Some people misinterpret martial arts as a solely violent or aggressive practice. The popular traditional forms of martial arts, such as Kung Fu, Taekwondo or Karate can get a bad reputation from the way the media and Hollywood portray martial arts. Where they like to show action and gratuitous violence that helps sell movie tickets, most traditional martial arts are firmly rooted in non-violent conflict resolution.
Through character building principles such as humility, discipline, respect, perseverance, and integrity, martial arts train people to become upstanding citizens. Utilizing the physical aspects of martial arts outside of the studio should be a last resort and for self-defense purposes only. A great martial arts master will teach this throughout a student’s journey towards a black belt.
Modesty and Integrity
There are few programs you can put your children through that build character as much as martial arts classes do. A good school that promotes a culture focused on the principles and tenets of traditional martial arts should have senior instructors and students who are gracious towards the beginners and intermediate students. Leading by example, instructors will also consistently communicate the importance of modesty and integrity in one’s martial arts practice and their life, in general. Violence shouldn’t be an issue, if a student internalizes the importance of modesty and integrity.
Boosting social skills and teamwork can help reduce bullying and other aggressive behaviors by improving students’ abilities to resolve conflicts in a peaceful manner. Students in martial arts schools have to learn to work together and help one another train, spar and even compete. This social aspect may help people who don't have many social interactions learn to co-exist and thrive with one another.
An insightful article from Psychology Today discussed how shame could be a bigger predictor of bullying behaviors than self-esteem. A bully can have high self-esteem and be very sure of themselves but they tend to be very averse to the emotion of shame. Psychology Today says the act of bullying may be a misguided attempt to displace that negative emotion, by triggering it in others.
Shame is a negative emotion that can leave you feeling inadequate, undesirable, dishonored or disgraced. While it is different from self-esteem, martial arts can help build one’s character; helping them to overcome any sense of low self-esteem or shame. By setting goals, attaining higher belt ranks, and working with others to improve their practice, martial arts students will learn the importance of discipline, while becoming less dependent on violence, aggression or bullying to alleviate these negative emotions.
Respect is one of the most important and longstanding aspects of martial arts. Many schools require you to bow, upon entering, as a sign of respect and will have various customs that students have to uphold, to maintain tradition and respect.
Inevitably, there will be people that will join martial arts for the wrong reasons. Likewise, some students may only want to learn martial arts primarily to improve their fighting skills, to use in real-life situations. At the end of the day, a zero tolerance policy on bullying and violence may help keep your students from using their martial arts training in any negative way. When an incident happens, using it as a teaching point can further help drive the point home that their martial arts practice should never be used to incite, encourage or aid in violence.