Support Your Karate Kids

Written by on September 26, 2009

Seven Ways to Guide Your Karate Kid to Success

A while back, a parent asked, “What is the best way to support my child in Karate for Kids?  What is my role?  How do I strike a balance between being supportive and understanding on one hand…and making sure my child shows enough discipline to reach his or her goal?”

That’s an excellent question.  In this article, I’m going to pass along seven “little pointers” that will help you and your family benefit the most from your child’s Karate for Kids training.  Chances are you are already doing some of these things.  But it’s always good to keep these pointers fresh in your mind, because the way a parent approaches their child’s training can often be the deciding factor in a child’s success …

All these pointers boil down to one thing: taking an active role.   This is no different than a parent who gets involved in normal school.  It’s the kid whose parent takes an active role who achieves the most academically.  The same idea applies in our academy.  So, here’s my first tip:

Tip #1 – Watch as Many Classes as You Can

Listen: I know it’s tempting to use your child’s class time for a quick break or as a chance to run some errands.  We all need a little extra time now and then.  But actively watch as many classes as you can.  That’s because watching your child’s class is the #1 most important thing you can do to support them.  Something magical happens when you watch your son’s or daughter’s class.  They’ll glance over their shoulder and see you watching.  They’ll do their best to impress you. They’ll take a greater interest in class themselves and they’ll try harder.  Your son or daughter feels visible when you watch class.  And while we do not permit parents to give “tips” or “corrections” from the sidelines, your child does appreciate hearing you clap and seeing you flash a big thumbs-up when they’re on the floor (always focus on the positive).

Also, watching class keeps you in touch with what is happening in our academy.  You’ll hear all the important announcements, get a copy of our newsletter, stay on top of upcoming events and discover which life skills you should reinforce at home (more on that in a minute).  And you might be called on to hold bags or get involved in other ways.  Keep showing your support and make your presence felt.

Tip #2 – Reinforce Life Skills at Home

By now, you realize Karate for Kids is not just about kicks and punches.  Sure, the self-defense techniques are valuable, but we also view them as a way of teaching life skills such as discipline, perseverance, respect, courtesy and leadership.  These life skills are everything – it’s what sets Karate for Kids apart from every other activity out there.  So discuss these life skills at home and reinforce them.  For example, at dinner you can say, “What did Ms. _______ say about courtesy today?” or “How can we use courtesy at home to make things run more smoothly?”   You can talk about life skills at the park when observing other children or you can discuss them at the grocery store.  Use all these situations outside of our academy as “teaching opportunities” – a chance to drill these positive messages home.  If you don’t have a lot of time with your child, use “drive time” (to and from our academy) to back up the life lessons we teach in class.  Talk about the life skill of the month (if you don’t know what it is, ask us).  Ask questions to stimulate conversation and get your little martial artist thinking. Reinforcing the life skills your child learns in class is a great way to support your child’s martial arts journey!

Tip #3 – Encourage Practice at Home

I recommend two or three days a week in class for the average student.  But like any other athletic activity, your child will benefit from at-home practice.  Now don’t worry: You don’t have to go crazy and construct your own dojahng in the basement or install Zebra mats in the living room.  Any open area in the home will do just fine.  Or, if the weather is nice outside, have them practice in the backyard or at the park (forms look really cool outdoors!).

A good guideline for at-home practice is  in small sessions.  See, studies prove that students retain information better in frequent, short bursts.  So instead of a three-hour “marathon training” on a Saturday afternoon, space home practice sessions into short five minute sessions every day or so.  Frequent practice helps develop “muscle memory” and instant recall in any situation. (Valuable for self defense techniques)

Tip #4 – Err on the Side of Commitment

Repetition forms the basis for true mastery.  This is true on the job, in academics and in any sport, for that matter.  Songahm Taekwondo is no different.  Routine in Taekwondo practice helps develop a student’s “reflexive skills” and the muscle memory I talked about a minute ago (for example, if somebody throws a punch, the student should be able to instinctively block without thinking about it).  But – when the repetition part of learning kicks in, a student’s feeling of “newness” or “excitement” can start to wane a bit.  This simply means they’re entering a new phase of their training.  It’s also a signal you should remind them of the goals they set early on.

