Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Should They Have Been Allowed to Quit Karate?

I was reading the newspaper and an advertisement caught my eye. A floor covering company was announcing their new Interior Designer. A photo of the designer was included in the advertisement along with her name and company contact information. I did not recognize her from the picture (it has been fifteen years!) but I did remember her name. I immediately thought….

“I know her. She was in my karate class when I was a kyu rank. She had a sister and they both took karate. They hated karate.”

The sisters were young teenagers when they started karate. Their father signed a one-year contract for karate classes. The sisters started out mildly interested in learning karate. It did not take long before they hated karate classes. The sisters told me how they wanted to quit but their father forced them to attend class. Their father was paying for a year of karate and they were going to take a year of karate.

They would complain to my husband and I all the time. They knew the exact day their contract expired. They attended class but they were not “in” class. The sisters would walk through the material but their minds were on other things. I am not sure what they learned during that year. The class instructors knew they were just putting in their time but still tried to encourage them. They were nice kids but they did not want learn karate.

As a parent, I feel strongly about my daughter finishing what she started. Three weeks into a five week play rehearsal schedule she wanted to quit. I told her “Absolutely…NO”. I explained that it was her decision to audition for the play. I reminded her that people were counting on her and it would be difficult for the entire cast if she quit. I told her that she did not have to audition for the next play.

Should it be the same for karate? I am not sure. I think back to the two sisters and I know they were miserable. They hated everything about karate. The class instructors spent extra time working with the girls hoping to generate a spark of enthusiasm.


The sisters continued to grumble and roll their eyes through class. They quit as soon as they were able.

What do you think…as a parent, as a karate instructor or as a fellow classmate? How do you feel about the sisters being forced to attend class? Do you think they should have been allowed to quit?


Patrick Parker said...

My wife and I are in total agreement - you do not let children dictate whether or not they will go to school or even where they will go to school. We consider judo and aikido a vital part of their education and have not given them a choice. They absolutely will be in MA classes at least until they graduate and leave my house.

The oldest boy loves it and gets a kick out of any athletic or gymnastic activity. The second one was slower getting into the groove, but he loves it too now. The third one is pretty young and gets frustrated due to his small size so we mostly let him do what he will during class, but i figure he will come around to the love of the arts. Our fourth child (daughter) is too young yet.

Martial Arts Mom said...

Good idea for discussion. I too, feel that people -not just kids - should finish what they start. But if a child really dislikes something - that makes it iffy. I guess it would depend on if the child begged and begged to do it in the first place - then maybe i would make them continue. But on the other hand, if I had forced them to start in the first place, then I might not. I guess I'd just have to be in the position and take into consideration the specific circumstances with the child. Like I said though - very thougth provoking post!

Narda said...

This isn't 'the old days', and learning a martial art is at worst glorified daycare, and at best a longterm possible investment in self-defense.

I've been fallen on both sides of the issue on different topics. My son wanted to learn guitar. It wasn't an option in school, but he thought violin would be fun, and begged me to take it in school. I knew it wouldn't be long before he changed his mind...once he realized it meant work. But I told him, 'You can't quit. If you change your mind, you have to stick it out and practice and learn, and go to the concerts for all of third grade.' Of course, he soon tired of it, but I made him stick to it for a year. He quit it as soon as possible. But the hankering for music never left him, and more importantly he never got 'turned off' of music. He picked up the guitar on his own as a teenager, and taught himself how to play, and is now pursueing music.

On the other hand, my husband insisted that he learn a martial art, and enrolled him in Tae Kwon Do. He hated it, but we didn't let him quit. 'As long as you are living under my roof you will learn a martial art. It's something you can teach later on in life and will be useful.'

My son was forced to take it for 12 years. I thought it was a bad school, and shallow art, and could see that he got nothing out of it.And the minute he left the house, he quit. What is worse, is that his mind is totally closed to the option of ever even trying another martial art. Another 'ruined' student.

The question always is: what is the point of learning?

Dan Prager said...

Great debate topic.

As an instructor or fellow class mate: If you don't want to be there, I don't want you in my class. The level of learning that can take place in a well-run class where everyone is motivated and has reasonably well-aligned goals is amazing. Having students who are there under duress is a real energy sucker. No one wins under this arrangement.

As a parent: How many things do we want to ruin for our kids?! It's complex because we're trying to get them to learn persistence and to follow through on a commitment, and to acquire other benefits from the activity in question, but what about flexibility, joy and intrinsic motivation?

One more thing: These one year contracts are bad news all round. Paying for a ten week term (for example) seems like a far more sensible arrangement. It should be long enough to find out whether the kid gels with the instructor and environment, even with a slow start; it provides some certainty of income for the school; and if the kid drops out the parents haven't done as huge amount of dough.

Pete said...

