Why all high schoolers should do martial arts
Today’s teens are encountered with a very different reality than their parents and grandparents; in fact, we continually shape our own demographic. However, regardless of our label, all teens have need for special consideration in the development of the mind and body. I’ve always thought that to be good at a sport, you have to begin at a very early age and stick with it your whole life. However, I wasn’t one of those kids-- after searching long and hard for an activity that could meet my needs as a pre-teen, I found Taekwondo. When I joined Ko Martial Arts at 11 years old, I found that it wasn’t like any of the other sports I tried. Martial Arts provides a fix to some of the challenges faced by teenagers today. It helps to guide them not only physically, but also mentally in ways that team sports such as soccer or baseball can’t. In the five years I have trained in martial arts, here are some ways that it has improved my life, and why all high schoolers should be introduced to it.
Heightened Sense of Self-Confidence. Out of all the demographics, teens are those who need the most self confidence. Martial arts classes help build confidence in a fun and safe environment, all the while pushing them to perform at their best. The accomplished feeling when you earn a higher belt or master a technique helps boost self-confidence. It makes you feel like you can accomplish something and your teen will feel motivated to do more and more. Furthermore, all young people should learn the important skill of conversing with adults in a way that is respectful but self-assured. This skill is taught in martial arts by interacting with their instructors and the adults they take classes with. When I first started, I was so shy that I wouldn't speak to anyone I didn’t already know. I'm 16 years old now, and after five years of martial arts, I am an assistant instructor at KOMA and have the confidence to lead classes. Martial arts hasn’t just helped me in the studio; it has also helped me in school. I am no longer afraid to speak up in class or approach new peers. This boost in self confidence that Taekwondo has given me makes me more open to opportunities that may be out of my comfort zone. Martial arts teaches teens to set tangible goals and achieve them-- leaving them striving for bigger and better ones the next time around.
Individual Achievement/Pacing. Many young kids experience the benefits of martial arts early on; however, a large number of children abandon their training when they reach high school so that they can pursue other school sports. Though many lessons can be learned by doing team and varsity sports in school, the ‘make the team’ mentality usually only favors the most advanced players, while the rest watch from the bench. Martial arts training teaches teens through disciplined, diligent classes. Instructors can connect with students and get to know their individual needs and help them grow at their own pace; and no student will be left to watch on the bench.
Discipline and Respect. Martial arts training teaches teenagers that practice really does lead to mastery. There have been many classes I have executed a single technique over and over again to get it just right. This taught me that progress can be achieved through small improvements in technique, and that it comes with repetition and perseverance. We teach our students to respect the studio, instructors, and peers. Each time a student enters the training floor, they must bow at the door to show respect. Students answer instructors with a ‘yes ma’am’ or ‘sir.’ We teach them to keep their uniforms clean and pressed, so that they present themselves in the best way possible.
Fitness. Childhood obesity is a global epidemic, and rising trends in obesity are especially semblance in America. Martial Arts is a great way for teens to stay active without the monotonous feeling of a workout. Each class consists of various, high energy activities that keep students active and engaged, all the while delivering the same results as 45 minute run on your treadmill. Martial arts classes don’t only help with conditioning, it also improves your flexibility, stamina, agility, mental health, and posture. Attending classes every week and getting active is a much better alternative than sitting indoors hunched over a computer or cellphone all day.
Stress Management. American teenagers face countless stresses from work, school, friends, etc. Studies show that building strong relationships help to relieve stress, and that’s exactly what martial arts classes do. Students build lifelong relationships with their fellow peers and instructors. This positive support group can help teens manage all the stress brought onto them because they can always turn to their instructors and friends at their studio if they are faced with a problem. Furthermore, regular exercise acts as a stress reliever because it releases endorphins which boosts the feeling of happiness.
These are just some of the skills I have acquired during years as a martial artist. Now that I am an instructor, it is very rewarding to see these attributes developing in new students. The pre-teens and teenagers of today’s generation are constantly being shaped by their surroundings and martial arts is the best way to equip them with the skills they need to enter adulthood. Step out of your comfort zone and try a class. Worst case scenario, it isn’t the right activity for you. But if you’re like the majority of people who try martial arts and love it, you will become a better person because of it. I promise.