Rude People and Breathing: An Exercise

Lady smiling at rude person

Sometimes it is best just to smile.

They say you should treat rudeness with kindness or some such notion. I believe more in instant karma. I also believe in standing up to bullies.

The guy in the suit babbled away on his mobile about “securities plays” in a loud voice hoping to impress everyone around him, rushing ahead of me to get in the checkout queue. As the checkout lady started bagging his items, she put the “next order” divider after his groceries and that was my signal to put things on the conveyor. One problem, he was so engrossed in his inane conversation he would not move down towards the bag area and kept his hand on my side of the divider as if to say “I am not ready to give up this space yet”. As I said above, I am not good at suffering fools, so I started emptying my cart over, around, and ON TOP OF HIS HAND, while he stood there with an angry look on his face. I just smiled and unloaded all my items on the conveyor, mostly ignoring him.

He finally got off the phone, looked at me and said loudly, “what’s YOU’RE problem?” I calmly looked him in the eye and said “I have none except people around me that are so caught up in their inane phone conversations, they have no clue what’s going on around them. And this store is not YOUR ‘territory’, it is meant to be shared by everyone”. He had nothing to say except a few profanities, and as he walked out the door he gave me the one-fingered salute. I smiled and waved. As a martial artist, I am aware of what can happen in fights so very rarely go down that path.

I thought everything was okay until minutes later I got on my exercise bike for my daily afternoon ride. I usually start slow at about 100 heartbeats per minute and work my way up through interval training to about 140 beats. Imagine my surprise when I got on the bike and my monitor showed 135 beats per minute! Could that incident in the store have done that to me? I knew it did.

My training in yoga and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has given me some insights on breathing. Immediately I concentrated on taking deep breaths from the abdomen, filling it up, then breathing out very slowly. I also focused on turning my thoughts on what I was having for dinner. I did this for about a couple of minutes and was glad to see the monitor register 110 beats even as I increased the pace on the bike.

The moral: control your temper, breathe, breathe, and breathe…..Also, don’t give in to rude people or bullies. They must learn that what comes around goes around, sometimes immediately.

“The most important thing is not victory, the most important thing is not getting defeated”. Rickson Gracie

The Kenpo Logo and the Meaning of the Tiger

The Kenpo Freestyle Logo, including the Tiger.

The Tiger along with the Dragon are the central characters in our new logo.

The Kenpo Freestyle Academy’s logo has been re-designed. We enlisted the services of a very talented young designer named Paolo Geronimo from the Philippines. In my not-so-humble, but very opinionated view, it is the world’s coolest Kenpo logo. After months of refinements, we release this logo with pride.

In 2010 I wrote a blog post entitled “The Kenpo Freestyle Sydney Logo: What Does it Mean?” Since then I have reflected a lot on what our logo truly means. Many of the ideas of the first post are sound, but I would like to touch more deeply into the meaning of our new logo. Since there is so much to explore on this topic, I will break it down by the symbols in the logo, starting with the tiger. The other symbols will be covered in subsequent blog posts.

Our logo retains many of the features of the original American Kenpo version. The late great Ed Parker, who founded American Kenpo, said this about the tiger in his book, the Infinite Insights Into Kenpo, Volume 1: THE TIGER — represents earthly strength derived during the early stages of learning. This is the stage where the individual is more impressed with his own physical prowess.

With due respect to the great man, I agree with this to some extent, but believe that the tiger means more. A lot more. This magnificent creature, arguably the world’s most powerful animal predator on land, but unfortunately now endangered, represents so many positive things in our system, the Kenpo Freestyle Academy. It is also my favourite animal, so allow for a little bias to creep in here.

What the Tiger Represents

The tiger, along with the dragon, are the two central characters depicted on our logo. The tiger represents strength, power, stealth, defence, adaptability, individuality, patience, determination, focus, and generosity.

Tigers are extremely powerful. They are able to leap distances over 6 metres, can run over 60 km an hour, and can smash a bear’s skull with their front claws. Tigers can break the neck of their prey by simply crushing vertebrae with its jaws, and can take down and drag prey up to five times its size. Even a tiger’s “voice” is powerful. The roar of a Bengal tiger can be heard for over 2km at night. Overall, the tiger represents straight-ahead, linear power, with no retreat.

