In answering this question last time, I focused on what we try to achieve with children in terms of physical and mental outcomes; confidence and athletic ability. Today, I’d like to focus directly on the question ‘Does martial arts training make children more violent?’
The short answer is no, but obviously you’d expect me to say that, being a lifelong martial arts instructor, but I want to go into this question more thoroughly for those of you who may not find that answer convincing.
Here it is. It’s easy to think that an army is prepared for war and violence and soldiers train to fight and kill. On one level this is correct, they are always ready to fight but fighting is the last resort and never the first. The purpose of an army is to be ready to defend the country against threats to the population, but they avoid fighting for several entirely valid reasons.:
For one, war is expensive, it causes lots of damage to people and property and for years after trauma to those affected by it. Secondly, there is no guarantee that your army will win and losing might mean you lose your country. To counter this armies, instead of jumping into a risky and expensive war, use threats instead. They train their soldiers and show off their weapons, marching them around and doing maneuvers to show how tough they are as a deterrent to other nations.
A martial artist, like an army, too must consider the risks in fighting. It’s not like the movies, fights rarely have outright winners and the winner is often the one who is the least hurt, not the completely unhurt. No injuries at all would be very rare. So just as for armies, martial artists make combat the last resort and never the first. These are strategic reasons for avoiding violence, now let’s have a look at some emotional reasons.
My experience is that martial arts training makes one calmer, not more violent. Once again, let me justify this:
What kinds of people are violent? Often it is those who are afraid. Look at those men who walk as if they are very tough, swaggering as they go to prove they are tough and that others should keep out of their way. Why? Because they don’t feel tough. In fact, they feel fearful and threatened so they act tough to put people off from being threatening to them. It’s what we in AEGIS call a Toughness strategy. Acting tougher than you are to put others off, much like the doormen on night club doors, they employ the biggest and ugliest guys they can get as a deterrent to trouble makers. Are the doormen tough? Hopefully, their mean looks mean they don’t have to show how tough they really are.
On the other hand, people who are not fearful don’t need to do this because, well, they’re not afraid. Martial artists are like this. They burn off all their aggression in the dojo and when they are finished their emotions are quiet and calmed. You could think about it like with children. When it’s raining, they stay inside but after too long thy get stir crazy and must burn off their excess energy. In fact, parents use this as a strategy to calm their children down. It’s the same with martial arts, but more so, because in the martial arts we burn off our energy through combat.
We know what we are capable of and this brings a sense of responsibility toward the safety of others. Furthermore, in the martial arts we teach a higher than normal level of courtesy and respect and that training which is sadly lacking in other sports and activities, makes all the difference. Instructors, also, live by this high level of respect which reinforces the message because students learn, not just by being taught, but by copying the actions and modelling the behavior of their instructor.
So, the answer to the question ‘Does the martial arts make children more violent?’ is No, and now you know why. Thanks for reading.
Tony Higo January 2019.
Tony Higo is an 8th degree black belt master of the martial arts and founder of the AEGIS system. He has written several books on the martial arts and works with many of the top martial artists and instructors in the UK. For more details on the AEGIS system go to www.aegismartialarts.co.uk.