Karate as a tool.

It has been a long time since I have written here, family life took over. All of the side projects had been put aside. Today I have a few hours of spare time while I am traveling to Poland, so I have taken this opportunity to write few words about a Karate project that I was asked to participate in as a teacher.

Anxiety and depression in children and young people are on the rise, more and more of school children are negatively affected by pressure both educational and social. Nowadays bullying does not stop when leaving school walls. It is constant through the social media, young people are always connected and attached to their phones or computer. These youngsters are not able to detach and break the cycle of stress, it seems that the education system does not have a strategy to cope with this problem.

For few years now, I have worked with a mental health charity running Karate classes for them. And after gaining control over my own huge anxiety problem via Karate training I have been asked to run classes for children in order to boost their confidence and feeling of self-worth. Karate as a tool is great for this task as it has a structure and system for development in place where students can see their progression through goals. Both short and long term, these goals are achievable and measurable. For this purpose, we use a belt system with technical requirements and time frame. Students going through sets of challenges are learning the techniques and getting confidence so that they can perform and accomplish given tasks. As it takes time and effort (things that are not so common in today’s instant gratification world) young people learn the importance of adherence, hard work, and discipline which will benefit them in adult life.

Also, being guided through the failures which are a part of learning in martial arts, students learn and train their mental resilience and toughness which helps them to deal with stress. Meditation incorporated in the lessons helps to improve their focus and mental calmness, which results in helping to be more efficient in studying at school. A big role in Karate training for children is physical fitness. Fit people are more confident, have a better opinion about themselves and are healthier. In training children there is not so much focus on pure Karate but the development of ABC skills which are transferable to any other sport or activity. ABC stands for Agility, Balance and Coordination. All three are essential for a human development and Karate can help with that via sets of coordination drills, quick directional changes and the unpredictable demands of sparring.

As karate is mainly an individual art, teaching students that all is in their hands, and how much effort they put in controls how much they will get out of it. We cannot forget about their communication and social skills development, therefore in every session we have games and challenges where students need to work together in order to solve problems or challenges. As in adult life there are winners and losers, so we let students fail. It is very important for mental development to experience failure. If we can allow students to fail in controlled environment we can boost their resilience and change their outlook from stress to being motivated to work harder and learn from their failure which in future will help them achieve their chosen goal without being discouraged by difficulties. In my class I like to go through some philosophical aspects and talk about how some behaviours are affecting our life, on a way towards who we want to be.

Below is a very short and nonspecific session program:

  • – Seated meditation (mental preparation for class).
  • Introduction to topic of the class, key safety points.
  • Warm up (joint mobilisation, specific exercises, games).
  • Karate specific training (working on ABC).
  • Cool down (calming down exercises, stretches).
  • Philosophy (encouraging proper behaviour).
  • Seated meditation (mental cool down and relaxation).
  • Feedback.

All of the above is making karate training a very powerful tool to make a valuable society member. In my opinion the pillars of society are strong and caring people and Karate helps to cultivate them.

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About the author: Les Bubka is an experienced martial artist, personal trainer and therapist who specialises in posture, mobility and Karate.  Les works with a wide variety of clients including martial artists and athletes as well as those suffering with postural dysfunction or those who wish to improve their fitness and wellbeing.
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