Tigers are masters of stealth. They can move through high grass, forest, and even water in silence. A common comment of those who have witnessed—or survived—an attack is that the tiger “came out of nowhere.” A tiger cannot catch a deer or other fleet-footed animal. Instead it uses stealth to catch its victims; attacking from the side or the rear, after creeping up very closely to its prey.

Tigers represent defence. In Asian cultures the tiger is a symbol of protection. Tiger paintings are often hung on walls inside buildings to guard entrances, “scaring demons away”. The heads of tigers were often painted on a soldier’s shield, in order to terrify the enemy.

In general, tigers will try to avoid fighting, unless absolutely necessary. Fighting usually happens only within the mating season. Males will often fight over one female, and the strongest male will have the privilege of mating with her. Still, tigers prefer to part ways and pursue a more peaceful existence elsewhere than to fight. Territory disputes are often settled by displays of intimidation rather than physical aggression. The tiger is wise because it knows an injury incurred in a fight most likely means starvation.

The tiger, like the dragon, is shown within a circle to show that the power of the tiger, like the power of Kenpo, is contained. The power is only unleashed, or broken from the circle, in order to defend ourselves or our families from violent attack. More about the circle in a later post.

Tigers are supremely adaptable. Unlike almost all other cats, tigers can swim long distances and can even attack and drag prey in the water. They are also adaptable in their hunting techniques. They can bite, claw, or strangle their prey. They are native to various habitats, from the forests to open grasslands, even tropical swamps.

The tiger’s sense of hearing is so sharp that they are capable of hearing infrasound, which are sound waves below the range of normally audible sound (20 hertz). They have a special adaptation to their retinas, which allows more light to reflect back into their eyes, making it easier to see in the dark.

The tiger’s striped coat helps them blend in well with their surroundings as the striping helps break up their body shape, making them difficult to detect for unsuspecting prey.

The Kenpo Tiger

The Tiger represents many important attributes in the Kenpo Freestyle System

Tigers stand on their own. They are solitary creatures. Except for a mother and her cubs, tigers live and hunt alone. They can have a social life; they just prefer to socialise from a distance. The stripes on every tiger are unique, just like the fingerprints of humans. On average, tigers have about a hundred stripes on their coats, helping them to camouflage themselves in the wild.

Tigers are persistent, patient, and disciplined. Catching a meal is not easy; a tiger is successful only once in ten to 20 hunts. But it must kill about once per week to avoid starvation. To give up is to die. The tiger is a study in discipline and patience. Due to its size it must approach prey using stealth, and cannot pounce too early as most prey will outrun it. The tiger may lie in wait for hours for an opportunity. If the prey is alerted, they must quietly wait until the jungle is calm again, which may take hours.

Tigers are focused. The tiger in the traditional Chinese folklore implies “the tiger never sleeps.” It symbolises the keen alertness of the wakeful tiger. The tiger must be alert to the slightest movement in the jungle, its focus must be keen in order to survive.

Tigers are known to share and be generous. In contrast to male lions, male tigers will allow the females and cubs to feed on the kill first. Furthermore, tigers seem to behave relatively friendly when sharing kills, in contrast to lions, which tend to squabble and fight. Unrelated tigers have also been observed feeding on prey together.

What the Tiger Means In Kenpo Freestyle

The spirit of the tiger is alive in our system. All Kenpo Freestyle students are taught from the earliest stages to move with power and stealth (put hips into play for power, no slamming of feet, move with grace and silence, attack from angles) and to have a powerful kiai. We are able to adapt to the circumstances (all ranges of combat, including kicking, punching, and grappling) and are open to modern innovations (freestyle).

Our students are taught to be generous by later becoming leaders in our organisation, and how to stand on their own two feet and become independent, resisting peer pressure. They are taught focus and concentration by the many games and activities we do that rely on it. Self discipline is another important aspect of the Kenpo Freestyle system, and is the basis for lifelong success.

In Kenpo, many of the movements of the tiger are used such as thrusts, stikes and rips, which can be employed from any angle. Our students are taught a strong defence (like the tiger) using head movement, footwork, blocking, and parrying. Our grapplers are taught defence first, attack later. Most importantly, our students are taught to avoid violence at all costs, just like the tiger.

We can learn much from this beautiful creature. The role of the dragon and how it relates to the tiger will be discussed next. What does the tiger mean to you in your martial arts journey?

