Saturday, January 23, 2016

My Child is Shy, Will Karate Help?

Yes. Karate will help your child’s shyness. Probably. Depending on your definition of shy. Sigh - so that was probably not the definitive answer your were looking for. Here’s my position; shyness is not a personality trait that needs to be overcome.

Society benefits from having a diverse set of behavioral patterns. Some people are more gregarious, aggressive, and outgoing than others. That’s just fine. Others are less outgoing, reserved, and introspective. That’s also fine. What’s not fine, is someone who cannot speak up on matters that are important to them.

If your child is quiet and / or hesitant to interrupt, that may not be a problem that needs to be addressed. If he or she, however; allows important matters to go unaddressed because they cannot muster the temerity to speak up - that is a different story. Martial arts training encourages, reinforces, and compels a student to speak up, to respond confidently, loudly, and with conviction.

Maybe your child was given the incorrect change at the store, maybe he received a ‘B’ grade on a test with nothing marked wrong, maybe she is the being bullied in gym. Sometimes speaking up is necessary to defend yourself, sometimes it is necessary just to clear up a point of confusion. Shyness should never be a cause to accept unfavorable treatment.

Martial arts training can help, although this doesn't happen in the first lesson, or even the first year, but make no mistake - everyone who stays with the program will develop the confidence to speak up. I have witnessed students of varying ages enter our school almost mute with intimidation. They tend to respond with nods, and “ah huh’s” - a distinct no-no later on. By they time they are two or three belts into their training they will make solid eye contact, smile, and answer clearly with “Yes sir.”

Here's how it works; at first, students will respond as a group with “Yes sir/mam.” Tasks such as counting repetitions out loud causes a student to be more comfortable with using their vocal chords. Good instructors will coach their students, even timid ones, to respond with confident replies. Even though the replies are often trite and repetitious, they build a foundation on which more complicated communications can build.

Shyness is not a personality disorder that needs to be eradicated. Low self esteem is. Martial arts can help.

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