I remember playing multiple sports as a kid. I played baseball most of my life with some moderate success, which I balanced out with utter failure at basketball, tennis, and probably a couple other efforts I've managed to block from my mind. What I don't remember, however, was having a schedule as loaded down as most of the kids we teach at The Dojo now. It seems like kids are always leaving to go to the next practice or coming in from some other lesson, and it brings the question up of why karate specifically is such a critical component of kids' success, with so many other things on their plates. Karate at The Dojo, unlike so many other activities, has the ability to stimulate and grow kids on three levels - physically, mentally, and emotionally.
The most important tool a kid will ever learn to use is their own body. By starting with a sport or activity like karate (or dance, or gymnastics, or swimming, or a host of other activities), kids learn to manipulate themselves in space before having to contend with any other element like a ball or a bat. They gain an understanding of where they are in that space, how they are positioned, how their limbs are moving and can move, and an awareness of what their body can do at any given moment in any given position. If you take a kid who hasn't mastered that basic skill and tell them that they have to move themselves to move a bat to hit a moving ball, that's a losing proposition. That kid doesn't even know how his own body works, and now has to pilot it to accomplish a very difficult task. The same could be said for dribbling a basketball or soccer ball or for swinging a tennis racket or lacrosse stick to hit or catch a ball. That isn't to say that there isn't value to all of these sports, just that a kid's ability to perform them can be drastically improved by building a foundation of controlling their own body first. The strength, agility, flexibility, and coordination developed in karate will pay massive dividends in any sport a kid decides to try later on.
At The Dojo, we tell every parent that part of our program is learning to fail and get back up. We teach kids that failure is part of learning, and that it's overcoming that failure, learning from it, and coming back stronger that really develops a person. Students rarely see curriculum and test on it the first time without some constructive feedback for what they can improve on before receiving the stripe on their belt for that material. This isn't to discourage them; in fact, quite the opposite. Here's why: We quantify all of our stripes at The Dojo, meaning nothing is left to the interpretation or judgement of the instructor. Students know what the test will be before they attempt it and understand why they fell short if they don't meet the standard. Sometimes they walk away disappointed, and I'm okay with that. What I'm not okay with is a kid walking away disappointed and confused about what they can improve on. Without clear guidance, they will be frustrated. With a clear, objective standard, they will be motivated. And it's that motivation that leads to improvement and the mental toughness to face the real adversity life presents. Because I'd much rather have a student experience failure in this environment and then know how to handle it when life throws them a curveball for real than to have their hand held and not know how to overcome the challenges that life inevitably brings.
At The Dojo, we subscribe to the idea of "comfort, confirm, and challenge." What that means is simple: We strive to provide a comfortable environment for our students and their families. We keep the facility clean, make the place feel like home, and allow families to relax and enjoy seeing their kids in class when they are here. We keep kids comfortable by taking time to relate to them both on and off the mat. We don't just teach our students, we know them on a personal level and we coach them individually to meet their individual needs. We confirm their value to them every chance we get. That means letting them know that they did good work, catching them doing the right thing and praising them for it, and recognizing their strengths and allowing them to leverage those strengths. It also means holding them accountable to the level of effort that they are capable of - challenging them. It means motivating them through increasingly difficult workloads and throwing new and exciting goals at them. The challenge extends beyond classes - it's an expectation that they will initially think like a Black Belt: "How can I handle this situation with integrity, a good attitude, and respect for all the people involved?" Later, we ask them to act like a Black Belt and serve those around them. Simple stuff that your mama taught you - treating people the way you want to be treated. Ultimately, the goal is for them to lead like Black Belts and to set the example for not just the other people in their class at The Dojo but also for the other kids at school, at church, on sports teams, and to set the standard for how their peers should act. It's through that comfortable environment that confirms a student's value to them and challenges them to constantly be better that we see emotional development and ultimately, those Black Belt leaders.
If you're interested in learning more about our program and how karate can help your student, check us out or give us a call at (678) 209-5093