I know, the title of this blog post is a bit harsh, isn’t it? Well, read on to find out exactly what I mean. Perhaps you will agree.
1. Last resort sport
I hate the fact that a martial art is often thought of as a “last resort sport” for kids. Parents walk into a martial art school for the first time and state, “Well, he didn’t excel in team sports very well, so I figured I would let him try a martial art or karate.”
What? Really? Martial arts is your last resort before you give up on your kid’s athleticism?
I understand. Parents like to have their children participate in sports where they can sit in the stands and cheer and yell. “That’s my Johnny!” they exclaim, screaming at the top of their lungs the first time Johnny hits a home run, scores a goal or a touchdown, or makes a three-point shot.
Martial arts have no grandstands, no burgers grilled on the corner of the field, and no cheerleaders. There is no homecoming where star athletes are highlighted, and no real recognition for being an athlete at all, for that matter.
I wish I could dispel the myth that a martial art is not a team sport or is not for real athletes or that it should only be considered when all else fails. Every time one of my younger students enters into our class he is immediately a part of a team environment. He is in a place where he is respected by his peers and where he can practice new techniques in a well-defined group. They high-five each other and welcome new kids to class with a quick hello before they jump in for more learning.
As one of the instructors, I am a trained, experienced, caring coach who teaches, encourages, and shares in a way that is fun and enjoyable, yet strict and disciplined. That is rare to find in youth sports. We earn a small amount of money from the program, which in fact makes us, “professionals.”
I’m not going to bash other sports. My sons were basketball and football players. I love these sports because they love them. But, I should mention that my oldest tore his ACL twice and broke his arm once playing these sports. And along with worries about concussions and strains and sprains, football is really less than ideal for staying healthy. In every day martial art class, I simply don’t see these kinds of injuries taking place. Maybe they happen, but not consistently.
Finally, martial arts are sport-like and require skill and endurance along with discipline, confidence, strength. But above and beyond all that, they are a journey that lasts a life time. They can be practiced through all of your years, young through old. No other sport seems to offer that outstanding benefit. Start young and grow old with a martial art. When you live to an old age you will thank me for that advice.
Last resort? I think not.
Thinking about the athletic aspects of martial arts, I hate the fact that martial arts are not used as a form of training more often for athletes who participate in other sports. Having taught my sons some skills, I can see how it has benefited them in other sports. All sports require a commitment and dedication in order to become proficient. The basic stances and use of the body, the push and pull and momentum of movements learned in martial arts, help other athletes excel in whatever sport they are playing.
In basketball, with the ball in your hands and elbows edged out to the side, you must pivot to turn. With a good low center of gravity, you can move around your opponent without him grabbing the ball. In football, the low stances the linemen have to take can all be strengthened through the martial art stances used in forms. The focus and determination of punching a target or kicking an X on the bag helps the mind learn patience and timing, all of which is incredibly important in all sports.
The stretching and calisthenic exercises in a martial art warm up are sometimes the exact same as what I see on the football field during practice, but just are called something different. The bowing out of class is like a huddle that brings the team together and solidifies a winning mindset.
I have heard of some professional athletes learning some martial arts or yoga and how it has helped them. If you’re looking for a way for a child to excel in all sports, I’m claiming right now that martial arts can help.
3. Not enough women try it
I hate that not more women get involved in the martial arts. I’m okay with it being a male dominated activity, but it would be awesome to see some more women give it a go. I know all the fears. I’ve discussed them all before in blogs and podcasts before. All I know is if a woman can go to an aerobics class, take a golf lesson, or try yoga without a prior experience, she can certainly try this, too.
I hate that there are just a few of us ladies who have to carry the weight of promoting the benefits of martial arts to other women. You know my motto, “If I can do it, anyone can do it.” It’s not about performing unbelievable stunts. I could never do that! I’m like many other women, a mom, a wife, an aunt, and a daughter. I bet you know others who fit into those categories, and yes, they can learn a martial art.
I’ve been asked a few times what I think about women in the UFC. I admire any woman who is willing to use her competitive edge and endurance, but realistically, we are not all willing to do THAT! Some good, basic martial arts training, however, should do the trick to keep you in shape, give you confidence, up your endurance, give you purpose, help you defend, and make you, well….pretty darn cool.
