How Martial Arts teaches Confidence

Our martial arts journey began for all of the right reasons, which turned out to be wrong.

My daughter was just turning six-years of age when tragically, two other six-year-old girls in Southern California, were murdered. These little victims lived in neighborhoods similar to ours and their lives ended under circumstances that could have befallen any six-year-old, including my own. Thereafter, I vowed my daughter was not going to go through life without learning the skills that would give her a fighting chance to defend her life.

It so happened that about this same time, we received a Wednesday folder from my daughter’s school containing an offer from Kovar’s Family Martial Arts to try their program for free for one month. I enrolled her in their program and with the exception of her first few days when it was all so new to her, she thrived in this new thing called martial arts.
As my daughter was being influenced by the goal-oriented aspect of progressing through the belt ranks, she was learning about discipline and focus. These, and other character skills, were reinforced by the structure of the classes, the martial arts moves and katas she was learning and the system the instructors used to gain and keep their student’s attention and trust.

But more importantly, there was a metamorphosis of confidence that took place within her over time. She came to martial arts as a very shy and somewhat insecure kid, who shunned the spotlight and anything that drew attention to her. As she participated in class and was called on to demonstrate a certain self-defense moves, or performed in front of an audience during belt promotions, she was gaining confidence in her martial arts skills and her ability to control her emotions and her body. As her confidence grew, so did her self-esteem.

As time went by, she was invited to join the school demo team and later, the Red and Black Attack. As she was gaining more and more confidence, my wife and I were receiving more peace of mind. When other parents were worried about where their kids were, or what their kids were doing when they were out of their sight, our child was likely to be found hanging out at the dojo with her martial arts buddies. She had her school friends, her church friends and her martial arts friends and she was with her martial arts friends the majority of the time, doing positive things like practicing her demo routine.

I started by saying our journey began for all of the right reasons, which turned out to be wrong. As a result of putting my daughter in martial arts, my wife and I joined too and so it was no longer just my daughter’s journey. It was now our entire family walking the martial arts path. And while my wife and I joined, in part, for learning self-protection skills, it wasn’t long before the most important part of our martial arts class was the Message of the Week. The inspirational, sometimes spiritual, sometimes practical story our instructor would leave us with at the end of class, became the most important aspect of our training. We came to martial arts for the same self-defense reason we had in mind when we enrolled our daughter, and we stayed for an entirely different reason - because of the life lessons we were learning, even as adults.

In my daughter’s case, I enrolled her in martial arts so she wouldn’t be a victim of some unfortunate circumstance. Of course she learned how to defend herself and it does give her mother and me great comfort she can take care of herself. However, the real value she received from training in the martial arts is the ongoing confidence and self-esteem she developed over her years of training. It’s likely the self-confidence that comes through in the way she carries herself is outwardly evident to everyone, including those with ill intent and her self-confidence just may cause the bad guys to search for a different victim.

Fast forward 17 years from that shy little girl of six, who is now a confident third-degree Black Belt and college student of 23, who regularly stands up in front of a class of 100 college students and teaches the class on behalf of the professor, for whom she is the TA – Teacher’s Assistant. I am very proud of her as you might have guessed, but do I think she would be a happy young lady, living a good life if she hadn’t trained in the martial arts? I do. I think we are good parents and I believe she would be a productive and happy person, with or without martial arts. Do I think she would have accomplished all that she has, in the way she has, without martial arts? I honestly don’t know, but I doubt it. Her martial arts experience instilled something in her in a way I don’t think we as her parents could have duplicated. While I don’t know the answer to the question, here is what I do know – there is an African proverb that says – “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child.” In the case of my daughter, it needs to be amended to read – “It Takes a Dojo to Raise a Confident Kid.”

From the parent of a Kovar’s student.

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