Martial Arts: Not for My Children

By the time Priya was preparing for her junior black belt in Tae Kwon Do she had developed the ability to kick above the hight of her head. Seeing her do this for the umpteenth time (in our living room) eventually led to a catastrophic argument between me and her Mum. But more of that later…

…It all started out (as these things do) in a most innocuous way. Marketed as “self-defence” the girls’ Mum used to take Priya off to a Tae Kwon Do class in Exeter. We were sold the line about “improving children’s self-confidence and overall fitness”. And in truth, the first few lessons saw Priya running around the sports hall learning all about stranger -danger and generally having fun with other children.

But – and parents reading this may well recognise the trend  – stranger danger didn’t last too long and eventually methods of blocking and counteracting punches delivered to your body were being followed up with teaching on how to punch yourself, and ultimately how to kick.

By this stage, The sports hall in Exeter had become the dojo (with dojo rules!) and the bloke who ran the classes had become “Sensai”. Literally translated as former-born and all round Master of his craft.

All of this martial arts business started to cause real domestic friction. I will admit to in-built bias. Ever since I was a boy I have found the whole, “I’m a 3rd degree brown-belt in Ancient Korean Kendo”, all a little bit, how to put it, odd! Especially when these words are uttered by British males. I have always had the thoughts that these men have spent too much time in their bedrooms watching Bruce Lee films.

But as I say, this is my own personal prejudice!

It all came to a head in our house when I took Priya to one of her classes in Exeter (she was six or seven at the time) and seeing her go through various blocking and punching routines I withdrew her from the class. I remembered the words of my father, who frequently having to break up scraps between me and my two brothers, would say, very quietly, “there is too much kicking and punching in the world already”. He was right.

In the year before our marriage disintegrated, this subject of martial arts and Priya’s attendance became a real battle ground between us.

I’m glad to say, that since Mum left, neither girl has entered the psuedo-sacred space of a Dojo!

Since leaving their martial arts classes my girls have enjoyed dancing and ballet, gymnastics, trampolining, and will shortly be expanding their interest in climbing through an organised club. In all of these pursuits no teacher has ever demonstrated an axe kick to them. I’m one relieved Dad 🙂

Martial Arts are so named after Mars, the  Roman God of War. Adults will do what they need to do, but to my mind children should really be spared the dubious pleasure of being taught to fight better.


About onlydads

Single Dad living near Totnes in Devon. I founded in 2007 and live with my daughters Priya, 14 and Anya 11. I write about single parenting, work, overcoming trials and tribulations and sometimes not overcoming trials and tribulations.
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7 Responses to Martial Arts: Not for My Children

  1. I agree wholeheartedly, I don’t know how much it has to do with my Quaker, pacifist upbringing, but any activity encouraging aggressive and/or violent behaviour makes me feel very uneasy. This is particularly the case when it comes to children, who are so easily influenced!
    It always irritates me when people claim that activities such as boxing & martial arts are good for channelling aggression, I believe it often has the opposite affect & breeds it!
    If organisations market self defence, this is exactly & only what they should teach (if it were my child I would still monitor what was being taught & how!) then if they want to encourage children to join their martial arts lessons it should be very separate & optional!

    • onlydads says:

      Thank you so much for adding your comments – as you may have guessed, I agree with every thing you say!

      Bob x

  2. lizdawes says:

    I with you on this one Bob. Self defence, great. But actually fighting? My self defence teacher told me that if you are going to fight back, you have to really really mean it, or risk making the attack a great deal worse. I’m not sure that the suggestion of a martial art being in any way linked is safe or sensible.

    • onlydads says:

      I think you make a very valid point. There is a big difference between self-defence, and martial arts. And i think your teacher offered some very valid advice 🙂


  3. As someone who practices Tai Chi daily, I’d like to make this one point:

    All martial arts, including Tai Chi, are for self-control and self-discipline. They are not there to promote fighting or aggression. The strong person walks away from fights, as they have nothing they need to prove. If you enter a training hall (which is what a dojo is, no more, no less), you enter with respect to all others. Any martial arts trainer who emphasises fighting, might and “channelling agression” is an idiot, IMHO, and a bad trainer.

  4. mike says:

    I wonder what exactly is your definition of “self defense” training? have you ever heard of a mugger using ballet to assault their victims?
    What exactly is wrong with the ability to kick over your head???? Just like ballet you may not use it in daily life but that is not the point, .
    3. I am not exactly sure what the problem was… how could it be a surprise to you that your kid was learning to kick and punch in a martial art class?

    What was your point about mars? I fail to understand how Tae Kwon Do which “the western world” lumps under “martial arts” has anything to do with ancient Rome…are u suggesting paganism?

  5. Excellent post. I am dealing with some of these issues as well..

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