Teaching Children Martial Arts: A Winning Approach

By guest author Matt Klein

Martial arts for children

Many martial arts schools teach children as a sidelight to their main focus: adults. They are not that interested in children, and only do it because it represents a sizable chunk of their school’s income. Children are routinely thrown into adults classes or treated as “miniature adults.” A school that can focus on the needs of children will be very successful, as there are few that get it right. To be a successful martial arts school for children, it is important to recognize how teaching them differs from the teaching of adults. Continue reading Teaching Children Martial Arts: A Winning Approach

Karate Values, American Values

Americans do not usually see themselves, when they are in the United States, as representatives of their country. They see themselves as individuals who are different from all other individuals, whether those others are Americans or foreigners. Americans may say they have no culture, since they often conceive of culture as an overlay of arbitrary customs to be found only in other countries. Individual Americans may think they chose their own values, rather than having had their values and the assumptions on which they are based imposed on them by the society in which they were born. If you ask them to tell you something about “American culture,” they may be unable to answer and they may even deny that there is an “American culture.”
(from Handbook for Foreign Students and Scholars)

Karate Informality

A few minutes prior to the start of class, karateka (students) enter through the front door, immediately bowing to the sensei (teacher) and/or the kamidana (dojo shrine). The karateka remove their shoes, and enter the changing room to don their training uniforms. Continue reading Karate Values, American Values

Why Natural Breathing is Smart Breathing

When I hear a professional martial arts instructor advising their students to be more natural, I cannot help but feel contempt. Could any help be less helpful?

What is the most natural method for safely evading a knife thrust, while simultaneously positioning oneself for an effortless disarm and throw? How does one naturally reverse a guillotine choke? People who know the answer to these questions don’t need an instructor or a class; for the rest of us, more detailed guidance is appropriate.

With that said, I am a strong advocate of “natural breathing” for martial applications, in contrast to the more exotic approaches advanced in some dojos. Continue reading Why Natural Breathing is Smart Breathing

An Antidote for Martial Arts Poison

Patrick Parker (of Mississippi’s Mokuren Dojo) asked for comments on the article, Martial Arts Poison. Unlike author Kim Soo, I am not a 10th-dan black belt and do joo nim (founder) of my own Karate style. Nevertheless, I venture to offer my own perspective on the topics he addresses.

How do martial arts build character?

Many people believe martial arts training is helpful in building one’s character. This is especially important for growing boys and girls — to build their characters, and give them self-defense skills for life. Parents often want to send their children to martial arts schools, for they have heard of the benefits of traditional training.

But all too often, the negative consequences of poor martial arts teaching appear, and very quickly — injuries in the dojang; development of radical, trouble-making attitudes; declining grades; fighting; discipline problems in school. When children turn out to be aggressive, parents regret sending them to the dojang. But the problem is not martial arts, but poor instruction and improper values (such as emphasizing competition and fighting).

So, parents may think the dojang is a source of such troubles, but the children still are drawn to martial arts training because of consistent exposure to movies and TV—that constant advertising for martial arts schools. Parents may not think martial arts training is good for children, yet the children still nurture powerful and glamorous images
they are getting through the media. This can also set the stage for discord and strife in the home and family.

I am among those who believe martial arts practice has character building potential—a potential that many students and teachers never realize. Therefore, when a Karate dojang (dojo) claims their lessons will build character, I expect to hear some illuminating details.

Why do so many schools tout character, without defining what they mean by the term? Continue reading An Antidote for Martial Arts Poison

Postel’s Law of Sparring

My teachers have disagreed on many things, but in these two points they are all in accord:

  • If you want to excel in martial arts, you must touch hands (spar) with as many people as possible; preferably, hundreds or thousands.
  • For a great achievement, you must use the correct training methods in a disciplined fashion. Avoid deviant and inferior methods, and refuse to entertain the people who use them.

In theory, there is no contradiction between these two ideals. In practice, compromise is required. Nobody agrees on what the correct training methods are, and everyone measures their progress by a different standard—except for those who reject the concepts of “progress” and “standards” altogether.

Of all the frustrations that hinder interaction among martial artists from different schools, lineages and styles—money, reputation, physical safety—this is perhaps the most difficult to address: everybody else is practicing incorrectly! Continue reading Postel’s Law of Sparring

Is This The End of Mixed Martial Arts?

In the past few years, mixed martial arts has enjoyed remarkable commercial success. Some fans imagine that its popularity is a result of its vast technical superiority over traditional martial arts styles. But neither MMA techniques nor training methods are particularly innovative; much of what you see in the competition ring was pioneered decades or even centuries ago.

The recent success of the MMA product is best explained with a sociological model, not a technical one; and this model predicts an inevitable fall from grace. MMA will decay, like every style before it, into a traditional martial art. Continue reading Is This The End of Mixed Martial Arts?

Conflict Resolution: A Casualty of Non-Violent Martial Arts

Symbol of Mars
Shield and spear

To the ancient Romans, the concept of a non-violent martial art would be nonsensical. Their literal definition of martial was “belonging to Mars”, the god of war. Modern usage of the term martial arts, however, is hardly related to military strategy and tactics.

Today, most popular martial arts are practiced without arms. Considering this shift in focus, from immediate and practical skills to more abstract and long-term benefits, it is reasonable to ask whether violent destructive potential is still necessary at all.

Is a non-violent martial art worthy of study? Continue reading Conflict Resolution: A Casualty of Non-Violent Martial Arts

Fight Like You Train, Don’t Train Like You Fight

You will fight like you train, as the saying goes, and there is some truth in it. If you have never tried to apply your martial art against a fully resisting opponent, it is unlikely to work as well as you would hope. Therefore, a practical martial arts curriculum should include a variety of common attacks, drilled with realistic speed and power.

A reasonable conclusion, isn’t it? But a surprisingly popular school of thought goes much further, contending that:

You should always train as if fighting, as this is the only way to improve your fighting ability.

This is nonsense, and every martial artist should understand why. Continue reading Fight Like You Train, Don’t Train Like You Fight