How Good is Your Martial Arts Defence?

Bodium Castle in the background, with the more modern gun emplacement used in WWII in the foreground.

Bodium Castle, England, in the background, with the more modern gun emplacement used in WWII in the foreground. Defences in martial arts have likewise evolved.

Castles were once considered impenetrable. They evolved from simple mounds of earth to wooden structures. As attackers discovered they could burn them down with flaming arrows, stone became the norm.

Unfortunately for the defenders, Medieval attackers were soon able to penetrate their defences. Common techniques included burrowing beneath the corners of towers–undermining their foundations, thus causing the castle to collapse.

To counter this, castle designers added thicker outer walls–and then rings of extra outer walls. The idea of the concentric castle was then born about 1270.

From about the 1500, castles began to fade from fashion, and wealthy countries were choosing to build palaces rather than fortifications.

The reason for this was the advent of gunpowder. Stone castles, which were so impenetrable just a couple of hundred years before, were no match for mighty cannons.

Martial arts defences.

A good defence in martial arts will also evolve and stand the test of time. It will be easily adaptable to the circumstances. The three forms of defence are Stand-Up, Takedown, and Ground. Mastering all three will ensure your development as a well-rounded martial artist.

Stand-Up Defence

A good stand-up defence requires three elements; hand positioning, evasive head movement, and footwork. The best martial artists master all three.

Hand positioning. The hands should be held high, creating a barrier to head attacks. Elbows should be tucked in, protecting the midsection, and discouraging kicks by providing a bony target. Attacks should be launched only with the non-attacking hand in a protective position. Blocking and parrying with the hands, elbows, and forearms is used. As the Muay Thai fighters have proven with their effectiveness at blocking leg kicks with checks, the legs are also used.

Evasive head movement. Muhammad Ali was a master at moving his head out of the way of incoming punches. His slipping, bobbing, and weaving have been copied by boxers for decades since. Mike Tyson’s style of peek-a-boo defence was also considered impenetrable. All of the great fighters, including martial artists, possess this head movement, and Bruce Lee was one of the first to demonstrate its effectiveness.

Footwork. Traditional martial artists and also boxers have demonstrated the importance of footwork to avoid getting hit. By being light on your feet and mobile, you are a hard target. Footwork should be mastered as a means of defence and also attack. Lyoto Machida and Georges St. Pierre are examples of great footwork in the UFC.

Takedown Defence

Wrestlers have mastered this as it is an essential part of their training. Simple movements such as sprawling and whizzers make it very difficult to take a wrestler down. Wrestlers have dominated many mixed martial arts events because of their ability to not only take down their opponents, but also avoid takedowns. Fighters specialising in stand-up fighting are now experts at keeping fights standing using these moves. The great ex-UFC fighter, Chuck Liddell, was a prime example. He was a collegiate wrestler, but chose to keep the fight standing up due to his knockout power. He was able to dictate where the fight would take place.

Ground Defence

According to most experts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the primary goal for beginner students is to develop a good defence. This defence should include escapes from not only the worst positions, but also the most common attacks. By mastering defence, a the BJJ student can then learn to attack with confidence, without feeling vulnerable to their opponent’s attacks. As the variety of attacks have increased in BJJ, the defences have evolved to counter this.

Drill, drill, drill

Luckily for the martial artist, you can drill all aspects of your defence. By using a resisting opponent, BJJ fighters and wrestlers are uniquely preparing themselves for the realities of combat. Stand-up fighters can sharpen their defence using footwork drills, evasive head movement against an attacking partner with full head and glove protection, and most importantly, sparring against a live opponent. How good is your defence, and what are you doing to improve it?

Can Karate Classes Help Make Your Child More Independent?

Children becoming more independent in karate classes

Karate classes can help children become more independent in many ways.

If I hear one more person on Facebook say “I’m bored”, I am going to go off the rails! We think that the phone always has to ring, that people always have to be texting us, or that we must have someone to hang out with. What is wrong with hanging out with yourself? You must learn to like yourself and your own company. One of the things the martial arts have taught me is to be strong on my own.

Standing strong…alone. How can we encourage our children to stand on their own two feet? Karate classes can help in many ways. Let’s look at them.

