Friday, December 14, 2012

Parents in the Martial Arts

I want to thank Jan(one of our parents) for the idea for this post.

One of the largest groups in our school are children. Invariably, as instructors, when we think of children we have a tendency to disconnect them from their parents. Possibly because we only deal with the children in the class, or we only see the parents fleetingly as they drop the kids off for class. However, we must maintain the bond that exists between parent and child, even in the context of training. Especially in the context of training.  When a child becomes part of a dojo family, it is not just that child that is or should be welcomed. The parents as well must understand what it means to be part of a dojo. They are the ones responsible for making sure the  child arrives on time in a clean and neat gi.

The precepts and values that the child learns in the dojo should be reinforced in the home. Things like courtesy, respect, integrity, caring for others,discipline, perseverance and humility are but a few of the values taught and shared in a dojo setting. It does not serve the child if these qualities are being taught in the dojo, and not in the home.

Parents must and should make an effort to be involved in the training to the greatest extent possible. Some schools even offer a Parent and child class where the parent and the child can train simultaneously. Parents should take advantage of this if its offered. Occasionally we get parents who want to "parent" from waiting area. It is one of the reasons many traditional schools do not have a "waiting area". Martial arts is not meant to be an activity that is watched it is meant to be done.
I have had to have many conversations with parents who feel their child should be doing better, even to the extent that they will try to correct their child in the midst of class. There are  reasons why we as parents should refrain from this:

It sends mixed signals. In the mind of the child if the parent comes into the class to correct them there is confusion. Unless the parent is the instructor, it is an undermining of authority of the instructor. The message the child receives is that I can behave or do whatever I want until Mom or Dad say something. I don't need to listen to the Sensei or instructor.
It disrupts the flow of the class. The instructor may be planning an activity with the children and the interruption throws off the rhythm if the class.
It is viewed as bad etiquette. I would not presume to interrupt a surgeon as he was about to perform surgery.  Or any other professional for that matter. Most reputable instructors have many years of study accumulated.  Many of the sensei  I know have been teaching for three decades or more. Even if you are a martial artist with many years of training it is still seen as bad form to enter a class and begin to offer pointers or corrections.
It can embarrass the child. Being called out before his or her peers is not a pleasant experience for the child and can remove any desire for training.
It displays a lack of trust. When you enroll your child in a school, the implicit statement being made is that I trust this school, these instructors. Acting in any other way dissolves that trust.

These behaviors are usually exhibited by fathers more than mothers. We want our boys to be strong and our girls to be fierce. We look from the sides and usually give the "eye" if we perceive them to be misbehaving or not performing up to what we consider par. Mothers on the other hand usually want to "rescue" the child.

As fathers we can be uncompromising. I speak from experience being that four of my children currently train in our home dojo and visit another dojo where I am not the instructor but just a "parent". I can see myself slipping into the role of super dad and have to occasionally check myself. Its not easy, its your child after all.

These are descriptions done in broad strokes and obviously there are exceptions in both genders. The key is to find out what the code of etiquette is for your school and adhere to it. Support your child in his or her studies in the arts. Reinforce the values they are learning, lead by example and I can assure you that the transformation will amaze you.

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body

Sensei Orlando

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