Karate training is something that many youngsters aspire to undertake, especially during their summer holidays. But what is the history of this fascinating martial art, and how can your child benefit from karate training?
Origins of Karate
The word Karate derives its name from the Japanese word meaning "empty hands." Karate grew as a form of self-defence in the 17th century when carrying weapons was banned in Japan.
While Karate evolved two hundred years ago in Okinawa Japan, few know of its linkage to India. It is believed that more than a thousand years ago an Indian Buddhist monk called Bodhidharma introduced a style of temple boxing to the Chinese, with exercises designed to strengthen the mind and body. As trade between China and the island nation grew, Chinese families settled in Okinawa, and thus began the influence of Chinese martial arts on the Japanese style of Karate.
The modern form of Karate evolved only at the beginning of the twentieth century when Sensei Gichin Funakoshi made many modifications to the ancient Karate exercises, making it more accessible to the Japanese.
Japanese culture tends to be highly disciplined and organized. All traditional Japanese art such as ikebana (flower arranging) and shodo (calligraphy) have a series of formal ranks to indicate mastery. It’s the same with Karate.
Karate training is imparted in a very structured environment, with the student paying obeisance to the instructor before the start and at the end of each class. The student must practice and demonstrate the ability to master a certain number of Karate exercises before they can earn a belt, and move to the next level of Karate training.
How Karate Training Can Benefit Children
Karate training offers many benefits for young children. Improved physical fitness, superior mind-body coordination, and self-discipline are just some of the characteristics of a martial art practitioner, that immediately come to mind. Let's look at these benefits of Karate training for children in some detail.
- Physical safety and health
We live in times when parents have two key concerns about their children - their physical safety and health. Enrolling your child for learning Karate addresses both these problems to a great extent.
Karate teaches your child the art of self-defence, which is a skill that every boy and girl must possess. Sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy eating habits, excessive pressures of academics, and limited opportunities to play active sports, are the leading causes of child obesity today. Practicing a sport like Karate helps your child get the necessary physical exercise in an exciting way, and also aids their physical/ mental development.
- Mental strength, along with physical agility
Karate training classes for young students are typically an hour long. Practicing the skills and following the teacher's commands during each session requires the child to stay focused, which helps improve concentration levels. Training in martial arts is especially beneficial for children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Improved agility, an impressive gait, and overall composure are just some of the other positive changes that occur when a child practices martial arts regularly.
Karate training requires a lot of focus and discipline. Each student has to learn a curriculum, go through a certain number of hours of training, prepare for and take a test before he/ she can progress to the next level. To be fit, they also have to focus on their diet - what they must eat, and what they must avoid. All this requires a lot of self-discipline, and it's a habit that is reinforced throughout the Karate training as your child progresses from one level to the next.
- Determination to work towards goals
One of the first things to attract youngsters to Karate are the Karate belts and ranks. The colour of the Karate belt indicates the level of expertise. For instance, beginners wear a white belt, yellow, or orange belt. At the intermediate training level, a student is given a green, blue, or brown belt. A black belt signifies that the person has undergone advanced karate training.
It may take a student anywhere between eight to eighteen months to progress from the beginner to the intermediate level, depending on the number of hours of karate training completed. Focussing on picking up the next belt, gives a child a measurable goal to follow. The discipline needed to graduate to a new belt (colour) is a valuable lesson that helps the child in other aspects of life as well.
- Respect for others and self
Some parents think that enrolling their child for martial arts puts the child at risk of becoming a bully, or increases chances of them picking fights at school to show-off their newly acquired fighting skills. This belief cannot be further from the truth.
One of the fundamental principles of martial arts like Karate is respect. Students must respect their opponent (someone is always bigger and stronger) and treat the other students with respect as well. They must bow to their Karate teacher before and after each session. The right Karate tutor will help instil the value that regard for others comes from a deep sense of self-understanding.
The bottom-line is that every child can benefit from karate training, or from learning any other martial art form such as Taekwondo and Jujitsu.
The key to ensuring that your child gets the maximum from the Karate learning experience is to select the right karate instructor or karate teaching school. When looking for a karate teacher for your child, pay attention to the following aspects -
- The karate training style - Keeping children interested in their martial arts training requires an element of fun and games. Before you enrol your child, sit through a couple of Karate training classes to get an idea of the training style.
- Feedback from other parents - Ask parents of other children attending the Karate class, what has been their experience with the instructor.
- Who is the instructor? - Ask about the experience the karate instructor has in teaching children of the same age as your child.
- What is the goal of the karate teacher/ school? For instance, if the prospective instructor or coach talks more about his program rather than the needs of your child, that should be treated as a red flag.
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