The following is an excerpt from a letter by Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, to the President's Conference on the Fitness of American Youth, June 16, 1956:
"We tend to overlook one important fundamental which you emphasized:
That national policies will be no more than words if our people are not healthy of body, as well as of mind, putting dynamism and leadership into the carrying out of major decisions. Our young people must be physically as well as mentally and spiritually prepared for American citizenship."
Well, I guess he made this blog post easy!
Martial arts and hand to hand combat are some of the oldest forms of activity that we have on record. We are even pretty confident that athletic events like wrestling have existed since the stone age men. They had to figure out how to use strength and skill to provide for themselves, and thus physical combat was necessary for survival.
When you look back in history, you will see close range struggles from the Egyptians to the Greeks, and the Assyrians to the Japanese. Before warfare developed to include long range weaponry, victory came to the strongest people that knew how to fight. Things like courage, bravery, self-respect, strength, and athleticism were encouraged and often necessary.
Fast forward hundreds and thousands of years to the United States of America (and many other developed countries) and you will find a country full of individuals who expect to be protected. We assume that nothing bad will happen to us. The police protect us from the bad guys. The military protects us from invading countries. Even those in the military have said that they feel protected from hand to hand combat because of their weapons, drones, and machinery.
While all of these things are partially correct, the world is still full of individuals who can cause harm to you or your family, and there will not always be someone or something there to protect you.
Martial arts training is an incredible way to prepare a child (or and adult!) for combat, as well as for life. Due to its rigorous nature, a child growing up in the martial arts must learn to overcome failure and develop coordination, poise, and efficient use of their body. The physical and psychological benefits are tremendous.
At our academy, we introduce a student to the difficulties they will face in the martial arts gradually so that even the shyest and most timid boy or girl has a chance to overcome their fears and benefit from the practice of the arts.
For example, a student will practice defending against a strike in the air before doing it with a partner. Then a student will learn to defend against strikes to their body, before dealing with strikes to their face or head. This training allows the confidence to build gradually, so they have the tools to overcome anything.
Learning to grapple against other kids develops physical attributes that you see many other species in the animal kingdom develop in their youth. Imagine a couple of bear cubs wrestling with each other. This training will produce mental preparedness for other challenges through youth and adulthood such as bullies, social hierarchy, joining the workforce, and handling themselves with confidence and patience in arguments. Most importantly this hones their self-discipline and self-reliance.
Competing in the martial arts, like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, brings out essential qualities such as the drive to succeed and learn from failure, strong moral fiber, and courage.
We see children that may have been previously labeled as awkward, weak, or shy overcome their fears and develop their weaknesses. We don't change their personality, but allow them to highlight their positive attributes and strengthen their weaknesses.
Unfortunately, many children stop training martial arts during their teenage years due to other aspects of their lives competing for their attention, such as sports, extracurricular activities, friends, dating, driving, and even jobs. This timeframe is an ideal time to teach young men and women martial arts, especially competitive sports such as wrestling and jiu jitsu because this is such a formative period in their lives.
While team sports offer significant benefits as well, the individual nature of martial arts gives the student an opportunity for self-expression that may not be available in other activities. And while their training partners and teachers are vital components of their training, once they enter a match with another student or opponent, the outcome is entirely in their hands.
In a fight, there are not any timeouts when it gets tough, and the battle must be won with a student's intelligence, skill, and pure determination. Martial arts training will teach your child to take the initiative in stressful situations and control their body in physically demanding situations. It will provide them with mental alertness, physical toughness, and the courage to get back up when they fall.
I remember Ryron Gracie stating once that there are two activities that his children will not have a choice in learning and practicing - swimming and martial arts. About 70% of the earth's surface is water-covered, and thus children should learn to swim. Over 7 billion people are living on this earth, and thus children should learn how to defend themselves.
The need stated by the president above is even more evident in today's world than it was in his time (although I wasn't around then to be sure). I'll leave you with our mission statement at Progressive Martial Arts Academy:
1. To enrich our students' lives through the study of martial arts.
2. To strengthen our community by developing the character of our young students.
3. To uphold and pass on the techniques, traditions, and philosophies of the martial arts as taught to us.
4. To present a progressive martial arts curriculum and fighting style in a safe manner, with respect for all individuals, resulting in a calm, confident, and courageous student.
Please share with someone who needs to get their kids into martial arts!