With so much excitement around the new movie “The Karate Kid” starring Jaden Smith with co-star Jackie Chan, I’m reminded of the benefits I witness every day that martial arts has for children, as an instructor at the Detroit Martial Arts Institute.

From the time children step on the mat, the learning begins with their Isshinryu karate class.

They line up patiently along the mat awaiting the instruction from Master Eugene Woods, the head instructor of Detroit Martial Arts Institute.  He calls out attention (Heisoku Dachi), then request that they bow.

The students bow in respect to their teacher and school and run to their place on the mat and wait for instruction from their teacher. This is the beginning for all students.  The lesson of respect of where you are (your environment) at all times.

Karate instills mental focus, discipline, respect and confidence into our students.  We have a saying, Karate is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical.  So what skills are passed to the student as he works towards his objective of obtaining a black belt?  She obtains life’s skills to focus and live in the moment.  This is done by repeating physical motions and concentrating only on the movement of each muscle, other thoughts (distractions) are eliminated.  The body and mind are working together.  Fusing the body and mind together in this way helps the martial artist live moment-by-moment, obtaining peace.

Practicing martial arts teaches discipline, patience and acceptance.  This equates to self-discipline.  At each rank, certain techniques and attitudes must be mastered before moving on.  This waiting teaches patience and ensures the student knows the material and achieves the correct mental focus to advance.

Actually, this method of remaining at a specific belt level forces the martial arts student to wait even after they think they know all the physical moves.  Waiting extends the mental learning, beyond the physical techniques.  In this respect, karate helps the student learn to accept stages in life.  Acceptance helps people stay calm and find peace in any circumstance.

In the student’s pursuit of martial arts, one cultivates respect for others and self.  Discipline and rules of martial arts teach respect for oneself and others.  Karate students follow the prescribed traditions and customs: they respect their family, their instructors, black belts and masters, higher ranks and fellow students at the same belt level.

This learned respect of karate instills respect of people and humanity as well as the knowledge of the strength and power of the human body.  With this revelation and concern for life, the karate student accepts that, in a real-life situation, choosing not to fight someone is a valid and respected response.

Having the self-control to avoid fighting when a person knows he or she is more advanced and could win the fight stems from the discipline and respect learned on the karate floor.  This is one of the facets of true conflict resolution that we teach at Detroit Martial Arts Institute.

The concept of melding mind, body and soul with karate is extremely beneficial in helping autistic and ADHD students.  A child with autism has significant problems with motor coordination, timing and strength, all of which are requisites for successful performance of martial arts movements.  It’s not uncommon for a child with autism to have difficulty with verbal information.

The child with autism will benefit from watching peers during practice.  Most techniques are done in groups and repeated over and over.  A child who fails to understand the verbal instruction can watch his peers so as to understand the movements. Most of the forms and skills practiced in Isshinryu karate can be done independent of a partner, enabling a child to learn the mastery of forms and techniques without the physical touch.

Because of these intrinsic qualities, karate is an excellent way to teach obedience, patience, and respect for authority and people in general. And in the slogan of Detroit Martial Arts Institute, those skills can prove beneficial not just for the young, but the young at heart and all that come with a open mind to learn the way of the empty hand.

Master George Reynolds is a 7th degree black belt at Detroit Martial Arts Institute, 13030 W. Seven Mile Road. For more information about karate or the Detroit Martial Arts Institute, call (313) 416-7000.

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