As the school year comes to an end, our weekly routines will change and new schedules will begin. Summer break is often seen as an opportunity to relax and escape the "hustle and bustle" of the school year. This often means halting other educational activities such as math enrichment, music lessons, and martial arts. Summer break in our school district is almost 13 weeks long, close to 25% of the calendar year! Is it wise to only use this time for vacations, days at the pool, and other "fun" activities that are based on short-term happiness? Is it wise to allow our children to take a "break" from their martial arts training over the summer? Here are three reasons to continue martial arts this summer.
Discipline is merely a positive habit that has been created and added to your daily/weekly/monthly routine. Your child has been attending class every week for the past couple of months and has maintained a positive habit in his or her life. Through this positive habit, your child has earned stripes and new belts which has helped him or her learn that consistent, hard work pays off in the long run. Whether your child is working toward becoming a black belt or beyond, learning the importance of sticking to a positive habit over time is how success is achieved.
Eating healthy foods every day is a positive habit. Staying active every day is a positive habit. Reading 30 minutes every day is a positive habit. All these habits lead to living a healthier, more fulfilling life. Experiencing the culture in the martial arts school is how children improve their character. Just being in the presence of positive, disciplined students and instructors is how children learn important life lessons such as respect, humility, and always giving their best. But, this is only achieved with consistent daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly class attendance. Every week a student is absent from the martial arts culture, the positive influence disappears and is overtaken by other influences which can be anything but ideal. Absences erode progress.
Another way of looking at it is to compare it to the habit of going to the gym or working out every week. If you have ever stuck to a workout plan for more than 30 days, then you know how good it makes you feel. But as time goes on, life throws in obstacles which leads to taking a break or quitting your routine. We tell ourselves we will get back in the habit, but it never happens. This is because once we break a positive habit that requires hard work, we have to use our limited will power to create the habit again. When it is an established habit, we no longer have to use as much willpower, because it is part of our daily and weekly routine. This also applies to children who yearn for structure and predictability in their lives. If the child takes a break over the summer, then the positive habit of consistent class attendance will be broken. This means that when summer is over it will be like starting all over again and a brand new habit will need to be created. We all know how hard that is.
In one of my previous posts, “Why We Fall Short”, I talked about the importance of basing our decisions on long term happiness rather than short term. Of course, it is impossible to apply this way of thinking with every decision in our lives. But the more we do, the more long-term joy we will experience. Swimming all day at the local pool, taking vacations with the family, and playing with friends is an important part of a child's life experiences, but at what point is it too much? Should we allow our children to just have fun all day long during the summer and halt all other activities that sharpen their minds and strengthen their character? If you think about it, when school is out, our children have A LOT more time in the day to do different things.
In my household, my wife and I try our best to balance our children's schedules with both fun and educational activities. If it were up to them, they would be on their iPads all day long while watching cartoons on the TV. Am I saying all children should only do activities during the summer that are educational and aren't fun? Absolutely not. I am saying that parents should utilize the extra free time during the summer to keep their child's mind sharp and ready for the next school year. Continuing martial arts training over the summer helps children's minds and bodies stay active which keeps them out of the "summer daze".
Staying in martial arts over the summer also helps your child's obedience and compliance at home. When you take away the consistent structure of a school from your child's day, they can feel anxious and confused. This can lead to feelings of anxiety and confusion, which can result in bad behavior at home. On days without school during the school year, my wife and I can see a noticeable difference in our children's behavior, and it only worsens during longer breaks.
There are many reasons that parents enroll their children in martial arts. Some believe that it will strengthen their child's character have a positive impact on their development. Others solely see it as a fun activity that their child enjoys doing. Either way, the last thing a parent wants to deal with is a child whining and complaining about going to class. Our program is heavily based on positive reinforcement and giving students the opportunity to earn stripes and belts. I have been a student since the age of four and have been teaching since the age of 16. I not only have first-hand experience on what it feels like to get a new belt as a child, but I have witnessed thousands of students getting their new belts. Every time a child is awarded a stripe or belt, their eyes light up and their motivation increases. If a student attends classes consistently, it is our job as instructors to make sure the student is not only learning the material, but also earning stripes on their belt. Once a student stops attending class regularly, we can no longer award stripes which means the student will not be ready to earn the next belt. This usually results in the child saying, "I don't want to go to class." Also, when the child does not attend the next scheduled belt assessment, a lot of their friends will be higher belts which could result in them moving to a different class.
As soon as a student begins their martial arts program at our school, we have their black belt testing date calculated and set in our system. This date is based on the fact that the student does not take any breaks from their training. This date is also based on the last belt before black belt, because it requires at least five months of training to prepare for the test. If a student takes a break, it can cause the black belt test date to be postponed by 6 months. (Black belt testing is only held two times per year.) This can be a disappointing result for the student since he or she will have to wait eight months instead of five.
I understand and have genuine empathy for working parents who have no choice but to enroll their child in all-day care during the summer. I also understand that bringing their child to class after work is the last thing they may want to do. I urge these parents to look at the big picture and try their best to make the best decision for their child. If the parent wants their child to stay motivated on their journey to black belt and beyond, then find a later time in the schedule and get them to class. It will feel like torture but your child will thank you in the future for doing it.
The last thing I want anyone to do is not enjoy their summer. It is a much needed break from the craziness of the school year. All I am suggesting is that we do not sacrifice important positive habits in our lives for short-term happiness. Especially, for the most important people in our lives, our children.
Going on multiple vacations this year? Next blog post soon: "How to stay on track while traveling".
Vincent Galate shares his childhood experience of growing up at KOMA.
Josette shares her perspective on the 11 years she spent at KOMA before moving off to college.