By Jen Ashenfelter
Karate may not be the right sport for every child but it was the perfect activity for my oldest son. Now training for his second degree Black Belt, this story began 7 years ago at Action Karate in New Britain, PA.
Nick had played intramural soccer and t-ball but didn’t really enjoy either. As an active young boy, he had plenty of skill in running, kicking and throwing, but team sports did not appeal to him. Even today, he’s not the least bit interested in watching sports on television or attending a sporting event.
In third grade, Nick was a smart, well-behaved student. However, focus in the classroom was a challenge, as was socializing with the other kids. He was never diagnosed with autism; he just had a different idea of how he wanted to spend the day.
When a winter after-school club program offered karate lessons, Nick expressed an interest so I jumped at the chance to sign him up. He really enjoyed going to classes twice a week and in less than two months, he was officially a martial arts student learning much more than just Kenpo karate.
The curriculum at the Action Karate schools centers on teaching students focus and control, discipline, self-confidence, goal setting, self-defense and leadership with an emphasis on good grades, good deeds and respect in a supportive atmosphere.
Involvement with martial arts is not just an activity; it’s a lifestyle, a way of thinking. Nick embraced the journey with commitment and has worked through expectations and challenges with complete determination, grace, and even a little prodding. The program helped Nick develop better focus in the classroom and hopefully has given him the confidence and resources to handle the pressures he’ll likely face during his teen and young adult years. Oh, and then there’s that Chuck Norris thing—no doubt he can defend himself with swift moves to serve up a serious punishment to the offender. Go ahead and give him a surprise bear hug from behind and see where you land.
In the process, I’ve learned more about managing expectations and reaching goals. As we encourage, and sometimes push, our children to do better, it’s difficult not to be inspired by their determination and achievements. How can I put expectations on my children for their best effort if I don’t expect the same from myself? Learning is a two-way street: our children learn from us and often what they give back is greater.
Three years into the program, Nick received his Junior Black Belt during an action-packed and moving ceremony. My eyes filled with tears of pride at his accomplishments. And three years later, he was awarded his First Degree Black Belt. It was a six-year journey of growth, learning and facing challenges for a lifetime of skills and tools to accomplish anything he puts his mind to.
Nothing puts a smile to my face faster and brings back sweet memories than watching a class of younger students and then watching Nick’s masters class to realize how far we’ve come. My wish for the parents of the new students: the same awesome feelings seven years from now.
It doesn’t matter what sport or activity your son or daughter participates in just as long as they are having fun and learning valuable life skills. Whether it’s karate or baseball or playing an instrument, encourage them to find a passion, stick with it during challenging times and celebrate the accomplishments great and small.
Has your child’s life been transformed through the study of karate? Feel free to share your stories and/or advice, by clicking “leave a comment” below: