A fighting chance for children
By Kevin O'Hagan
Self defence techniques for children can be a controversial subject. Just what type of martial art moves should they be learning, if any at all.
The old saying, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Springs to mind when kids and martial arts are mentioned. At the end of the day when you analyze the subject, the majority of martial arts being taught to children have little or nothing to do with self-protection at all.
When some pervert preys on innocent children and decides to attack them, it won't matter if they are Junior lightweight champion of Taekwondo or Judo. It won't matter how many Katas they know, how many medals or trophies they own or if they can twirl half a dozen anarchic martial art weapons, nine times out of ten they wont get away. Spending time practicing the 100-metre dash may be a better option.
Now I'm not against children learning martial arts, in fact I think it is a good thing. Lets face it a good 3 to 4 of martial art instructor's income will come from the children's classes, but that aside children find at an early age discipline, respect, fitness, a good sense of belonging, competition and good fun in martial art classes. This is a good thing; they are the future of all martial arts in the UK and indeed the world.
Also a child can gain great self confidence and if shy, the training can bring them out of themselves and help them in al walks of life and this training will stay with them to adulthood, But back to the subject of self defence. Many of the techniques taught to children may well discourage the school yard bullies from messing with a certain child but this is very different from some adult attacker hell bent on doing a child harm. I feel some parents may think that by their child practicing a martial art that they will have a fighting chance against an assault if the unthinkable situation arrives. In some cases if the child is alert and the attacker careless, the child may be able to do something and run, but to be honest most of the techniques taught to kids will not stand up in a real street attack. These factors must be taken into consideration.
A. Most children in martial arts practice against other children, where they may be able to throw another youngster or execute a perfect spinning hook kick to another kid's head, against a large aggressive adult the techniques will fail miserably.
B. A real attack on an adult can be the most frightening and horrific experience they will ever encounter. What will a child be like when he/she is viciously attacked.
C. There will be no referee, instructor, coach or teacher to call a stop to the fight when it begins. It will be the child or the attacker. These are just 3 of the important things to consider about effective techniques for children.
Now on the other side of the coin some will say, children are not mentally mature enough to handle dangerous martial arts techniques. They could use them against other children in a play ground fight resulting in drastic consequences. Or children should not be subjected to the truths about violence and the horrors of what is happening in today's society, they should be allowed to enjoy their time as kids and not grow up too fast. Well, in the answer to all that l would say ask any parent that has lost a child through violent assault and see if they given the choice would have liked their child armed with some basic but effective techniques to at least have given them a fighting chance.
I think they would say yes.
Today's society has deteriorated BADLY, surely our attitudes have to change towards children. Sometimes they can be more grown up than we give them credit for. I feel from when they are old enough to understand fully 4 to 5 years old you should tell them of the dangers they can face. Frighten them.
Yes, to a degree, where they know it is serious and they listen. Teach them about safety and to make sure as parents, guardians, teachers, coaches, whatever that you do your utmost to maintain the standards. Its no use warning a child about the dangers out on the streets then the next day letting them go out to the shop on their own for some sweets because they are getting under your feet. If you look into the stories behind the tragedies of the deaths of young children a fair few were left to their own devices before the attack happened.
Adults have a duty to protect children at all times even when you are screaming for a 5-minute break. I am not talking off the top of my head I have three children of my own, 3 yrs, 5 yrs, and 8 yrs, a complete handful, my wife and I over the years have found ourselves at breaking point on many occasions but we have never just sent the children out on the streets to get a minutes peace. I'm not saying it is easy, I'm no saint it takes tremendous patience and will power. How can you live with yourself if something happened to your child because you let them wander outside because you wanted to watch TV or chat to a friend?
Once you start instilling the warnings in your child about talking to strangers accepting lifts whatever, then make sure they understand always, the first line of self defence, prevention.
Self-defensive techniques from an instructor's point of view I feel must be done as a separate issue away from normal martial art classes.
First you must make the children understand that this is something different and that the techniques are for defence against a serious assault, by a larger and older person and to be used only for when they feel their life in danger. Not an easy task but it can be done. It is a good thing to let the parents know what the classes will entail so they can choose whether they want their child exposed to this side of martial art.
Next prime the children with stories and facts of what has happened to other children not graphically and explain how they could have avoided what had happened. When you feel they understand, then you can begin simply, easy to learn, self defence moves. Nothing fancy or complex, these things simply will not work.
Exclude the majority of throwing and locking techniques, they will not stand up under the test of real fighting.
An instructor has got to work with techniques that are practical for the child not what he himself can make work. The system l teach called Kempo Goshin Jutsu has a vast array of techniques, strikes, throws, locks, chokes, pressure points, etc, but only about 10% of the techniques will be given to a child for self protection classes.
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