Having been involved with martial arts for 20 years has certainly given me many physical and mental benefits. One thing that isn’t so apparent on the surface though is the effects that has had on my family. In a nutshell, I have been practicing and teaching Karate for most of my children’s lives. While this was sometimes a challenge, with the hours I spent training or the times when they didn’t want to go to training and I had to drag them virtually kicking and screaming. As they have grown, it is a part of all our lives that we share and love.
As parents we of course feel proud when our child earns a merit certificate at school or gets good grades or especially when they win fairest and best at a team sport and so one. However, I feel especially proud when I watch my older kids, now 21 and 23, achieving their new belts in an activity I know to be incredibly challenging both physically and mentally. I also feel a sense of pride with how they are as people and within themselves, as I know that to be a direct result of the confidence and respect they learnt on the matt.
In today’s world more than any other we find ourselves being caught up with stuff. It’s hard to put a single name to it but most people will know what I’m talking about. It’s the things that take up our time and inevitably away from each other. It could be work or technology or weekend sports even that only one child can play at a time. Finding an activity that brings people together but still allows them to maintain their independence is a rarity. That’s where the martial arts come in. I personally enjoy a closeness with my kids that surpasses other things like supporting the same team or even sharing a drink round the fire pit. It comes from having spent time, actual blood sweat and tears together and learning from each other through fun times and the hard times. Learning to support each other when we feel like giving up or just holding a shield when someone wants to kick out a feeling.
We’ve gained far more than that though. We’ve also gained common interests outside of the dojo. Both my daughters and I have a passion for Sushi and the Japanese culture that may never have existed if we hadn’t been exposed to it during training and at club social events. Having to trust each other when it comes to asking my kids to teach some of my younger students or them knowing I would never put them in a position they couldn’t handle. And perhaps most importantly, being able to faceup to each other toe-to-toe and deal with conflict and confrontation without anger which translates directly into how we treat each other at home when we disagree or argue.
Studies show many benefits from families spending time together, from forming closer emotional bonds, communication skills, better grades to a reduction in behavioural issues. A simple google search will show many studies from respected sources citing actual research into the importance of family time. So much so that I’m not going to start quoting or referencing them here. There are also many blogs focused on family matters however I always urge people to fact check with reliable sources.
What this all boils down to is, the family that kicks together, sticks together. The lessons are many and varied and I can’t encourage people enough, to actively get involved as a family and not just as spectators. People don’t always get along that’s no surprise, but leaning to deal with conflict, find common interests and just spend some quality time together is a lesson we can all benefit from.
Sensei Russell holds a 3rd Dan Black Belt from
Shito-ryu Karate-Do Kofukan International