To Parents of Current or Potential Martial Arts Students:

I’ve developed and taught youth programs for 30 years.  They can be a great idea for kids but many studios are built on bullshit, marketing, and lies.  Please consider the following :

*  Style and lineage doesn’t matter, good teaching does.

*  Most teachers have no training with children.  They’ve never been in a classroom or worked with teachers or schools.  You might not hire them as a babysitter.  Get a CV or resume.

*  Most studios don’t do background checks on their teachers, something that every school volunteer must do.  Think about that, and then ask.

*  Many kids programs are franchises, kind of like buying a McDonalds.  They’re designed to maximize income and are about as healthy as McNuggets.

* Too many studios are profit focused.  There is no reason to demand a contract.  Most of the fees are bullshit.  Also trophies, patches and a lot of the equipment are just a profit centers and won’t help your child.  A good school just charges monthly tuition of around $80-100 a month, period.

*  Watch for buzzwords like ‘self esteem’ or ‘discipline’ or ‘bullying prevention’.  They’re mostly baloney.  Your child might develop these qualities but no more than a good soccer or baseball program.  If they’re being stressed you know the teacher is full of crap.

*  Sparring is fighting and learning to fight won’t stop bullying, it’ll just starts fights.  Board breaking is just stupid.  Confidence comes from support and success, not beating the crap out of another kid or a piece of wood.

*  Mystic martial arts bullshit is very deep.  Enough tigers or dragons already.  This isn’t the movies or ancient Asia.  Avoid teachers who don’t seem to know that or demand too much ‘respect’.

*  A good school should stress the following things:  Impulse control, conflict dynamics, balance, patience, centering, correct technique, and self protection.  Class size matters just like regular school.

*  The real value of martial arts is the ability to function under the stress of attack and the confidence that goes with that.  It can also give kids skills to help with transitions.  Find a studio that knows this and can teach it.

I really hope this helps.  Martial Arts are great for kids if you ask a few questions and make a good choice.  You know, just like you do with the other things in your child’s life.

The author, Angus McIntosh, is the founder of Realworld Personal Defense, the Somatic Integrity Program and Desert Monkey Dojo.  He makes no profit from his teaching.



Basic Martial Principles

The following are 8 basic principles that should never be compromised. It’s my belief that these principles are always true and should apply to every martial art or style. In fact, they should apply to any physical endeavor.

1) Posture. There is no technique that is worth losing your posture. Strong legs and a stable base. A straight back. Soft shoulders and hands. Head erect with jaw loose. And of course the ability to keep it or regain it quickly under pressure and through movement.

2) Balance. Always maintain perfect balance. Slow movement and repetition of technique will allow any movement to become balanced.

3) Relaxation. If you panic or become excited you’ll lose your capacity for choice as well as your skill. Use breathing techniques and repetition under stress to stay relaxed in any situation.

4) Center. Always stay in center. It’s where all your strength and energy lives. Guard your center line and dominate everyone else’s.

5) Fluidity. Transfer energy from your legs, through your hips, and to your technique. The order is always the same; base, power, and then action. This allows for the fluid transfer of power. In other words, don’t get in your own way.

6) Full body commitment. Never move a single body part, bring it all. All movement should be supported by every fiber of your body and spirit. This also means that you must always stay aware of all 360 degrees around you and not become overly focused on your opponent.

7) Ki extension. Energy moves. Understand the difference between inflow and outflow. Learn to control it and apply it correctly.

8) Acceptance and Joy. One must accept the reality of conflict, your own capacity for violence, and total responsibility for your actions. Death is on every mat so you must always train with Joy. It also helps you keep training over the years required to master your art.