I'm not a parent, so I don't have to wrestle with it from that side. As a martial arts instructor, the ones who don't want to be there end up making the class worse -- they bring things down for everybody.

I've seen students stick around for years and not really improve. You have to have your heart in it to get something back out of it.

While I love martial arts, I don't think it is for everyone. I don't think it is one of those things that should be forced.

On the flip side, how does one tell if the student is just going through a rough patch where if they just get through it, they'll end up loving it?

Anonymous said...

Not everyone sees the value in karate... they should of QUIT.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Father said...

Whatever happened to free speach?

I believe it is unfair to the other students who are there to learn. It is up to the instructor to make sure the children act appropriately. If they disrupt the class, then the instructor needs to have them removed whether or not the parents make them attend.

I once was in a photo class where the instructor could not/would not control one student who by the way was an adult. This individual thought that the fee paid for the class entitled them to monopolize all the instructor's time. Needless to say, I did not take any more classes with that instructor.

Dan Prager said...

This has inspired me to post on my blog: You can stop at any time.

Martial Development said...

Every time I quit a bad instructor, I eventually managed to find a better one. "Refusal to quit," when erroneously presented as a virtue, is one of the factors that keeps bad martial arts teachers in business.

SueC said...

Hi Michele, I'm with Dan and Pete on this one. An unwilling student saps the energy of the class. Locking a child into a one year contract is madness!I don't think martial arts training is an essential life skill - you should do it primarily because you enjoy it. I would never make my children do it (one of mine does and one tried it and quit). However, I do think that if a child expresses interest in learning a new hobby or skill they should persevere for a few weeks before quitting - it takes a while just to get to know a new routine and new people let alone the skill.

Ice said...

Most people that I know who were forced into classes as a kid quit eventually.

Year long contracts are insane. Most schools I go to now are month to month. Some of the marquee schools offer up longer contracts for cheaper and usually month to month is a bit more expensive with a bit of a discount for quarterly payments.

Most schools do offer month to month and sometimes drop in fees. I have been able to go to different classes throughout the region just by paying drop-in fees as it's not normally the club I usually practice in.

The thing is, if they're not interested then don't take them. It really does depend though, I know from old stories of some of the instructors. Some of the instructors have been teaching at my school for over 30+ years, were forced to go while they were kids, and now they love the sport, and are now teachers themselves.

It really depends on how it's presented. I was forced into piano lessons as a kid, and now I can't even play piano. I wanted to take grappling arts, but my step-father was big into striking arts. I still have interest in striking arts, but I primarily focus on grappling arts.

I think kids should be so lucky that they're parents signed them up for martial arts lessons, and actually take an interest in taking them to extra-curricular activities. The only bad thing is that I see is signing a one year long contract. Most schools are on the month to month model and seem to be surviving even in this recession. Perhaps making it month to month it's easier to budget and prepare for lessons that it just makes fiscal sense for both the trainee and the club.

So long answer short, when the kids are younger then by all means introduce them and make them go to practice. One the kids are in the teens and are semi-independent, forcing them to do something will just only lead to rebellion.

Michele said...

Thank you for sharing your opinions and adding to the discussion.

Personally, as a training partner and instructor, I find that unwilling participants affect the entire class. I love studying Okinawa Kenpo but I know that martial arts are not for everyone. I want people to be in class because they want to be there and enjoy the learning process.

In regards to the two sisters, they did not want to be in class. They quit as soon as their contract expired. It is my opinion that they should have been allowed to quit.

I know students who were forced to attend as teenagers that eventually choose to continue training as young adults. There is one student who is willing to share her story. I asked her to write a guest post for this blog. I look forward to reading her article.

Dan Prager said...

Can't resist: Karate Lessons Give Child Self-Confidence To Quit Karate

Anonymous said...

Certainly: they'll learn next to nothing and I wouldn't want to be their uke. Children should be encouraged to get a taste of as many different activities and hobbies as possible but besides school nothing should be obligatory. Children should get involved with something besides school and friends - be it MA, boyscouts, basketball... - and do some type of sports but if you make them do it when it's obvious they couldn't care less it will be a bad experience for them and they'll end up hating you for it.

Alot of parents actually drop their kids at judo or karate just to get rid of them for a few evenings a week, I think this is dispicable and certainly no gift to the sensei teaching the class. Don't get me wrong: I love MA and I happen to think it's much more rewarding and valuable than sports but it takes a certain type of person to become a good martial-artist and when it's obvious the child in question is not up to the job it's better to find something that is right for them (maybe he or she really likes music and ends up becoming a great pianist or celloist) instead of going against the grain and forcing them. Life is demanding enough as it is and they'll be plenty of things they'll just have to when they grow up, why make their life miserable now? When it's obvious you cannot become more than average it's better to quit and find something you can be good or even great at.

