There 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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