sara - The Estrogen Files says:

    Yes, I think we must be related as I’m of the Klutz family, too. My own boy just aimed to throw a rock over the fence and, well… missed. Yes, he gets that from me.
    Has a very nice bruise on his forehead, though. And this is what MY WFMW is about – frugal ice packs for booboos. Just instant bandaid magic. Because you KNOW bandaids are magic, right?

  25. Mrs. Carrot says:

    My son is in a Color Guard. He has some tone issues as well. His chief told me to enroll him into karate. After reading your post I’m going to be giving this a try. Thanks for hosting Works-For-Me-Wednesday!
    Mrs. Carrot

  26. GiBee says:

    Way to go, no-name-boy!
    I have several friends that have had different issues with their kids. One has a son who is ADHD, and very, shall we say … aggressive. Another has a tough time paying attention to anything, therefore, I’m assuming is ADD. And one friend that has a child that is full of energy … as in … can run circles around a.n.y.o.n.e., and requires very little sleep. None of my friends care to medicate their child.
    So, they have each enrolled their kids in different karate classes and have gotten excellent results. They train the child to pay close attention, they burn a lot of unspent energy, and come home and drop in bed. The kids with ADD or ADHD can carry their lessons from karate into the school room when it comes time to pay attention, too.
    A good investment, I would say … and a great tip Shannon!

  27. Linda says:

    My husband was in martial arts most of his life. (He highly suggests it). What age does everyone suggest for starting the kids??
    Linda

  28. MommaBlogger says:

    We’re planning on putting our 7 year old into Tae Kwon Do soon. He is very strong, but he is also so lanky, and very uncoordinated, both physically and mentally. We’re hoping the physical/mental discipline will do him some good.

  29. Cori says:

    I’m so looking forward to starting Karate with Matt, he’ll be 3 in a few weeks and I plan to look into it for September. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  30. Lisa says:

    I’ve been wondering about enrolling my soon to be 3 year old in karate! Thanks for the stories about your son! They’re really helpful.
    Lisa

  31. Connie says:

    I just wanted to agree with the folks saying Karate is good for children with ADD, etc. I actually attended a seminar last night on alternative strategies for LD and ADHD children. Martial Arts was highly recommended by the speaker.

  32. Becky says:

    I’ve wondered about the Karate…I’ve an aquaintance who has a son with behavioral issues (not sure his diagnosis) and they put him in Karate and she says it seems to really be helping! Thanks for sharing with us and for being a wonderful hostess. It only took me all day to get my post to actually appear! 🙂 Oh well…better late than never I say!

  33. carrien says:

    Judo has been very helpful also for my extremely athletic little guy, because of the discipline he is gaining and self control and a positive outlet for his aggressive tendencies.

  34. Christy says:

    Thanks for the karate tip! Our almost-four-year-old boy needs some kind of physical activity and could use a boost in confidence. I’ve been wondering about karate since we saw a class in progress and my son looked interested. After reading your post, I feel confident this is the right direction to go!

  35. mom2fur says:

    We signed my oldest up for jui jitsu after a school bully wouldn’t stop picking on him. I mean, this creep would purposely stand behind my son on line just so he could kick him. (The school did step in and put a stop to that, btw.) My son eventually became a second degree black belt. It was one of the best things we could have done for him!

  36. becky says:

    thanks for WFMW, shannon! Love the opportunity to see what might be something we try out in our wacky home… 😀
    b

  37. Kristin says:

    Three of our 4 kids participated in Tae Kwon Do for a year. We LOVED it. The only, and I mean O-N-L-Y reason we aren’t still participating is the cost. We could not afford to do this adn well…um…eat! We loved our Christian Martial Arts Center and all the character training that was included. Our uncoordinated daughter really benefitted from Tae Kwon Do.

  38. Clemntine says:

    Hey! Something Works For Me! I’m impressed that something just works! Always have a blast perusing the entries, and now I have one! Thanks for hosting!
    BTW, martial arts is on my short list of things to look into for our daughter with mild cerebral palsy. Thanks for sharing your positive experience.
    ;~D.

  39. Anne-Marie says:

    We just started martial arts too. Our classes are more about focusing your eyes/mind/body, discipline, listening to your teachers (parents are called teachers in class), recognizing effort over skill, etc. The teacher repeats so much what we tell the kids at home that we thought it was worth the expense – $60 per kid per month. However, we can go to as many classes we want per week. We’ll probably go 2-3 times per week at least. The kids love it.

  40. Enit says:

    I was terrible at any kind of activity that involoved a lot of running around or moving for that matter. lol
    I love your blog.
    Ill be back for more 🙂
    God bless,
    Enit

  41. April says:

    I love my Karate program! One specifically to look into is ABKA Karate (ABKAkarate.com). Their theme – Always present on the battle field. Their Sensei (Teacher) – Jesus Christ. Karate as a mission! I love it!

  42. Irene says:

    We were thinking of karate and other martial arts, too. I wouldn’t worry about the spiritual aspect. Self discipline and compassion do not make a child change her religion, unless there is not a solid basis behind her beliefs.
    So that was a useful post. Thank you!

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