Step Aside and Let Another Adult Take Over

As much as it is a temptation to always be with your young child, they need to learn to trust other adults in a supervised setting. Try leaving your child for small periods of time during karate class. By doing so, they will learn that they are still safe without your presence. Before long, they will be confident enough to do an entire class without you being present if need be.

Smaller Goals Over Time Build Their Confidence

The “little goals” or gradings at the end of each term add up to big ones over a period of years. As kids set the goal to get to that next rank they will learn how their attitude, attendance, and self discipline will achieve it. Each achievement enhances the child’s self-confidence and they start learning that “they did this on their own”. The martial arts are individual, not team sports. The kids learn to count on themselves, and they never, ever ride the bench or sit out just because they “aren’t as good as the rest of the team”.

Children Need to Fail Every So Often

Rising from disappointment is one of life’s most important lessons to learn. By experiencing failure and overcoming it, the child will grow into a strong, independent adult. I have seen it time after time over the last twenty years of teaching. Some of the strongest efforts on our advanced gradings were from students who failed to achieve their goals in prior tests. They decided for themselves that they really wanted to pass and gave it their all.

Instructor for a Day

We sometimes let the kids take each other through warm-up activities or even come up to the front of the class to demonstrate a technique. We also consistently ask them questions. Encouraging them to talk or demonstrate builds up their confidence and is important for their feeling of independence. It also keeps the karate class engaged.

We Praise Our Karate Kids

Children are highly motivated by recognition and approval. Praising them for a job well done will increase their self-esteem and self-reliance. We are careful, however, to not over do it, as excessive praise teaches children to seek outside approval, thus making them more vulnerable to peer pressure. We look to find something each child does well, and praise them publicly for it.

Their Friends Dropped Out

Many kids joined karate classes with their friends. The friends dropped out for one reason or another, but they are still there, training every week. They have learned one of life’s most important lessons. You are not dependent on others for fun, or success in life. You can do it on your own.

Being Able To Stand Up for Themselves

As our students become more confident in themselves they are less likely to be targeted by bullies. Many parents have commented that since their child has been in martial arts, the bullying has stopped, even though not one fight had taken place. This ability to stand up for themselves makes children less susceptible to peer pressure and builds their independence.

Let Your Children Make Financial Transactions and Interact With Adults

The parents of my students taught me this one. They send their child up to the front desk with their money, the child says his or her name to check in, and hands me the money. They even thank me. I should be thanking them! This is a very smart thing to encourage a child to do, as it builds their confidence and ability to function in the world independently. Brilliant!

Independence is the greatest gift you can pass on to your child; it will greatly contribute to their success later in life. Karate classes can greatly assist in this effort. Have karate classes helped you to become more independent?

How Martial Arts Builds Self-Discipline in Children

A child learning self-discipline through martial arts

Kids will strive to do their best if they enjoy the activity and will learn self-discipline in the process. This will follow them throughout their lives.

Discipline in the martial arts does not mean making a child do knuckle push-ups for misbehaving in class. I am not a supporter of using exercise for punishment anyway. No, what we are talking about here is self-discipline. Discipline is all about doing what you must do even when you don’t want to do it.

self-dis·ci·pline (slfds-pln)
Training and control of oneself and one’s conduct, usually for personal improvement.

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged

the act of disciplining or power to discipline one’s own feelings, desires, etc., esp with the intention of improving oneself.
self-disciplined adj

Webster’s College Dictionary

Control of Self

How does a child learn to control his temper and not lash out? A good role model that he or she looks up to can be a big help. If the sensei says it’s not right to strike another child in anger, most kids take it on. I have even had many parents complain that their child did not hit back when they were attacked because “the sensei said it is not right to use karate at school”. Good or bad, this is self-control in its purest form.

Activity Must be Fun!

How do you get your child to get off the video games and get ready for karate class? Simple, the child has to like the activity. If you can make the classes fun and challenging at the same time, the child will be more likely to continue with it.

Goals Should be Broken Into Little Chunks

How do you keep a child motivated? You have to break the goals into little chunks, because for a kid, six months is forever! Break the goals down into smaller chunks and reward them for their efforts more often. This is not bribery, this is just how kids operate.

The Sensei Knows if You Have Been Practising

How do you get kids to practice at home? This is a hard one, but if the sensei suggests strongly that the child practice outside of class, and says he or she will “check your work next week”, a good many will.

