Why would I enroll my child in martial arts when he already struggles with aggressive behavior? He already hits me and other kids, so why would have someone teach him to punch with more power and precision? I’ve heard questions like these from parents many, many times over the many years of owning a martial arts school.
If I’m going to be completely honest with you, there is some truth to it. I would agree that there are times that martial arts can make a child more aggressive. It makes sense to me that if you teach a child who is already dealing with violent and aggressive behavior how to fight, that child could feel more confident in physically lashing out against others.
But what if I told you that martial arts can help children harness their aggressiveness and use it to excel in life? Before we get into that, let’s first define the word, “aggressive”.
According to Google, the definition for “aggressive” is, “ready or likely to attack, or confront: characterized by or resulting from aggression”. This seems to be the most common definition that comes to mind with many people, especially parents. The synonyms for “aggression” include hostile, belligerent, combative, and violent. All of these words come across as negative and nothing we would want a child to mimic.
I couldn’t help but notice the other definition for “aggressive”. “Pursuing one’s aims and interests forcefully, sometimes unduly so.” The first part of that definition is worth reading again. “Pursuing one’s aims and interests forcefully.” One would assume that “forcefully” means against others. Trying to get something or achieve a goal by forcing others to submit to their will. This could be what the definition is referring but I can also see it as “forcefully” overcoming challenges and obstacles to achieve a goal. This is also known as “Positive Aggression”.
Positive aggression is using our aggression in a controlled manner to achieve a positive outcome. It’s about taking that aggression and using it as fuel to accomplish good things and set boundaries in life. The synonyms for “aggressive” also include competitive, energetic, dynamic, and bold. I would say most parents would want their child to be competitive, energetic, dynamic, and bold. As you can see, “aggressive” behavior is not always bad. It can be harnessed into something good.
The last thing we want to do as parents is suppress an incredible gift our children were born with. Children often displays violent aggressive behavior because an underlying issue needs to be addressed. The child might just need to learn how to use their high energy in productive ways or lacks the confidence to communicate effectively. Either way, the high energy and boldness can become some of the child’s greatest strengths when they learn how to use them properly.
I can tell you with the utmost confidence that martial arts can help children turn their violent aggression into positive aggression. But it all comes down to culture and philosophy.
The philosophy and culture of the martial arts school is what matters most. This is also the case in mainstream sports. If the coach is yelling and screaming, throwing chairs, and telling the team to win at all costs, this can lead to increased violent aggression in the child. But on the flip side, a martial arts school with a culture of compassion and self discipline can help a child learn how turn their violent aggression into positive aggression.
It really doesn’t matter if the child is learning how to kick a ball or a person, it all comes down to encouraged and acceptable behaviors of the culture. When a martial arts school is more “outward focused” such as defeating the opponent or beating the other side, it can increase violent aggressive behavior. Or if there is an emphasis on combat and self defense, the child is getting trained to think in terms of combat and self defense. The “Cobra Kai” mentality of “no retreat, no surrender” is fuel to the violent aggressive behavior of a child.
But when the culture of the martial arts school is more “inward focused” and more about gaining control of yourself, this is where positive changes can happen in the child. A focus more on the “art” and self expression is when a martial art can really teach a child how to harness their gifts of high energy and boldness. It becomes more about winning fairly and sacrificing for the greater good of others. When a child is taught about the importance of serving others, the focus no longer is on themselves which can result in less violent aggressive behavior.
I am not just talking about this as a theory but from real life experience. I have witnessed hundreds if not thousands of children improve their behavior for the better through martial arts training. But I can only speak about the students who have gone through our program.
I hope this helps you make a better decision about how you feel about martial arts making children more violent and aggressive. While martial arts definitely can make children more violent and aggressive, it can also help them use their gifts in positive ways. I urge you to always take in consideration the culture you are adding your child to. Just because your friends are signing up their children for soccer doesn’t mean the culture and coach is going to be a good thing for your child. If you want to give martial arts a try, be sure to check out the in depth video where I cover all the things to look for.
Best of luck and see you at the next one.