A few years ago I was approached by a father who wanted his teenage son to begin learning Taekwondo with us. “He just sits around the house all day playing computer games,” the father complained, “His teachers think he’s completely disorganised and his grades are appalling.”
The young man, we’ll call him Michael, started training and quickly showed his enthusiasm for it, practising the basic techniques and pattern conscientiously as he worked towards his first grading. I was stopped by the same parent one night after training about 6 months later. “What have you done with my son?” he questioned, “It’s like he’s a different kid.” He went on to explain the improvements at home; Michael was spending less time on the computer with fewer arguments about homework. For the first time, he achieved grades higher than a C in his school report, with many of his teachers amazed by the improvement. What was most astonishing, was that Michael himself described the change, “I can’t quite explain it, but school work, maths especially, just seems easier. It’s like a fog has lifted and I can do things I couldn’t do before.”
Years later, that same student has a good career with multiple degrees, and he still credits his martial art training as being the turning point and defining factor in his success .“Taekwondo gave me the tools and belief in myself that I needed to succeed with anything I set my heart on”.
The turn-around in Michael had indeed been remarkable, but not unusual. I’ve seen it happen countless time in the young people I have been privileged to work with. Students and parents frequently credit taekwondo for improving mental focus as well as physical strength. In the classroom this translates to young people who are more engaged in their learning, better organised and equipped to set achievable goals that they can now implement with disciplined focus. But what of Michael’s claim that taekwondo actually helped him with his ability to understand difficult concepts in subjects such as maths? I’m not surprised with this either. The practice of martial arts, with its set patterns and repeated exercises, has recognised benefits for the brain. Many experts actually refer to this as ‘gym for the brain’. Taekwondo encourages students to use parts of the brain that previously may have been latent or underutilised. This means that the brain functions more efficiently and explains a general improvement in problem solving, organisation and critical thinking.
As children move into adolescence they must struggle with a wide range of changes….physical, emotional and hormonal transformations required to go from child to adult. Boys especially, must contend with a surge in testosterone. Martial arts provide an outlet to deal with this excess energy in a safe and enjoyable environment. However, what all teens want most, is to feel as though they belong. Michael, like many young people, was disengaged, not just from learning but from those around him. In addition to getting him off the couch, Taekwondo provided him with the opportunity to belong to something really special. Students appreciate the knowledge that they have control over setting their own goals, safe in the knowledge that their instructors and training mates will be there to support them every step of the way. As one student explained to me once, “You know, the belt system is really a bit like life. It teaches you that any life goal has stages; you just need to define what those stages are and focus on them individually in a logical way.”
To discover the difference that taekwondo can make to your teen’s life and learning and for your free trial sessions call (07) 3889 9551