Games Build Concentration and Peer Pressure Can Make Them Work Harder

How can you get a bored child to concentrate? Play a game that requires the child to concentrate in order to win. Every child wants to win at games. Peer pressure can help as every child wants to fit in. “Yes I focus on that kata one more time because the rest of the class is doing it”. They start to learn how to concentrate on their own, enough to master the techniques that are required of them.

Recognition is the Key to Building Mastery

How do you get children to do their best? Use the carrot, not the stick! We always make it a point to have a child demonstrate for the class a technique in which he or she is very good. It makes all the children in the class try harder. Kids are like any other human, we all crave recognition. As the child begins to achieve a sense of mastery, and this is recognised publicly, they start feeling a lot better about themselves and this is where they begin to really enjoy martial arts.

Over a period of years students learn that if they persist, work hard, and do not give up, worthy goals are achieved. It is a lesson that will serve them well throughout their lives. How has the martial arts helped your child’s self-discipline?

Should Parents Be Allowed to Observe Kids Martial Arts Classes?

Parents watching a kids martial arts class

A child performs karate moves under the watchful eye of his parents.

In the “old school” it was considered poor practise to allow parents to observe their children doing their martial arts classes. Were they hiding something, or was there a reason for this policy? A lot has changed, with parents now encouraged to watch and sometimes take part in the running of classes. What are the pros and cons of parents being allowed to watch the classes?

Arguments in Favour of Allowing Parents to watch Kids Martial Arts Classes

First, let’s explore the arguments in favour of allowing parents to watch the classes. There are many.

Right to Know What Goes On

It is the parent’s right to see what goes on in the classes. The parents are paying for them, and they need to see if they are getting value for money. They need to see if their child is getting anything out of the classes. There is a lot of competition for their dollar in the current martial arts world, and there is a good chance another school will be a better choice if they have enrolled their child in a poor school.

Better for the Kids

It is better for the kids if they are watching. Parents will remember important announcements or pick up newsletters. Kids will forget them.

Parents can give the kids feedback if the child does not seem to be getting something, as they can often see things the child may not see themselves. In addition, parents can give the instructor feedback if the child is having trouble doing something.

Encourages the Children to Do Better

They will do their best to impress you. They’ll take a greater interest in class if mom and dad is watching, and especially if they are encouraging the child. They will take more pride in their achievements, and will be more likely to practise outside of class. Parents might even be called upon to help with a class by holding kick bags or focus mitts, or managing a game. Kids love it when their parents get involved. It shows support for the school and the child.

It Protects the Child

There have been numerous cases of child abuse over the years involving karate instructors. Would this have happened if the parents had been more involved in the classes and was allowed to observe them at all times? I suspect the answer would be “no”.

There may be other reasons, of which I am not aware. This is your chance to chime in reader, hint, hint…

Arguments Against Allowing Parents to watch Kids Martial Arts Classes

Now, the arguments in favour of not allowing the parent to watch their children in martial arts classes. There are also many here.

Child Feels Self-conscious

I’ve had many parents remove themselves from the classes, complaining the children become too self-conscious if they are watching them in the classes. I suspect this arises as the child tries too hard to meet their parent’s approval.

Child Is Distracted

In some cases the child constantly checks to see if mom or dad is watching. This may also stem from trying to meet the parent’s approval.

Loud Parents Distract Class

Parents create a disturbance by loud chatting or phone conversations. This happens a lot, and is one reason many are asked to leave the hall. In other cases, siblings are not managed properly and create a disturbance, interrupting the class. Please see another post about this subject.

Parents loudly giving instruction to their children. In extreme cases I have seen parents, usually fathers, loudly correcting their children, sometimes in a foreign language. Not only is this disruptive to the class (in any language), it makes the child feel self-conscious and singled out.

Parents Comparing their Kids to Others

If a parent with a big ego sees other children progressing faster than their own they will have the tendency to accuse the sensei of favoritism, poor teaching, or other forms of incompetence. At that point, they feel they can withdraw their child from the program without any sense of guilt. In less extreme cases, the child will be made to feel they can never measure up, but will feel like quitting themselves.

There are many pros and cons on this issue. Perhaps the solution is to allow the parents to watch from an enclosed area with windows so they can see the classes, but not be a distraction. This would not always be practical, however. In any case, it is important for parents to support their children in their martial arts journey. I have written a separate blog post about this, which you might find interesting.