4. When people quit
Darn it, I just hate when people quit anything, especially a martial art! I know there comes a time for kids when they choose between martial arts and another sport, (see #1 above) and they decide to quit the martial art. I know often adults reach mid-level belt ranks, and they are not interested in pushing through the stuff that warrants practice of more difficult skills. Come on! You’ve made it this far and you are going to quit?
Martial arts taught me that quitters learn nothing, win nothing, and lose everything. If I quit every time I had to face an obstacle, I’m not sure where I’d be today. Divorced? Broke? Unemployed? Starving? I wouldn’t be writing. I wouldn’t be teaching. I wouldn’t have a black belt.
Some people just give up. They give up on their health, they give up on their dreams, and they give up on bettering themselves. This is how you get nowhere in life. This is how you face depression or anxiety or unrest in your life. When you quit once, it snowballs. You quit over and over and end up nowhere near where you thought you’d find yourself. I hear it all the time. This isn’t what I expected in retirement. This isn’t how I thought my life would turn out. This isn’t where I expected to be. I have one question to ask. Did you stay steadfast in your journey? Did you face your obstacles and overcome? Or, did you quit?
Please don’t disappointment me by giving up or quitting anything because it is too difficult or too much trouble; especially if quitting means you are limiting yourself to less than who you should be.
I find it hard to believe that there are actually people out there who pose as Masters in the martial arts. I suppose in every profession you can encounter some wacko who takes a good thing and brings it to some unintended extreme. I hate to even give them the courtesy of being addressed in my blog, but I feel it is important that others know that like anything, you should check out your instructors, get references, and if you ever feel uncomfortable, or that something is not quite right, move along. There are plenty of good ones out there.
McDojo’s, if you don’t know, are martial arts schools are concerned primarily with making money, rather than putting their students’ learning first. This infuriates martial arts instructors because it gives martial arts a bad name. A good instructor can make money teaching, in my book, as long as the students come first. If you see students being awarded black belts in the speed of light, something is not right. And for the rest of the instructors who award them after a suitable amount of training, it almost makes us look bad for making our students wait to earn every single inch of the thick black cloth that gets wrapped around their waist.
Fake, fraud, or McDojo, check it out before you get started. If you get promised a black belt, test frequently, pay large amounts of money to test, or sign up for some crazy contract to learn, beware. If your instructor seems strange in any way whatsoever, then go no further.
No Hate Here
Look, I don’t hate the martial arts at all. I hate that they are labeled a “last resort sport” by parents. I hate that athletes fail to use martial arts as a great basis for training and physical improvement in their sport of choice. I hate that there are not more women of all ages practicing. I hate that when students get to a certain level they would rather give up then finish their dream. Finally, I hate that there are actually frauds out there, and people who use the martial arts in an evil and conniving way.
Martial arts are awesome on many levels, and I hate that they are still not fully recognized for all the benefits that they offer on so many levels, including mind, body, and spirit.
My new book, Martial Art Inspirations for Everyone: https://goo.gl/Yco5GF (Amazon Link)
Martial Art Inspirations for Everyone contains martial art reflections, anecdotes, and inspirations that relate to everyday life. It covers topics such as effort, focus, purpose, positivity, betterment, ambition, and more. You can overcome, persevere, and find success in your own life. Read Martial Art Inspirations for Everyone, and be encouraged.
My book, The Martial Arts Woman: https://goo.gl/rTSaJA (Amazon Link)
The Martial Arts Woman shares the stories and insights of more than twenty-five women in the martial arts, and how they apply martial arts to their lives. Unlike most other martial art books, the reader will catch a glimpse into the brave and empowered woman who dares to be all that she can be. Many of these women had to overcome great societal or personal challenges to break into the men’s world of martial arts. This book will motivate and inspire you to go after your goals in life and to fight through every challenge and defeat every obstacle. The Martial Arts Woman will open your eyes to the power of the human spirit and the martial art mindset that dwells in each of us!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Andrea F. Harkins is a writer, motivator, life coach, martial artist, and public speaker. She is known internationally for her positivity through martial arts positivity outreach and her writing. She is currently a columnist for Martial Arts Illustrated UK, The Martial Arts Guardian (UK), the World Martial Arts Magazine, MASUCCESS, Conflict Manager, Martial Arts Business (Australia), The Parrish Village News, and her blog, The Martial Arts Woman. Contact her through this website’s CONTACT ME page for information on public speaking, autographs, and life coaching.