"Grow into your martial art."
By J. A. Wilson
I teach high school, and every year students discover I am a martial arts practitioner. I don't try to hide it, they find out by themselves. I bring this up because whenever I talk to students, I invariable get an exchange that goes something like this:
Student: "Yeah, I took karate when I was a kid." (Aside: This is a 15-17 kid telling me this!)
Me: "Why did you stop?"
Student: " I don't know, I guess I grew out of it."
Usually I just nod and give non-committal grunt. How can anyone grow out of martial arts? You should grow into your martial art. I started my martial path my first year in college, and I wish I'd started earlier. From my dojo experience, there are very few teenagers in martial arts, and teens are a group that definitely needs the beneficial qualities that martial arts has to offer. There is something that is a gap in teaching teens. In the US many parents sign their kids up for martial arts, like it is an after school activity like soccer, rather than a lifelong pursuit. At our dojo we put teens in the adult classes and expect them to pick up more of the internal aspects themselves, like the adults do. Perhaps this could be modified for teens. Teens may need a more helpful hand in showing the deeper aspects of martial arts. Depending on the student, they could be given small assignments that look into the history or philosophy of the arts. Or, they could have the physical aspect increased as per their teen appetites.
I started when I was 18 or 19, and my martial arts then was much more macho and physical than it is today. Now that I'm older, and more experienced, I also like to explore the other aspects of martial arts; the history, the spiritual/philosophical side, the internal aspects of the arts. The martial art hasn't changed, I have. I started out young and energetic and grew into my martial art, and I hope to grow old with my art as well.