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Teach martial arts to your kids with videos! SERIOUSLY?

boy in karate uniform and smiling

While searching online for inspiration on a topic for this week’s blog I got sidetracked by a particular article with advice how to teach martial arts to your kids. It caught my attention because our own karate school has produced online videos as a part of our curriculum. The article turned out to be an advertisement for videos to assist parents in teaching martial arts to their kids. SERIOUSLY?

First things first

The first question to ask yourself before taking on this endeavor is why do you want your child to learn martial arts in the first place? For some people it is simply a means of physical activity at home. Keeping kids moving is important, especially if they have been sitting most of the day.

In most cases, though, it is because either your child has expressed an interest or because the parent has an interest! It could be due to bullying or poor self-esteem. You might think a little self-defense training could help. Or your reasoning might have to do with poor attention skills. After all, martial arts is great for building focus, right? Yes, it can be, and here’s a great article to explain why that is true. But the most important reason for success in any of these areas is having a great martial arts teacher. You are probably a great parent, but are you a great martial arts teacher?

Your kids deserve the best teacher

An experienced martial artist is the person who should be teaching martial arts to your child. From a technical point of view, there is no one better. Years of experience are behind each kick and punch, and there has likely been thousands of kicks and punches thrown. Professional martial artists sometimes get a bad rap. After all, it is extremely physical and can appear to be aggressive. ( Not!) Understanding the comprehension necessary to execute particular techniques, or the cognitive skills required for quick decision-making, will make a parent appreciate the need for a professional to teach your child.

Where you live will determine the availability of a martial arts professional. Read this to help you ask the right questions when considering martial arts classes for your child.

It’s the journey, not the destination

That is so cliche I never thought I would actually use it. Guess what? It’s a cliche for a reason; it’s so true! In my 20+ years in the martial arts I have had some of the best experiences of my life. I can remember my very first class – the trepidation and excitement of it all. Eventually making friends and lifelong relationships, we were all training with a common purpose. We received direction from a teacher, our Sensei, who knew each of our strengths and weaknesses. Karate classes became my “happy place”.

Learning self-defense, gaining self-confidence, improving focus and attention span and having a physical outlet are great reasons for your child to learn martial arts. However, likely the best reason a parent should let a professional martial artists teach their child is to give their child the opportunity for a most memorable journey!

Links to our student’s journeys

Below are a few links to our Student Spotlight feature of our blog. Kids, teens and adults share their thoughts on their training!

Student Spotlight 36 Student Spotlight 31 Student Spotlight 6/27/2018

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Are all black belts instructors? Part 1

title on top of background

The quick answer to the question “are all black belts instructors?” is maybe. An easier question to answer is “are all black belts teachers?”. That’s a hard no because there are differences between teachers and instructors.

The differences between teachers and instructors

For the sake of argument, let’s say that all teachers are instructors, but not all instructors are teachers.

The instructor

Think about all the different types of instruction you have received throughout your life. The short list includes tying your shoes, getting dressed, riding a bike, swim lessons, balancing a checkbook, cooking a meal, driving a car and changing a diaper. Most of those scenarios involve one person showing another person, or people, how to get from point A to point B.

You will encounter instructors throughout your life. Many times, however, the word instructor is used synonymously with the word teacher. You may have been told that the individual standing in the front of the martial arts class and wearing a black belt is your teacher. If he or she is in charge of the class then he or she is definitely an instructor. Not necessarily a teacher.

To make it even more confusing, many martial arts disciplines, like The Bushido School of Karate, use terms like Shihan, Sensei, Deshi and Sempai. Those titles and their definitions will be the topic of Part 2 of “Are all black belts instructors?”, so stay tuned!

The teacher

Let’s go back to the list of instructors you’ve had in your life. Any one of them could have been easily replaced with another instructor. That is the difference between an instructor and a teacher. Teachers cannot easily be replaced.

Teachers make the effort to know each student’s strengths and weaknesses. They push you out of your comfort zone and care about your progress. Realistically, a student who holds a green belt (intermediate level) in karate could instruct a white belt (beginner level). When the instructor becomes vested in the student’s success and can impart the wisdom received only through their own trials and tribulations, the instructor becomes the teacher. And then…

The teacher becomes a student

By learning how to teach effectively, the teacher becomes a student of his or her own students, or karateka. Teachers are humble enough to be willing to continue to learn, especially from those they are teaching! Understanding and embracing this is the difference between an instructor and a teacher.

Some black belts are instructors, some are not, and some are teachers!

I hope I have successfully explained why the statement “some black belts are instructors, some are not, and some are teachers” makes sense. Earning a black belt means you have passed a series of requirements. It does not mean you are now a teacher, or even an instructor, although sometimes those requirements may involve instructing or assistant-instructing in classes.

In order for a black belt to be a teacher, he or she ultimately has to be willing to learn from the newest of students. It’s a journey worth taking!

Stay tuned for “Are all black belts instructors? Part 2”

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The reasons for the kiai in martial arts

karate kicks on a pad

In order to understand the reasons for the kiai in martial arts, we need to break down the word kiai. Ki = inner energy, Ai = join. When a student kiais’ it is the joining of all your energy. It is a very personal thing, believe it or not, but there are physiological aspects that should be the same for everyone.

Physiological aspects of the kiai

The properly executed kiai is not a scream. If you think about it, screaming is what you do when you are afraid! Certainly a martial artists looking to engage all of his or her inner energy would not want to scream.

Screams generally come from your throat. Kiai’s do not. If martial artists screamed out kiais, we would all lose our voices very quickly. And your voice is a weapon, so you wouldn’t want to wear out your weapon. A properly executed kiai is a much deeper sound than a scream because it is generated in your torso. Put your hands on your waist with your feet about shoulder width apart. Now lean from side to side. In order to maintain balance, you need to engage your core muscles. These same muscles help to “push-out” a proper kiai. ( Even more reasons to strengthen those ab’s!)

The 3 reasons why we teach our students to kiai

At The Bushido School of Karate there are 3 specific reasons for every kiai:

To scare the attacker, or bully

Imagine the shock you feel when someone surprisingly yells “BOO!” right in your face. It is disarming, and just might give you enough time to get out of a bad situation.

To call for help

A strong kiai will have a resounding affect and will alert others. A very important reason to continuously practice kiai’s is so that doing it becomes second nature. It is the same reason we practice the same kick over and over: to get better at it. When an individual is under a stressful situation, he or she may temporarily lose the ability to speak. This is a result of adrenal stress conditioning – (a topic for another day!) . But if the kiai is practiced as often as the kick, there is a better chance of a loud outcome.

To feel stronger ( the joining of your energy )

It is hard enough for adults to comprehend this concept, at least at the beginner level. So there had to be a more relatable way to get this very fundamental idea across to our younger students.

We give our students a narrative of the sounds made by a person attempting to lift a heavy box. Usually this is not done silently. For some mystical reason those grunts and groans give us more power. So kiais work in the same way; they give us more power.