The Best Defense is an Offense, In Defense of Teaching Kids Self Defense

I was recently reading an article that was very critical of allowing your children to take martial arts. It indicated that it was allowing a child to physically fight. Don’t parents realize how aggressive our kids could become? Don’t parents realize that there is a possibility that our children would go looking for trouble because we’d allowed them to do this? As a martial arts parents I believe I need to speak on this. You know from reading this blog that when I feel I need to talk about something I always come and start a conversation with you. The answers to both questions is no! I don’t believe either one of those things are likely to happen. Let me tell you a story about why I think knowing self-defense is so important at any age.

Once upon a time in a department store far, far away, worked a college girl of all of 19 years old. She was working her way through college at the electronics counter and was pretty exhausted most of the time from school, studying, work and her busy social life. One Saturday morning everything changed. The mundane day to day of opening the store became a life changing event.

She strolled in uncaffeinated or at least not caffeinated enough in the early morning hours and begin the process of opening the electronics department while other employees were opening their departments. What she didn’t know was that someone had forgotten to lock the front door when letting in the employees. A large man would enter wearing a heavy trenchcoat in the middle of September, stroll to her electronics counter and pull a shotgun out of the coat. He would demand money, she had none because her drawer had yet to be brought to her and so he decided he was going to take her with him instead. He began to push her towards the front of the store with the gun pressed against her back when another employee spotted this occurring and alerted two others. The man was tackled to the ground literally in front of the front door to the store by the three men and the police were called. The girl emerged from this scary incident unhurt physically but mentally pretty shaken. This young girl who didn’t appreciate how lucky she had been until much later was ME. Yes, this really happened and I remember every second of it.

Back then I didn’t realize how blissfully I was unaware of some of the dangers that lurked around certain corners. Sure I carried pepper spray when I was on campus and I tried to be aware of what was happening around me but I had no clue how to defend myself beyond that pepper spray. Now I’m a mom and I have to think about the dangers that are in this world for my kids and their protection.

We try to teach our kids about never going anywhere with strangers and about bullying but do we teach them what to do if these things happen? A bigger question, will they know what to do? Will they freeze like I did? Will they forget all the things that we tried to teach them in that moment of fear? It’s scary stuff that worries parents, it’s this kind of thing that keeps us up at night.

I recently watched my son at his karate class. His challenge when he began martial arts, the main one, was extreme politeness. There he was, my polite fella, kicking butt in the sparing ring. He was holding his own against a boy larger and with more training than he currently has. He was not backing down! I felt so much pride watching him because I know how far he’s come to get to this place in his training. I’m always filled with pride when it comes to this boy. He is one of the kindest and most considerate children I have known, I’m not just saying that because I’m his mother. This being said it’s sad these days that kindness and consideration can be seen as weakness by certain other children. I worry and have worried that he will be taken advantage of for this. That the nice guy will be seen as an easy target for bullies.

Over the last couple of years of him taking karate I’ve mentioned it to people and have gotten mixed responses. some people don’t like the idea that even though the kids are fully padded with gloves and body padding that we are allowing combat so to speak. Boy, did I ever get some interesting looks when I mentioned that my children regularly sparred each other at karate. Let’s be honest-siblings are going to fight, they might as well do it supervised and padded!

My daughter recently quit martial arts to pursue singing /songwriting classes instead. Trust me when I tell you that song writing classes suit her to a T. When I speak to her about the dangers of this world she always says “Don’t worry I know karate”. There’s something about the way she says it with such confidence that makes me smile. This belief that she can take on anything (whether it is completely true or not) because she learned self-defense in her karate class. A big part of karate is learning self-defense and she spent two years practicing it. Not that this child needed any more confidence in any of her abilities, she has always had confidence to spare.

So is there anything wrong with a child having the confidence to believe that they can take on a bully? That they know that they can stand their ground if they need to? Is there anything wrong with your child knowing how to get out of a chokehold or to be able to defend themselves against someone who sneaks up from behind? I think not! I hope in my heart that my kids never have to use the skills that they’ve been working on in karate. I hope that they are never bullied and that any form of evil never comes near them! I’m certainly going to do my best to make sure that neither one happen!

I follow up with another question. How is martial arts or boxing any different from football? We cheer for football teams when a tackle happens. We cheer when the quarterback get sacked on the opposing team. We cheer when players are knocked off the field as they are running to score a touchdown. Many people are fans of other sports where there is physical contact and don’t seem to have any issue with it. My son has many friends that play other contact sports and none of their parents seem to have a problem with the contact portion of the sport. So why is teaching your child how to punch and kick from a professional an issue? I personally suggest all children should take at least a short course in self-defense.

I certainly wish that I had learned self defense when I was younger. Who knows maybe I wouldn’t have frozen in that moment of fear. Maybe I would’ve been able to defend myself better. Maybe I would’ve had the confidence to believe I could take on what was happening to me instead of falling to pieces. Maybe I would’ve at least had more perspective to judge the situation rather than being pushed through a store with a gun in my back hoping someone would notice. Hoping someone else could save me.

When my daughter was into Disney princesses we would often talk about who is our favorite and why. I would always tell her that my favorite Disney princess was Merida because she fights for her own honor. Merida doesn’t wait to be saved, she fights for herself. Isn’t that what we hope happens for our own children? Do we want them to wait for someone else to swoop in and save the day or do we want them to believe they can be their own hero?

Sometimes in being your own hero you might actually end up being someone else’s. Maybe in learning how to defend from attack, you will be able to defend another just as those three brave men defended me. Maybe in learning to be brave and confident you might take a risk to save another. Maybe you will be someone’s rescuer someday. So my response is that I don’t believe these children will go out looking for trouble, I believe they might help stop trouble from happening….aggressively.