What are YOUR thoughts on this issue?

How the Martial Arts Can Improve a Child’s Balance

Kids improving their balance through martial arts

Martial arts moves like these will improve your child’s balance.

Kicking Takes Balance

Try doing a kick straight out in front of you, executing another one out to the side, and then yet another one behind you, at imaginary attackers from all sides, AND without touching your kicking foot to the floor at any time. Sound pretty hard? Well, our little children in the five to seven age groups are able to do this by the end of the first or second term of martial arts!

Standing on one leg while snapping kicks out in all directions takes incredible balance, learned through training in the martial arts. Some of the children have difficulty with it, but with a little praise and encouragement, they all finally get it. As the child advances they will learn spinning, turning, and jumping kicks, which are all amazing balance builders.

The Stances are the Foundation of Balance

The stances they learn teach them to keep a low centre of gravity and wider base, making it very difficult for a bully to knock them over. Focusing the eyes on a non-moving object out in front of them is something we teach them at the earliest stages of their training. Standing side-on from their opponents makes it harder for someone to push them down and increases their mobility while protecting their centreline, where most serious injuries will occur.

Drills and Exercises Build Balance

Some of the warm-up exercises we do involve the children standing on one leg while pulling their legs out to the side, as if they were doing a kick. Or maybe the eagle, dancer, or tree pose from yoga. The kids love these exercises as they are a great challenge and lots of laughs are heard throughout the training hall. Sometimes for additional challenge, we have them close their eyes.

Later on, when the children are ready to spar, or pretend fight, balance will play a key role in their ability to dodge their opponent’s attacks, while at the same time launching their own. The shuffling games and drills develop footwork, quickness, and balance as the the kids learn to move and evade attacks.

Improving a child’s balance from martial arts training will pay big dividends in their lives. They will find other sports easier to master, and will be less likely to have accidents. This will be especially true when they one day become senior citizens.

Breathing For Top Martial Arts Performance

Just breathe for martial arts performance

Breathing properly is the key to martial arts performance

On the wrestling mats in high school I threw guys around like rag dolls. For about 30 seconds. It was then that I usually gassed out and it was a great relief when I inevitably got pinned. Of course, the coach was not happy, as our team was a perennial powerhouse, and I was one of the few losses. You see, I was always one of the strongest guys on the mat, but lacked stamina. Or so I thought.

Was it the oppressive tropical summer heat in Rio, or was I just out of shape? 4th Degree Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt Rodrigo Antunes and I were rolling on the mat in the morning for my private lesson. He of course was just toying with me, tapping me right and left, but I was so tired I was just sucking eggs. All of a sudden he stopped, looked at me, and said “Matt, you are holding your breath. You need to breathe”. I started thinking about it. Maybe that was my problem.

Jean Jacques Machado was having a friendly roll with many of the students who attended his seminar in Sydney. He was merely playing with all comers, and sliced through them like butter, tapping all without much apparent effort. I knew he was good, but how could he go against so many guys in a row without even BREATHING HARD? It occurred to me all of a sudden. His breathing was loud, so loud the whole class could hear it. It was also deep, and slow. It was a revelation for me. He would breathe in for a couple of seconds very deeply, and then release it slowly and loudly. He seemed to possess unlimited energy.

In yoga they tell us that you must focus on the breath. After two years of this I am starting to understand the wisdom of it. If you focus on the breath, and control your breathing, not only does it slow your heart rate down, but it also takes your mind off any uncomfortable position you might be in. Another benefit—by bringing your focus on your breath, it helps you to relax, which is what you need to avoid gassing out.

I started to practice a deep breathing method while working out at home. A big fan of body weight exercises, I would breathe in for two reps and then breathe out for three. I concentrated on focusing on the breath, not on the total number of reps. A very interesting thing started to happen. I usually did about three sets of twenty. But I now found myself counting to 36, 37, 38 without even realising it. I was so focused on the breathing I forgot about the discomfort of the exercise or even that I had to stop when I reached twenty.

I am finally learning how to slow my breath down in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes. Believe me, I am now having much more fun on the mats. I wish I would have learned this years ago. Thanks Rodrigo, thanks J.J. Machado, and thanks especially to my yoga instructors who finally drove this point home. What are your secrets for breathing correctly in the martial arts?

