Traditionally in many dojo across Japan and Okinawa, There's usually one or two black belts on the tatami (mat ) teaching the arts. One will lead the class and the other quietly assisting the class. Nowdays, here in the west, we seem to have ballooned to eight to ten instructor. One on the floor and the rest are teaching from the dojo's observation or guest room.
If you ever had a chance to see a layout plan of a traditional dojo, you will notice one area missing from the blueprint. The visitor lounge or parents observation room area. Did the masters of budo foresaw having this particular area as distraction thus deemed unncessary ? Perhaps, they did or one can only wonder. Imagine Okaasan ( Mother) giving instruction on the sideline to her child during class " You are cutting with the sword wrong Akihito !!"
Parents are the original child social services. They have the duty to provide shelter, sustenance, the basic necessities of life, including food, clothing, and medical care. But , when it comes to martial arts, there's a thick line they cannot cross even if they are martial artist themselves.
The truth to be told is that no one can give kids self esteem or self discipline. You can blah blah blah your way by qouting or even misqouting about the virtues of martial arts using archaic samurai qoutes and made up buddhist philosophy. The problem herein, is that its all talk. The training in Karate is a moving philosophy by itself. I have seen kids achieving the impossible by doing it without being pushed to succeed."
While there are numbers of reasons why kids quit or fail in karate. about a good percentage of failures are caused by the parents. I can list a number of things, but for this articles, I'll focus on the most obvious and less accepted truth. The Helicopter parenting.
But before, I ramble on, I need to established the fact that the my existence as a karate coach and instructor is not to hate and insuring that kids fail in karate or any sports endeavors. I am proud of all my kids and I take full responsibility to insure that they can live up to the virtues of karate-do. But their chances of success falls on the parents and their willingness to cut off the umbical cord and accept the fact karate instructors have a monumental task ahead of them without the parents as a backseat drivers.
Helicopter parent AKA Over-protective parents are detrimental in their child's participation and success in any sports. I know several dojo has thier own labels for these types of parents. I call mine the AH-64 Apache Parents. This refers to a military air assault weapon, a helicopter. The AH-64 parents are seen as an combined attack unit that will do what ever it takes to ensure a favorable position for their child regardless.
In my discussions with Dr. Steven Clark, a psychotherapist and Associate Clinical Professor at UCLA, who is also one of our Black Belts , Helicopter Parenting may have the effect of depriving students of the opportunity to find their own way of addressing adversity.
Martial arts training is a metaphor for challenges we must all face in life. With the guidance of Sensei, students will find their way without the well intentioned, but counterproductive, hovering of parents. It's an issue trust; believing in yourself, your child, and the many years of training and teaching that your child is fortunate to receive from Sensei.
These overprotective parents take on the role of being their older children's status negotiator and dominating advocate in order to make sure that their children an easy path to a prestigious life. Kids often picks up on this and tends to act upon it. knowing that they can't do no wrong, respect for others and the dojo goes out the window because the child's mom and dad will straightened the instructor on how to teach karate or how a karate dojo should be run.
I've known one mother who is in contant movement around the dojo to insure they are within "whispering" range on their child during class. This becomes a confusing scenario because the child does not know who to direct their attention to. During one of my class, I was discussing about the finer point of Gyaku Tsuki ( reverse punch) , when it was time to execute the technique, one mom from sideline was literally teach her child how "correctly" punch. Mind you, It looks more like mom was teaching the kid how to throw a frisbee than a punch. Unfortunately, The kid knows that she needs shelter and food, thus obeying mom's instruction might be a good option and idea at that time.
Worst time and worst place to be these type of parents is at karate tournaments, You see these types yelling and screaming on the sideline. There's one instant where the coach was instructing his athlete to use Mawashi Geiri, but dad on the sideline keeps motioning to throw straight punch instead, Guess who's to blame for losing that match ?. Coaches are often overwhelm and tends to back away to avoid conflict during the competitive events.
Back at the dojo, One respected coach I know was so fed up with the parental side coaching that he decided to stand in front of mom and removed his belt. He presented his belt to the parents and respectfully ask mom to put on his belt and step on the tatami and show him the proper way of teaching karate.
They are also known to fight their children's battles ! They will call their children's friends and families to settle disputes, visit teachers to protest a bad grade, communicate with employers, or argue what they perceive to be unfair treatment in social and academic situations.
A few years back, I recall an entire family numbering up to 4-5 sibblings, they would all come together everyday. Its nice to see such big support units. One day, during sparring session, their sibling got struck in the face or more liked "bop" in the face.
Suddenly, a scene right out of National Geographic TV special where monkeys up on trees would bounced up and down, howling and growling when they detect a predator nearby. The whole family family felt a great injustice was done towards their "baby" sibbling. They would continually bring back this incident year after year. Oh, and the kid was twelve years old and yes, she quit because the family was becoming her main source of embassment.
Another trait of these Apache parents is they mistake their children's performances as a reflection of themselves. They are often ashamed of their children being an under under-performing karateka because they feel they reflect poorly on themselves as parents, so they will engage in a process of justification, claim unfairness, favoritism, list of excuses, or try to 'fix' the issue and then pretend they just did a great favor.
The effect of this type of parenting often and in some case extremely deterimental to the child's growth and success in karate. Instructors would simply shy away and often times request to teach in different times not because of the child , but having to deal with the parents. "its often easier to correct a young student what they do wrong than the parents"
Children with this type of parenting suffers from low self-esteem, a task that martial arts instructors knows full well. But the constant "shielding" from these parents takes away that task. Kids also developed low social standing and lacked of respect for Heirarchy structure inside a traditional dojo.
“Overall, stepping in and doing for a child what the child developmentally should be doing for him or herself, is negative,” Larry Nelson, a professor of family life at Brigham Young University, said in a statement. “Regardless of the form of control, it’s harmful at this time period.”
When confronted with these facts. I never get the acceptance from these parents rather, All I get are accusations and contempt. Some accusations that stands out are " You don't have a child of your own !" " You don't know my child !". Allow me to say , you are correct , but let me tell you this. I may not know your child off the mat or away from the dojo, I may not know how to raise a child nor I am inclined to tell you how to raise your child. But one thing I can be sure of, I know how YOUR child is on MY mat. As a karate instructor, I am not here to give you or your child what they want, rather I am here to give them what THEY need.
About the Author: Prince Loeffler is the Shugyokan Shorin Ryu Dojo head instructor. This article is copy righted and may not be copied or duplicated in any manner including printed or electronic media, regardless of whether for a fee or gratis without the prior written per mission of the author