I don't think it's a great idea to force your values on your child (besides teaching them to be a friendly and decent human-being) and parents who force their children to basically take up their hobbies should realise everybody's different and it's simply impossible and unwise to treat a child as a mere vessel in which you can pour knowledge, values and preferences. What is good and rewarding for you may not be good and rewarding for your child.

Michele said...

Anon: Thank you for adding to the discussion.

Frank said...

Jeez... It sounds like everyone is butting up against the same frustrations that I detailed in my latest blog. If a student doesn't want to be there, they need to quit. The class doesn't want them, the Sensei doesn't want them, and they aren't going to progress.

Year-long contracts are insanity. Our dojo is month-to-month. If it were a year-long contract, I would probably begin looking for a different dojo.

Anonymous said...

My Dad.
Once when I was a struggling Brown Belt, my dad came into my room and told me to get my uniform on, it was time to go to class. "I don't want to go anymore dad," I said.

"Ok," he replied, "Put your uniform on it's time to go to class."

"Dad, you didn't hear me, I said I don't want to go anymore," I answered.

"I heard you," he said with a smile, "put on your uniform, it's time to go.

He made me go. For at least a month, I begged, cried, pleaded, acted up and did everything I could to not go. After that month I realized that this was important enough to him, that I didn't have a choice. It's like eating my veggies, going to school, going to bed on time, doing my chores, taking my epilepsy medicine. Did I mention I was born with epilepsy?

I didn't know it, but the doctors had told my parents I probably wouldn't live past 30, either the siezures would kill me, or the medicine would destroy my kidneys.

Through my training I learned breath control and deep meditation. Through meditation, I learned to control my siezures. I am 46 years old, have two kids, 9 and 10, a wonderful wife and a career running my own school.

Through meditation I learned to control my siezures, I've not had a siezure or medicine treating them in over 20 years. I still feel my epilepsy, it's there, tingling on my right side, but I control it.

In that one moment, when my dad said, "Put on your uniform, it's time to go," he saved my life and insured the birth of his grandkids.

Think carefully about your decision to allow your kids to choose a destiny you have the wisdom to see, but they do not.

Everyday I see my father's wisdom, more and more.

Also, this is agood example of the butterfly effect.

Anonymous said...

@Patrick Parker: what if any of your children want to try a martial art beside judo or aikido or would rather play soccer instead? Does it really matter what they do exactly (martial arts or some other type of sport or extracurricular activity) or do you really want them to end up as copies of yourself? What may be good for you may not be suited to others, personally I would like my children (at present I have none) to take up my art of choice but I'm not going to force them... I'd want my children to grow up to become responsible, smart adults who learned to make their own choices and live with the consequences instead of becoming mindless drones so used to obeying they'll never think for themselves and will always do what they're told or what is customary.

My cousin had a very dominating and oppressive father and while he's become quite succesful professionally he's also quite neurotic and narrow-minded, almost like a spitting image or 'mini-me' when compared to his dad. He talks the same, displays the same kind of narrow-minded, borderline rascist political ideology, makes the same kind of lame jokes... I know his father used to beat him everytime he disagreed, all 'in his best interest' of course, and since then I've become quite suspicious of harsh parents who think their views are always right and their way is the only correct one to walk through this life...

When I have kids and they're all grown up I'd like to still have a good relationship with them and have them think back fondly on their childhood with freedom, the chance to express themselves and learn from their mistakes and above all unconditional acceptance from me. Trying to mold your children into some preconceived notion of what you think they should be is counterproductive in my view and a good way to make them hate you in the long run. All too often the faults and shortcomings of people can be traced back to their parents and this is the product of either too lax an upbringing or one too strict...

Parenting is a difficult task I know and it's easy to talk about it when you're not a parent yourself but I'm convinced children should be given more and more freedom (provided they demonstrate they can handle it) as they grow up, not be forced to spend years on the mats when it's clear they dislike it. I'd rather see my son or daughter become really good at something they love than mediocre at something I made them do and have them hate me for it later. Children these days have enough on their plate as it is and as a martial artist I know there's nothing worse than having to train with or teach unmotivated people who 'need' to be there for a reason or reasons completely outside of themselves and their wishes.

Boxer said...

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Anonymous said...

I think that they should of been aloud to quit. They hated it so it was a waste of money and time. But they might of enjoyed another martial art so maybe they should of done that.

Ritchie Yip said...

I think it’s not okay to force the kid into something they obviously despise doing. If the reason the father wants his children to learn karate is so they would be fit, or be able defend themselves, then I'm all for it. But if it is just so that they’ll have something athletic to do, then it really isn't a good fit. Whatever his reason for forcing his kids into martial arts, he should have explained it well to them well so they wouldn’t be grudgingly come and quit the sessions as soon as they got the chance.

Ritchie Yip @ InFighting