It’s easy to construe martial arts as nothing more than a means of self-defense, a glorified way of beating people up when you’re in danger. However, this interpretation misses the entire point of martial arts, which, more than anything, is about building people up and helping them become better people, both physically and mentally.
Everything that is done in Taekwondo and karate is done with the purpose of self-improvement in mind. Every block, every kick, every blow hones you in one way or another, and by partaking in all facets of martial arts, you’ll make massive strides in your journey to self-perfection.
One of the biggest elements of Taekwondo is competition. Sparring is a routine activity at our dojos, and students have the opportunity to partake in tournaments. Just like everything else in martial arts, this can be extremely beneficial to younger students. Here are some reasons why healthy competition is a boon to a child’s personal development.
Competition Fosters a Desire For Improvement
One of the most obvious and immediate advantages in competition is the inherent desire for each participant to hone their abilities. In any given competition, the skills of the contestants are measured against each other, so it’s only natural to want to practice and improve so that you’ll come out on top.
In martial arts, this is important because it provides a context and a motivation for improving one’s technique. As valuable as martial arts are, the reality is that many people will go their entire lives without having to put them to use in a real-world situation. But in a controlled setting such as sparring sessions and tournaments, students can finally put their skills into practice. This is a much more tangible motivation than improving for the sake of improvement — especially after students have achieved black belt ranking and don’t have many short-term milestones to work towards.
Competition Can Improve Self-Esteem
There are two types of people in the world — people who feel good when they win, and people who are liars. The truth is that it almost always feels good to win at something or succeed in overcoming a difficult challenge. When this happens, it often leads to an improvement in self-esteem. One can have the satisfaction of knowing their hard work has paid off, and that they built themselves up enough to be a victor against others who have done the same. This behavior need not come at the expense of the loser — a true victor is one who can feel good about their own victory while also showing respect and appreciation to the people they bested.
Naturally, great care must be taken to ensure that this newfound confidence doesn’t go the wrong way. Under the right conditions, victory in competition can refine someone and turn them into a better person. But it’s also easy to fall into the trap of ego and overconfidence — both of which are antithetical to the principles of martial arts disciplines such as karate and taekwondo.
At Thrive Martial Arts, we make sure to perpetuate a spirit of humility in our dojo. Our kids’ karate program doesn’t have room for arrogance and overconfidence. Since we’re so often taught not to be sore losers, it’s easy to forget that it’s equally as important not to be a sore winner.
Competition Inspires Creative Thinking
In any sport, game, or activity, there’s nothing that compares with being matched with a human being. In martial arts, you don’t have computer players that you can play against like you would in a video game, and even if you did, they still wouldn’t be able to think as dynamically and strategically as an actual opponent. For this reason, martial arts can be a great way to encourage creative and tactical thinking in both children and adults.
In Taekwondo, a major component to belt advancement is being able to demonstrate “forms,” which are basically sequenced movements of various martial arts moves. The pattern must be memorized, encoded into memory, and made into reality through the conditioning of one’s physical technique and muscle memory. But this is all memorization, and in an actual fight, dynamic thinking is a must. Through sparring, students will have to look for opportunities to apply their taekwondo knowledge and learn how to react to their opponents and think ahead.
This is a skill that is beneficial for one’s entire life. Those who are able to think outside the box react to their situation swiftly, and employ adaptive strategies that are more likely to help them succeed in every aspect of their lives.
Competition Teaches Humility
Under the right conditions, competition is a great vehicle to teach children about the importance of humility. Whether you win or lose, there’s something to be learned. When a child wins, it’s a good opportunity to help them understand the value of acting modest and showing respect to the losing opponents. It’s a moment to teach that gloating and overconfidence are destructive qualities.,This lesson, if learned very early on in life, can help any child to become a more well-adjusted adult.
On the other hand, losing a competition also teaches its own lessons. Many students go into competitions assured that they’re going to obliterate their competition. When this doesn’t happen and they end up being bested, they can react in one of two ways — petulant whining, or introspective learning. Being able to accept defeat, evaluate your weaknesses, and observe the strength of your opponents is inestimably important all throughout life. Since children tend to bring their habits and perceptions into their teenage and adult years, the earlier they can learn these lessons, the better.
Competition Is Fun and Exciting
Finally, the importance of children becoming invested in productive activities cannot be understated. In this age where screens are ubiquitous in our lives, it’s more important than ever for children to latch onto activities early on that are productive for their physical, mental, and emotional health. It’s not a bad thing to enjoy diversions such as video games, but these activities shouldn’t dominate someone’s life, especially a child’s.
So, what does this have to do with karate and Taekwondo? Well, in a nutshell, competitions are fun and exciting. By allowing your child to participate in tournaments, you can help to cultivate their interest in martial arts. If practiced over the long-term, they will have an extracurricular activity for many years which helps keep them physically active and mentally alert. The more activities like this that children can invest themselves in, the better!
Kids Karate in Fort Collins and Windsor
In our Taekwondo classes, we like to maintain a healthy balance of independent growth and competition. On some days, students will work purely on their own pursuits — practicing their technique, improving their forms, and so on. On others, sparring will bring a flair of friendly competition, which can extend to larger events such as tournaments. We highly encourage your child’s participation in these activities. For the reasons above and many others, it can be beneficial for them.
Want to try out Thrive Martial Arts? Consider joining our trial program, which allows you to demo our classes without paying the full amount of a normal membership fee. We have dojos in Fort Collins and Windsor, and we hope to see you soon!