This letter was borrowed from Tom’s Blog: My Life is My Dojo (A philosophy I strongly believe). I encourage anyone with interests in martial arts to read his blog(s) and follow his great work.
Parents, Enroll Your Children in Martial Arts Lessons
When I was 9-years-old I was given my first martial arts lessons when an old judo teacher invited me to step on his mat and learn how to perform a forward roll. This year I will be 53-years-old —and if I could, I would go back to that judo man and thank him. I would press my forehead against his, as I have seen Pacific Islanders do. I would hold him by the shoulders, eye to eye, and try to communicate something more than words, alone, could express. I am most certain I would cry; they would be tears of joy and soulful appreciation.
In the 44 years that have passed since that day, I have spent many thousands of hours practicing, participating in, promoting, and “being in” the martial arts world. I’ve been mindless in my practice —and mindful. I’ve been absent and present, an obstacle and a guide, a student and a teacher, a friend and the enemy.
As the 9-year-old boy, returning to tell you about his adventure, as the pre-teenager, sharing his emerging sense of self-confidence, as the 17-year-old deeply immersed in preparation for his black belt test, as the 25-year-old leading his first students, as the 32-year-old at the peak of his physical skills, as the 44-year-old using the practice to maintain his center, and as the 52-year-old teacher sitting at his computer reaching out to you, I would encourage you to bring your own children to a martial arts school, to a teacher, in your community.
While my English teachers taught me appreciation for the written word and language, while math and science teachers helped me to solve problems, while my parents struggled to teach me all that parents are burdened with teaching, my martial arts teachers, all of them, taught me the art of putting my feet solidly on the ground. They taught me to fall, if at all possible, softly, and to regain composure quickly. They taught me to block and counter, to embrace and relax in the struggle, to focus on the solution, and to understand as deeply as understanding can root itself in one’s mind, the power and path of practice.
Yesterday my oldest son, after many years of study, was awarded his black belt. Today his brother will be competing in a martial arts tournament in Japan, trying to stretch a years worth of record breaking performances and victories a bit farther.
Parents: The effort it took to bring them to classes, to weather their resistance to the repetitive and rigorous practice, to get them to the right teachers, and to pass to them the spirit of what is behind the technique, it has all been (so very) worth it.
If you are looking for something that might instill in your children the lessons they will undoubtedly need to survive and thrive in this tumultuous world, if you are looking for someone who can assist you in teaching your children how to keep their feet firmly planted, their eyes on the right things, and to master the art of turning obstacles into opportunities, I would like to encourage you to look carefully for a good teacher of the martial arts. The cost of tuition is worth it. The time you invest is worth it. Enduring the demands of teachers who seem to be committed beyond good judgement, is worth it.
In all the things that I’ve created in my life, of all the struggle, the love, the adventures, and the sorrows I’ve experienced, there hasn’t been a more abundant source of strength, support, and regeneration than what I have learned practicing the martial arts. As you may know, “martial” means “war,” and the art my many warrior-teachers taught me is about the struggle to appreciate your parents, brothers, sisters, and friends, while they are here and still available. I have learned to fight my ever-present ego and ignorance, apathy, and disconnection, opponents who seem ever-ready to dump you on your ear if caught unaware. I have learned, even, how to live a life of kindness —a kind of life that has become outwardly simple, but inwardly rich; which are self-defense lessons extraordinaire.
It may, for a long time, be difficult to connect the kicks, punches, and wrestling your children do in a martial arts class to the experiences and my testimony above, but trust me, there is a connection. The long awards ceremonies, the hassles of formal belt testing, the tournaments, the bumps, black eyes, and bruises will be hard to endure, but I am confident that they will produce a positive outcome if you stick to the training.
I’m hoping this letter reaches you, as that teacher reached out to me so many years ago now. I would like to encourage and invite your child to step onto the mat, to get his or her first lesson. I know the potential of what awaits the committed student. I know how much the lessons have supported the very same things I wanted my children to learn —as a parent. In today’s world, the martial arts teacher can help us prepare our children for those things that await them, with courage, with a sense of self-dicipline and patience. What more could a parent ask for?