5 Reasons Why Martial Arts Helps Children Learn Grit

Master Ko

June 16, 2016

If you have any interest in how to set your child up for success in the future, it is nearly impossible to not stumble across the word, “grit” in books, articles, and the internet. What exactly is grit? According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, grit is defined as “courage and resolve; strength of character”. I personally define grit as not giving up no matter what. IQ scores, ACT/SAT scores, natural talent, and formal training doesn’t mean anything unless you have the perseverance and grit to push through the obstacles and failures. Angela Duckworth sums it up with a basic equation in her book titled, “Grit”; talent x effort = skill, skill x effort = achievement. Want to give your child grit? Here are five reasons why martial arts is a great choice.

1. Short-term and long-term goals

A well thought out martial arts curriculum will teach your child the importance of low, mid, and top-level goals. Organizing your life’s ambitions into this three-level system is how we keep purpose in our actions which then fuels motivation to accomplish the necessary tasks. For example, the top-level goal could be becoming a black belt, the mid-level goals would be the belts leading up to black belt, and the low-level goals would be earning the required stripes for each belt. So when it’s time for your child to start working on a particular stripe, he can see the purpose of the action to complete the low-level goal. Working through these goals won’t be easy but the process will teach your child how to be gritty during the hard times.

2. Individualized focus

Team sports are fun and help kids with socialization, but are they specifically designed to improve the character and development of your child? Whether you want to admit it or not, most team sports usually have a couple “star players” , which the rest of the team then passes the ball to. This is the natural response when the main purpose of the activity is to win. Martial arts is not about winning, but about personal improvement and achievement. If your child doesn’t earn the stripe, it is not a team loss, but a personal failure. They will then need to figure out what to practice and then try again. This process of fail, evaluate, practice, and try again is vital to becoming successful at anything. A well-trained martial arts instructor will know how to keep your child motivated to keep practicing until the goal has been achieved. According to the book, “Grit”, being demanding, but supportive are the two most important traits a parent should possess when helping a child learn grit. A good martial arts school will demand excellence from your child, but support them every step of

3. Culture of grit

A true martial arts school should possess a culture of grit. From the instructors to the students to the staff, every person in the school should have the same mind set of perseverance and hard work. The influence a culture has on a person is a lot stronger than you might think. Things become a lot easier to do when everyone around your is doing the same thing and there are no other options. Once your child becomes part of the martial arts culture, they will eventually conform to the idea that quitting is not an option. Surrounding your child with other kids and teachers with grit will surely help them start life on the right path.

4.  There is no off-season

According to “Grit”, research has shown that “kids who spend more than a year in extracurriculars are significantly more likely to graduate from college and, as young adults, to volunteer in their communities." In our martial arts school, Ko Martial Arts, it takes three years of consistent training and class attendance to become a black belt. There are no seasons. There are no breaks. Practicing over a duration of time is what leads to skills, which eventually leads to mastery. The most successful people in history devoted thousands of hours to their speciality or craft. The earlier a child learns the importance of dedication over time, the more prepared they will be when it's time to choose the path for their life. Training in the martial arts is an endless, journey of grit and mastery that will help your child develop good habits of focus and dedication.

5. Endless journey

One of my favorite sports I played as a child was basketball. Three hours a day, everyday, was a common practice/play schedule for me until junior year in high school. Basketball was my passion, my everything. Do I still play now that I am an adult with a family, career, and a mortgage? No, my knees and back couldn’t handle the consistent pounding from all the jumping.

One may say that there are a lot of adults who still play high speed sports like basketball and soccer. How many of these adults have knee, hip, ankle, or back problems? KOMA's approach to adaptive martial arts allows people to continue to train throughout their lives. It also keeps people physically and mentally healthy. Why wouldn’t you want to introduce your child to an activity that they can continue on for the rest of their life?

Raising a child can be tough, but trying to raise a child to become an adult with grit and a work ethic made of steel is going to feel impossible at times. Martial arts is one of the best options out there as a guide and support system for your child to slowly learn about grit. There will be days your child does not want to go class and will want to quit. Turn on your own grit and support your child to not make bad decisions during the low times. We challenge you to find the best ways to build grit for your family.