Help Your Child Succeed in Martial Arts or Any Sport

Supporting their children in a martial arts class

Being there to support your children is half the battle to their achieving success in martial arts.

What can parents do to ensure their children succeed in martial arts or other sports? Mostly, it is about just being there for them and supporting them.

I wrote this guest post a few years back. It received many responses, but sadly the host site no longer exists. I decided to re-write it on my own blog. I wrote this article from a unique perspective—that of the child’s. Our kids karate classes in Sydney are popular because the sensei get right “down in the dirt” with the children and actively participate, not just bark out orders. This gives us a different viewpoint. From my many years experience in working with kids, I offer this advice that will help the parent support their child in the martial arts or any other sport.

At Karate Class

“Be there whenever you can to watch me. It means so much to me and I will try extra hard when you are there”.

“Be there to support me, especially on grading day. Every other parent is cheering for their child, but I am sad because there is no one here to cheer for me”.

“Observe me quietly during my karate class with a smile on your face and always give me positive feedback when we get home, this shows me that you care.”.

“It makes me happy that you volunteer when the sensei asks for parent helpers, I love seeing you take part in my class”.

“Please pick me up from practice on time. All of the other kids have gotten their hugs and are gone and I am still here waiting for you. I feel abandoned and will cry”.

“When you blabber loudly on your mobile phone and make the Sensei ask you to take it outside, it really embarrasses me”.

“Help me with my belt if it falls off, the sensei is very busy and does not have the time”.

“You told the sensei I am not any good at Karate. I thought he was proud of me. That really hurts”.

“You have your face buried in the newspaper and have not watched one of my kicks today”.

At Home

“Don’t push us too hard. Practising five days a week is a bit much for our little bodies and it will soon become a job”.

“Ask us what lessons we learned in karate today. It shows you care”.

“Practice with me at home or at least watch me practice”.

“Please sew up my karate pants so I don’t trip and fall down in front of the whole class”.

“Please don’t compare me to other children. I am not as big, strong, and coordinated as Grant/Julie. It is not my fault”.

“You sometimes get angry when I don’t win the game or match. The sensei says that what counts most is not winning, but having fun and doing your best”.

“Do tell me you are proud of my efforts in karate. I live for it”.

“Let us be kids and have a bit of fun. We only get to do it once”.

How do you support your children in the martial arts or other sports? Your comments are appreciated.

Six Ways to Gain and Keep Attention with Children in Martial Arts Classes

Keeping childrens' attention in martial arts classes

Even repetitive activities can be fun for children if you make a game out of it. They will be motivated to learn and will stay interested.

Having difficulty keeping childrens’ attention in your martial arts classes? Do they seem unmotivated and disinterested? Are the parents frustrated because they have a big fight to get the kids there every time? Well, here’s how to lift your game and keep them coming back for more.

Make it Fun

Overly repetitive activities are boring for kids, but if you make a game out of it, they will love it. Instead of having them stand there throwing their blocks into the air, make them avoid the attacks using the appropriate blocks against the padded blockers as you walk by. Even better, have them sit down if they get hit. Last one (or last few better still) wins.

Keep it Simple

Use simple instruction, both in visual and audio demonstration, and break it down into steps. Breaking things into small chunks helps kids understand each step before they move to the next.

Use Kid-friendly Language

You will lose them the second you start trying to explain something in “adult speak”. Do not say “Bring your knee up at a 45 degree angle, and then extend it directly toward your target”. Instead say “Bring your knee up as high as you can and snap it out at the target”.

Keep Talking to a Minimum

Just show them how to do it and move on. Kids don’t like to listen, they like to do. Fact of life.

Praise Outstanding Efforts

Say “Look how hard Jasmine is snapping out those punches”, and then watch as the rest of the class will try to match her efforts. Effort is more important than skill, as not everyone is naturally gifted in martial arts classes. But they can all try harder.

Recognise Under-achievers

Everyone does at least one thing well. Your job is to catch them doing it, then publicly recognise them. This will do wonders to help the kids with less skill or ability to stay engaged, and will also improve their self-esteem.

Here is more information on How to Motivate Children in Martial Arts

What strategies to you use to gain and keep attention with children in your martial arts classes?