For those that practice true karate-do or the ‘way of the empty hand’, karate is much more than a Japanese fighting art, it is a way of life!
There are more than 40 million exponents worldwide practicing this martial art and for good reason. While it an incredibly effective method of self-defence, karate is really a journey towards complete harmony of body, mind and spirit with numerous holistic benefits.
What karate will do for your child?
Self-defence is a key benefit of karate, and in a society such as South Africa where violent crime is so rife, the earlier your child learns to protect him/herself, the better. That said, the benefits of karate are far more wide-reaching and if taught and trained correctly, encompass the following:
Physical - karate will train your child to become faster, stronger, more agile and more flexible.
Mental - it will enhance his/her cognitive abilities, improving focus, concentration, processing speed and reaction time.
Spiritual – the value system and training methods inherent in karate-do will develop your child's character, teach him/her self-control and advance his/her existence to a space of calm and elevated awareness.
Life-skills – karate teaches discipline, determination and confidence, instilling a strong sense of self-belief while retaining humility.
How do I choose the correct Sensei (karate instructor) and Dojo (karate school)?
Choosing the right dojo and right sensei for your child is paramount. As elucidated above, the benefits of karate can be profound – but only if taught correctly. Make sure that authentic karate is taught at your child’s dojo and that the sensei has the requisite experience and level both as a karate-ka himself and with respect to his teaching.
Look for classes that are uniquely structured to cater for the abilities of little kids, ensuring they are nurtured in a fun environment but still develop and practice karate rather than just play games. Older kids need a dojo that understands the need to increase the pace appropriately, accounting for the age-related changes they undergo. It also generally works better if classes are age-specific rather than amalgamating kiddies (4-6 year olds) together with the older kids, allowing for the above.
My best advice to you is don’t just opt for convenience and join a particular karate club, just because it happens to be taught at your child’s school, is closest or cheapest. In order to reap the greatest benefits from karate, whether for yourself or your child, look carefully at the credentials of the chief instructor and long-term history and achievements of the dojo.
Bear in mind these benefits apply to all that do karate and it’s never too late to start! It is also a great bonding experience to practice this art with your kids.
Good luck on your karate journey!