Martial Arts Values in Everyday Life

I came upon this discussion topic in an unusual setting: a book fair dedicated to hand-made, hand-printed editions. I had not expected martial arts to come up as a topic, but in a conversation with one of the book artists, I learned she had a young nephew back east who was studying martial arts. What she liked best about his dojo, she told me, was that the children were asked to keep a journal in which they were to relate what they learned at the dojo to other parts of their lives, and also keep a record of their acts of community service.

What a great idea (I thought); and it spurs me to ask all of you:

What do you do in your dojo to help students see the connection between martial arts values, good citizenship, and everyday life?

I think we all talk from time to time about these connections, and aim for our students to understand that martial arts is a way of life. But what are some ways to go beyond the occasional lecture? Do you use regular discussions? Homework? Words of the month? Organized community service? Tell us how you approach it at your school.

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8 Comments on “Martial Arts Values in Everyday Life”

  1. Chris B Says:

    Great idea!

    I’m afraid that our dojo discussions, although they are as interactive as I can make them, are pretty much the limit.

    I like the idea of journaling, but have had some mixed experiences with asking kids to keep even a bare-bones workout log. It ends up being something to get nagged about. ;-(

    I’m fond of storytelling and discussion, and I commonly use stories of young people who represent our student code. (RESPECT-INTEGRITY-PERSEVERANCE-DISCIPLINE-PRIDE)

    The closest we’ve come to bringing our dojo into our everyday lives is that several intermediate and advanced students helped me put together a presentation called “Stand Together – Stop Bullying” in which they performed role plays in street clothes for local children’s groups.

    They acted out how martial arts has helped them to avoid being Bully, Victim or Bystander. The dozen kids who participated had a great experience, but the dojo as a whole didn’t benefit much.

    I’m open to new ideas, though!

  2. Marie Says:

    The journal is a great idea. We started on our karate journey as a family last year and my DH and I are always trying to apply the principles we’re learning from our training to our every day lives – and encouraging our kids to do the same. Just this morning we had a discussion about speaking to each other in a respectful manner. Karate is for life, not just for Christmas πŸ˜‰


  3. redwoodojo Says:

    Chris- I share your reservations about giving journal assignments that most kids aren’t going to follow through on. A lot of them can barely get their school homework done these days (from what I gather). But I have on occasion given informal homework assignments–things to try, things to find out, or things to discuss with parents–like some of the ones you can find in the Kids Karate Workbook. The kids most likely to follow through and do the assignments tend to be those whose parents are most supportive of their training. Which brings me to…

    Marie- Thanks for joining the discussion! It’s great that you’re training as a family. And your example about being respectful is right on.

    I think getting parents/families involved is one of the best ways we have of ensuring that our little lectures aren’t forgotten the minute the kids leave the dojo πŸ™‚ Maybe a handout or newsletter once a month that includes some parent education (for those who aren’t training as a family) and a discussion topic…

  4. We have a kids karate binder that we use at the end of class to keep track of the subject we covered that day as well as the techniques that we practiced. Kids draw pictures in their books and we have a few pages that I developed as an insert called “all about me and my family” where the students complete sections about what they like about martial arts and their favorite things out side of the dojo – a sort of way to link the outside experience with the dojo experience. It also helps parents have a link to what their kids do at the dojo.

    When we have subjects in class like discipline and team work, I assign homework assignments for the kids to do before next class.

    We also discuss philosophy in class and I ask the kids to tell me stories that exemplify the 5 firsts of friendship or 5 As of self defense for example. I asked students to write me an essay on their favorite philosophy that shows how it is used in their everyday lives and I have them read them in class the following week and I post them to my blog site.

    I like the idea of an “outside dojo” journal – our binders are more geared for inside the dojo. The kids do like being “published” on the blogsite. For the younger kids I ask them for pictures instead of essays.

    Community service is a great idea too. Has anyone explored a Dojo Field Trip idea for kids?

  5. Joe Varady Says:

    I think it is essential that we teach kids that karate begins in the dojo, but we use our training everyday, everywhere. For example, when we meditate I tell them to take deep breaths anytime they get mad or upset to calm themselves down, and use meditation techniques to clear their minds and focus before doing their homework or taking a big test at school. I always stress that the reason we bow to the flag is to pledge our allegiance to the ideas that Cuong Nhu stands for being the best you can be both inside and outside of the dojo, then I’ll talk briefly about a specific way that they can do that. Parents love when I say, “When you bow to the flag you are saying that you will be your best at home as well as in the dojo! Good martial artists always listen to your parents, and are always polite. Keep your rooms clean and get your homework done before you are asked to do it!” or sometimes it might be something like “Remember, when you bow to the flag you are saying you will help others. Always be the good guy. Don’t stand back and watch someone get teased or picked on. If you don’t feel comfortable stopping it yourself, go and get a teacher or playground aid. Never be the bad guy and never let evil win!” These are just quick little tidbits that I throw out just about every class, usually right after meditation at the end of class, just before we bow out. To stress politeness, after we bow out the kids are taught to say “Thank you” in Japanese (“Domo arigato Sensei”) before they leave the floor (and get high fives, of course!). I firmly believe we are in the business of teaching the whole child. Punching and kicking is just the vehicle for imparting far more important lessons about life and living.

    • redwoodojo Says:

      Well said! And great examples of how to work lessons into the routine of class.

      I love “never let evil win.” That’s a tall order! We must be raising superheroes! πŸ™‚

  6. heidi Says:

    Thanks for sharing what you do in class. I love gathering all these great ideas from our blog posts to help us all better spread and develop the ideals of Cuong Nhu in our younger generation. “Dont let evil win” is at the top of my list of great dojo kid lessons – should we add it as #6 to the Cuong Nhu Student Creed πŸ™‚ I also like how you incorporate discussions about the “whole child” while parents are listening so they also understand Cuong Nhu is about so much more than kicking and punching!

  7. This is a fantastic idea and I think I will borrow it. We do encourage our students to stand up to injustice where they see it, and that includes bullying and other issues at school. We also encourage our students to be assertive, and ask for what they need. Yes, Didi, it certainly is a way of life!

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