When your child reaches this phase, encourage them to stick with it.  Remind them of the goals they set and the commitment they made.  And, once again, use this as a learning opportunity.  Explain to them the importance of showing perseverance and focusing on their goals.  Give them examples of how YOU had to persevere to achieve something you wanted in your life.  Remind them it’s not always “fun” or “exciting” to demonstrate discipline and commitment.  However, achieving anything truly great in life will have periods of routine and repetition.  Life is not a video game!

How hard should you push?   Most parents feel they push “too hard” when in reality, they really don’t.  I say, “Err on the side of discipline and commitment”.  For example, a parent recently said, “I don’t push my kid.  If he doesn’t want to come to class, I don’t take him”.  This is not a good policy: it goes too far in the other direction.  Why?  Because it allows a child’s emotional whims to determine their behavior and actions.  Explain to your child what would happen if this were applied in other areas of their life:  What if they didn’t “feel like” brushing their teeth every night?  Or didn’t “feel like” doing their homework?  Or they didn’t “feel like” going to college?  Or they didn’t “feel like” getting a job?  What would happen?   Help your child understand that the lessons they’re learning now carry over into their adult life – and the sooner they start building their “discipline muscles” the easier life will become.  (And isn’t building discipline one of the main reasons you enrolled your child here, anyway?).  Encourage your child to go to class consistently 2-3 times a week.  Besides: it’s always the one class they don’t want to attend that ends up being the most fun and personally rewarding!

Tip #5 – Attend a Tournaments

If you haven’t done so already, start attending tournaments.  Not only is it a lot of fun, but your child will meet new friends, hone their moves against new opponents, take their skills to a new level…and maybe come home with a new trophy to show off to their friends!

Tournaments also rev up a student’s motivation level.  They act as short-term “mini-goals” which channel a student’s focus and direct their energy.  Students know they have a few weeks to prepare for the tournament, so they work extra hard on their forms, practice their sparring with more gusto and take more pride in their techniques.  There are divisions for every age group & color belt—not just for Black Belt.  There are 3 types of tournaments: In-school, Regional & National.

An important “hidden benefit”  of tournament participation is developing confidence.  Doing new things, in new places and being successful gives your child the opportunity to learn not to be afraid to “step up to the plate” and experience personal challenges.  Now that’s learning about life!

Tip #6 – Compete, Don’t Compare

Karate for Kids is tougher than almost any other sport.  It’s mind, body, spirit, emotion, everything – wrapped up into one.  And techniques that are difficult to execute look simple from the sidelines.  Because of that, in the past I’ve seen some parents expect too much – especially at the Tiny Tiger level.  You can’t expect a Tiny Tiger to execute a perfect side kick or jump front kick.  In these lower levels, our goal is to make sure your child can follow instructions, develop gross (and some fine) motor skills, increase their confidence, have fun and prepare for the next level.  Our Tiny Tigers program helps us build a foundation for later success.  It makes no sense for us to refine three or four-year-olds techniques.  There is plenty of time for that later.  Mental development is more important at this age.

So if you feel yourself slipping into the mindset of “my kid’s technique should look a lot better”, try this: Get out on the floor and try it yourself for one class.  Or even just try holding a deep middle stance for a few minutes.  I’m serious.  If you’ve never done it before, you’ll have a new-found respect for your kid!  So don’t pressure them when it comes to technique.  Keep the focus on having fun, staying committed to their goals and getting to class.  It’s fine to encourage your child to compete at tournaments, but don’t compare them to others in class.  It sets up unrealistic expectations because every child progresses at his or her own pace.  Appreciate your child’s abilities and eventually, they’ll hit their stride.

Tip #7 – Take a Cue From Other Black Belt Parents

Finally, understand this: The skills a Karate Kid student needs to reach the rank of black belt are the same skills a parent needs to guide their child to that same rank: Discipline.  Sacrifice.   Perseverance.  Stick-to-it-ness.  Focus.    Commitment.  Approach other “black belt parents” and ask them how they achieved their goals as a family.  What was the journey like?  What sacrifices were required?  Was it worth it?  (I think you know the answer to that one already!).  Other black belt parents will help you crack the code on what it takes to get your child to the ultimate level…black belt!   
Try these seven tips today and watch your child’s motivation and skill level skyrocket!

And finally, THANK YOU for everything you do.  The parents here at KARATE FOR KIDS MESA are the “unsung heroes” and the driving force behind all the life-changing success we have in our academy!  Enrolling your child in KARATE FOR KIDS MESA is one of the most valuable investments, greatest gifts, and best decisions you’ve ever made for your child’s future.  Great job!

—–Senior Master Babin

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