Why Martial Arts Class Is Crucial For Today's Children
I recommend the following books on the subject.
I have vivid recollections of physical activity that most kid's today don't seem appreciate or even to have access to. During summers I hiked through the woods and learned camping and wilderness survival with the boy scouts, and during school I would come back from lunch and recess times sweaty and invigorated from the intense playtime we had. There was kickball, dodgeball, flag football, and general running around for a good hour before it was back to the books.
My mother introduced me to my Karate Sensei when I was eight years old beginning a journey in training that impacted my life in more ways than I can account for. I was in class three times a week, and would race to the (optional) sparring class on Saturdays because it was so much fun. All this time I was doing flexibility warm-ups, body weight training and intense cardiovascular exercise that literally scorched the fat off my body before it had a chance to accumulate, and because of the camaraderie and, at times, peer pressure from my friends in class, I stuck to it.
I learned discipline and respect, at the same time I was developing confidence and an awareness of my own power and determination. It was in karate that I first discovered that persistence can overcome inability. I saw one of the older black belts perform a kick that seemed impossible for me. But with his encouragement and help I tried and failed, and tried and failed, until after what seemed like an eternity, I executed that kick perfectly. I remember that feeling of accomplishment and to this day use that kick to thrill the audience when I teach cardio kickboxing classes to adults.
My point in these remembrances is that I see the kids of my generation being denied these wonderful experiences in exchange for things that achieve the exact opposite of what I was lucky enough to grow up with.
According to an article in the Boston Globe, "Until 1996, Massachusetts students were required to take at least 90 minutes of physical education each week. Now, the only requirement is that they take some form of physical education every year.
Today, some elementary schools offer half of the previous minimum, and some high schools defying state law don't require physical education at all for some grades."
In addition, kids today are saturation bombed with energy sapping distractions, two hundred and fifty cable channels, dedicated gaming consoles such as X-Box and Playstation crank out addictive game formats that can keep a player going for hours on end, an associated press article for the Charleston gazette reports, "Up to 90 percent of American youngsters play video games and as many as 15 percent of them - more than 5 million kids - may be addicted, according to data cited in the AMA council's report."
Video games and movies offer the same excitements of real life challenges and adventures without any danger or consequence. What a deal huh? I can have a full contact fist fight or participate in an intense fire fight against overwhelming odds and if my life bar drops to zero, I can hit the reset button and start again. Or so it seems, but the harsh reality is that these kids are in an even more terrible danger than if they were thrown into the ring. Because in the end they are losing their time. In two insidious ways. First they will celebrate their virtual victories in the games but they wont have that memory for long, and the accomplishment won't really belong to them, it will belong to their avatar. Second, these kid's life spans are being shortened as surely as if they were taking puffs off a cigarette for every controller action or remote control click.
The Chicago Tribune reports, "The growing epidemic of obesity could cause the first drop in Americans' life expectancy in modern times, according to a new study that suggests weight problems could cancel out life-extending benefits from medical advances in the coming decades.
Today's children, who are becoming obese at unprecedented rates, will suffer the greatest loss of longevity, according to the report. A national team of experts on aging and obesity compiled the estimates, led by S. Jay Olshansky, a biological demographer at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Obesity already is taking away up to nine months of life, on average, from life expectancies in the United States, the study found. That figure could reach five years or more if America cannot reverse the current trend of rising obesity rates."
It would be nearsighted to discuss obesity in children and omit the other end of the spectrum, the lack of life experience and accomplishment obviously can lead to low self esteem. And the impossible images of body perfection thrown out there by madison avenue, and hollywood. The airbrushed computer generated thin-ness that little minds perceive on every level of their awareness from barbie dolls, to billboards, to television ads and the fashion industry, can lead to eating disorders.
In a study published by Christopher G. Fairburn and Paul J Harrison from the University of Oxford, U.K., the authors discussed how the cause of eating disorders is complex and badly understood. There is evidence that genetic factors predispose some people to higher risk; as do environmental factors such as childhood adversity and childhood/parental obesity and the presence of the personality traits of low self-esteem and perfectionism.
If martial arts did anything for me it helped stave off a terrible self-esteem crisis. I suffered depression and body image issues. I was short and my hairline was receding at a ridiculously young age. Later on when my work life led to sitting behind a desk at a brokerage firm and getting extremely stressed out, my body weight jumped to an unhealthy level and I threw up from just walking up a hill. But after three years of that I signed up at a gym, signed up for a kickboxing fight and dropped the weight in six months.
I firmly believe that my martial arts training gave me a sense of power and peace of mind that I could always draw upon. The physical prowess and the study of zen philosophy grounded me so that at my very worst I was able to call on my inner strength and hold on when my teenage angst threatened to overwhelm me and later in life when the stresses of adult life became too much for me to lead a healthy life. I shudder to think what the little boy or girl of today after being immersed in twelve hours of computer game play, or glued to the television set, when faced with adversity, what inner power will be they be able to call on? What memories are they generating of this very short, very precious time? And what kind of people will they grow into?
Parents, unplug the game and get your kid into a Gi (karate uniform). Because unless we vote P.E. back in, they will not be getting exercise in school, and they are not going to do it on their own.
-Coach Albert Isordia
Visit me at www.thecybergym.com
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