• Sensei Seth

The Benefits of Karate (Or Most Martial Arts)

With a lifetime of experience of being a Martial Arts Student and a decade of teaching, these are the things I see most positively impact students young and old!



How I See Karate Benefit Students

The story has been told, time and time again. Karate teachers constantly boast great strides academically, physically and mentally from students. It seems like a great big marketing scheme, right?

“Bring your students here and miraculous things will happen. Your child will go from heathen to heavenly in a matter of months!”

Seems a little fishy? It is okay, you can admit it. It's just us here.

I understand how big claims like that can seem ridiculous, but if you dig deep enough and scrape off the gunk from the marketing aspect of these statements, it has some body. I am constantly working with students, trying to improve their skills and inabilities, and I notice change.


So, here’s the thing…

I am not a child-life specialist, or have a major in youth neuroscience (If that's a thing). However…

I do see progress in most students, child or adult, in these fashions:


Patience

This is usually one of the first I notice. Karate isn’t a Martial Art that you can fly through. If classes are taught well, there are often moments in which students stand still and focus on what is said. By forcing these situations in which students must behave and pay attention (besides every fiber of their being wanting to jump up and throw a spinning wheel kick to the student next to them), they learn to wait.

That waiting is key.


Confidence

At least once a month I have a very specific type of student try out a class. Wary children who are afraid of the contact, of the other students and of the effort involved.

This isn't as easy of a fix as everyone would hope it would be. Students who have issues with confidence and self esteem usually need Karate the most. The ability for a student to defend themselves makes a big difference in those issues for the better.

However..

There are more aspects to confidence than beating people up. Inside the class, students learn to try new things and fail.


What? Why fail? Did he say fail?!” Yes, I did.


Knowing it is okay to try new things and NOT be great at them immediately is important. No one is perfect, and confidence issues often come from worrying perfection is necessary. By having students try, fail and try again until they succeed, we teach students to become brave.


Balance and Footwork

This ones obvious right? Stand on one leg and throw your opposite limbs about and your body will learn to hold you up. Fun stuff!

I, myself, played college football for a Division 2 school in West Virginia. I was too small to play the position I was in, but still managed to thrive.

Why?

Karate.

For all sports I have played, be it recreational or for scholarship, I noticed how my balance and ability to confidently use my body, weight and force lead me to be rise above others.


Decision-Making and Reflexes

Having quick reflexes, much like balance, is key to becoming better at sports and other physical activities, but I want to cover more than physical reflexes. Speed in decision making can be very important in real life scenarios of all kinds. Quickly performing techniques that are instructed by a Sensei can help students achieve faster reaction times, which can be used to diffuse violent situations, problems at work, fast recall (ability to retrieve information in the brain) and makes for one of the most basic survival techniques. AND it makes you great at dodgeball!

In my opinion, the fast transitions from quick moving strikes and techniques to standing very still, back to other techniques, does wonders for the brain. The challenging combination of physicality and focus honestly seems to seems to promote growth in many aspects.


Happiness

Happiness is the goal for anyone. It is the root of all action. But how does Karate make people happy??

“Many ways, my dear Watson. Many ways.”

Students can become happy by reaching goals, like earning new belts and achievement patches. The feeling of watching the body progress to the point in which it can perform new techniques you hadn't thought possible before oozes happiness! They can also become happier by physically releasing stress, anger or anxiety on a bag or myself (unfortunately). The gain in confidence I mentioned earlier can also play a large part in happiness!


Interpersonal Skills

This can be another big issue that isn't solved easily. Some people are born with what we call “People skills” and are extroverts that can speak and interact with other humans like a presidential candidate in a swing state. Others are unfortunately not blessed with that ability.


Luckily, Karate can help.


By seeing others be good (and bad) at the physical and mental aspects of Karate, students learn that everyone is human and has faults. Once students can comprehend that feature of human-kind, they are more likely to understand how easy it is to communicate with them. Students also go through the same hard work and persevere with their peers. This leads to bonds and friendship that can come with a brief mutual unhappiness with their Sensei (it happens, I’ll live).

From my experience of many years teaching, all of these skills also translate into environments outside of Karate Class.



-Sensei Seth

@sensei_seth

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