Character Development in Karate…is it really there?

In today’s society everyone knows about the great benefits that people of all ages gain from martial arts training. It is no secret that millions throughout the world practice martial arts on a daily basis seeking to find all those advertised benefits. The reality is that many schools market the benefits but not all of them actually can instill them.

As a person looking for martial arts you will find ads, websites and social media posts discussing how a school will give you, or your child, self confidence, self esteem, self discipline, focus, concentration and more…but most schools truly fail to instill these because they are just marketing ploys to get you to throw some money their way. In the late 1990’s to this day there have been consulting companies created to help schools grow their student base. These companies are not about anything other than teaching school owners how to market and get more money from you. Am I being blunt? Absolutely because the real value in martial arts training and the development of character is only found in the more traditional and authentic martial arts. That may seem like a bold statement but I have been training for 36 years and seen everything from sheets kids take home to get awards all the way to development of merit badge like programs designed to entice kids to do tasks and parents to spend more money on what they should be getting anyway.

I am not here to discuss why the cookie cutter martial art schools out there are truly not interested in building character as much as they are about making money. What I am going to do is discuss why the art I teach, Shorin Ryu ShorinKan, has at its core the development of the mind, body and spirit. To begin with lets look at the “Morality of Karate” code found in traditional dojo like ours:

  1. Ideal of “Karate” is to cultivate noble character and
    conducts, and the virtue of modesty and courtesy.
  2. “No forestalling in Karate” Karate is the military art
    for self-defense to protect and preserve your life,
    and never to attack others on your own initiative.
  3. Perseverance is the root of all conducts. True
    patience lies in bearing what is unbearable.
  4. Put back your hands when you are full of fight, and
    retract your fight when your hands itch to deal a blow.
  5. Softness is unity. Strength is unity. The ultimate
    object of human beings should be co-existence and
    co-prosperity in peace. All human actions, softness
    and strength, should united into peace.
  6. Avoid the fights and quarrels evening if you are
    dared to.

Note that the very first one outlines the IDEAL of Karate which is completely aimed at NOBLE character. Noble character includes teaching students traits such as honor, integrity, compassion and more. The code also outlines exactly when a student can use their skills and it says nothing about going out looking for trouble. In number 3 we see a direct hit on a trait our society has lost…perseverance, or the ability not to just start something and give up. Number 5 explains an international concept of how we all can grow together which many have lost on their path in life and children truly need to learn.

This code is a direct guideline about what a Sensei expects and requires from their students. It is not mere words repeated in the dojo and a good Sensei will lead by example. The reason you should only consider an authentic dojo that teaches a good traditional martial art is vast. We don’t need expensive patch programs to build character in kids because we teach it every single day in the dojo and understand the term accountability and how to address it properly. The first rule in building character is to break a person’s mold. This is done through the physical training and push for the student to do their best daily. When a student focuses on doing just what is needed to get a patch or reward then the character trait will not be long term.

Traditional martial art schools do not focus on doing just enough to get a belt or patch. We teach our students to always be reaching for the next goal while working on the current one. Be a step ahead instead just pacing to get to a certain point in life. Everything taught in a good traditional dojo is aimed at being useful outside the dojo in everyday life. I have watched many parents exclaim with pride about their 10 year old being a black belt but when you watch their child they only understand how to punch and kick…that’s it. The child wasn’t actually taught the core concepts of martial arts because they only had to do the minimum work to get a belt. Many schools today will promote kids quickly because they expect your child to quit. Yes that is exactly what I said…they will get the most amount of money out of you as they can before your child quits. That is their goal…income over truly teaching martial arts.

When it comes to character development the authentic and traditional martial arts have it down to a true science. They have been instilling the traits we all desire for 1,000’s of years. You don’t need a fancy program because we reward you daily with feedback and support. You don’t need to rush through a belt program because we build your ability completely over time and help you get there. When you are out looking for a martial arts program don’t fall prey to fancy patches, belts and uniforms. The reality is the more simple the program the better the quality of the output will be. I can promise you that this article will hit nerves with many people who teach martial arts because they bank on you being a victim to their sales tactics. A good Sensei banks on your development into a strong, capable human being that will succeed in life because of the lessons in the dojo!