When it comes to children and the martial arts, I have a philosophy.
As a businessman, I do quote the common adage, that we do not want to encourage children to begin quitting things. Mr. Prospective Karate Mom/Dad–if you just sign the contract–don’t look at it as obligating little Johnnie; we are merely teaching him to accomplish goals and finish what he started! YOU are the parent! Allow him to begin quitting, today it’s Karate, and tomorrow it’ll be high school, colleges and marriages… blah blah blah.
There’s some truth to that. However, before parents and Guros allow a kid to quit, we have to look at why little Johnnie wants to quit. Is it because it’s really difficult to get those two left feet to function as right and left? Or is it that Big Johnnie put Little Johnnie in an activity that Big Johnnie himself quit as a child? Or that one kid who is really good and makes the other kids feel like they’ll never be that good? Is it that little Johnnie finds the sparring unpleasant? Is he small and weak? Or is he aggressive, but so aggressive he’s in trouble all the time?
Here’s the thing. Children are not robots. They have opinions. They have preferences. Sometimes, a kid really doesn’t like the martial arts. But very often, a kid loves the martial arts, but quits because he is either having a difficult time learning or excelling in the art. As a teacher or parent, you commit a disservice if you do not foster or encourage his interest by letting him quit… or make him continue doing it when he genuinely doesn’t like it. You also have a duty to get him the help he needs to continue with his martial education. I have seen good martial arts students with dedication, hard work ethic and a genuine love for the art quit after being unable to keep up with more athletic-inclined classmates. It’s a shame when that happens; yet it is commonplace.
By the way, this applies to adults as well.
This is why I believe in the institution of private lessons. A teacher may not have the time or energy to schedule private lessons for students who need more attention than what is normally given in a regular group class. In that case, it is simply a case of student-teacher-school incompatibility. I have had this happen to me as well, and in those cases I have formed a relationship with other teachers who either had the expertise I lacked or the time to do the private lesson. Some issues are small ones and can be fixed with a good, thorough explanation and a few demonstrations. Others need several short lessons taught one-on-one over a few weeks or months.
I’ll give you an example. When I was a young man, I worked for a chain school called “Kim’s Karate”. We had a young lady who was diligent and did everything right, except she had a difficult time sparring. She was timid and small, but limber and strong. As she moved up in rank, my grading became stricter and more demanding. Now, Kim’s policy did not allow me to fail her (because of the lack of progress in sparring), but it was becoming more evident as she moved up that she was falling behind in fighting ability. Our location was known as the ass-kicking location of a school not known to put out good fighters, and she wanted to live up to that rep. Frustrated, she attempted to quit on us.
I was only 21 at the time, but I recognized the need, and scheduled private lessons. They were at first free, but eventually she paid for them–and guess what happened? She slowly became one of our top female fighters–even defeating her husband in sparring matches. Now, the $100 question: what did we do?
I gave her about 4 or 5 combinations, each combo had an offensive version and a counter-offensive version, and we just worked that, sparring for 20 – 30 minutes each lesson. I closed off every session with push-ups and chair dips. That’s it.
It took about 4 lessons for her to realize her progress in sparring. They were free, and by the time our sales staff began charging her, she not only remained in her contract, she gladly paid for those private lessons.
I’ve done the same with children. You can use this with anything–fitness level, flexibility, aggression, “mousiness” (lol)… When a kid wants to quit something he used to bug Mommy to do, something’s wrong. If you don’t question why he or she wants to quit and just allow him to do it without confronting the intimidating reasons forcing him or her to quit, then yes, you are encouraging him or her to be a quitter. Think about how this pertains to other things that kids (or you) quit: sports, hobbies, friends, relationships, JOBS, college, you name it.
Hope I’ve given you something to think about.
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