Why do I teach my children martial arts?

 I am fairly non-combative person. I don't jump into conflict, and for many years I considered myself to be a pacifist. This is because I take Jesus' words to turn the other cheek and love my enemy quite seriously. At times I have been very convinced that John Howard Yoder's view of violence and war was the last word on the subject, and violence was not something the Christian could enact. 

While my views on that are no longer so black and white, I still lean that direction quite strongly.

If that is the case, then why do I teach my children martial arts. I do this for a few reasons. 

I grew up doing martial arts and I found that it challenged me in broad ways. It might be trying to kick higher, or punch faster, or break a board, or using breathing exercises, or dealing with your ego when you lose a sparing match. Martial arts challenged me to grow a lot. 

I spent time as a kid doing a mixed martial art that was called Zen Karate. I'm not completely sure why it was called that. But, it mixed Shotokan Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Kickboxing, and (on Fridays) we did Jiu Jitsu. I was passionate about challenging myself and learning to do things that few human beings could. This passion continued in university when I took Aikido. It is a fairly non-violent art. There is no sparing and the techniques we learned had a flow to them that were something like a dance. I learned to be thrown 6ft into the air and land in a roll and be on my feet in the blink of an eye. Philosophically, Aikido is about redirecting violence rather that a direct confrontation with violence. 

It had been a few years and I wasn't practicing with any kind of regularity. But I missed it. I also knew that signing me and my 3 boys up for classes would break us financially. I saw an ad for the Bullyproof program produced through Gracie (Jiu Jitsu) University-

I was so impressed. I knew it was a practical martial art. Those who produced the program are Rener and Ryron Gracie.  It was their father and uncle Who started the UFC to test their martial art against others. I saw it in action and it was a well tested martial art. 
The other thing I liked about it was that they highlighted controlling the "bully" rather than beating them into submission. If I was on the playground and I used my martial arts against the playground bully, and I was successful in winning the confrontation, the bully would have been bloodied by kicks and punches. If my children use Gracie Jiu Jitsu against a playground bully, the bully will be physically fine. It will look like my kids are holding the bully down and the bully cant get them off. But, no bloody nose and no black eye. They also have the 5 rules of engagement, which let them know specifically when to engage and when not to. 

Rule 1: Avoid the fight at all costs.

Rule 2: If physically attacked, defend yourself.

Rule 3: If verbally attacked, follow the Three T-steps (talk, tell, tackle).

Rule 4: Never punch or kick the bully, establish control and negotiate.

Rule 5: When applying submissions use minimal force and negotiate. 

I was very impressed by all of this. As a kid, I was often picked on and made fun of. It hurt, sure, but I never felt like I was without options. I knew that I had a kick or an elbow ready if I really wanted to use it. I never really did have to use it in an all-out fight at school. But knowing that I COULD, meant I didn't feel helpless. That is what I want for my kids. I don't want them to feel helpless. I think that can be a soul destroying experience. 

That brings me to my thoughts on violence. I like that my kids could probably manage the violence that confronts them without needing to break bones or noses. Gracie Jiu Jitsu is about controlling the attacker, not completely destroying them. The attacker probably would walk away with very minimal injuries, if any. But, what is even more important to me is that they don't feel helpless and I think it is important that non-violence comes from a place of choice. I don't want non-violence to come from a place of fear, or cowardice. I want non-violence to come from a place of choice and freedom. 

So that, is why I want my kids to know martial arts, even if they never use it. 


  1. This really intrigues me. I really like the rule too. I'm definitely going to share it with Eric & Jane. Thank you for sharing this.


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