A Father's Viewpoint

My son has been doing Taekwondo since he was five years old. He is a third-degree junior black belt now, and last year he also started to train in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I am often asked why I started him on this path. Why did I want him to learn how to fight? Was I scared that he would be bullied? Which is the most effective martial art for self-defence? 

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Most of the people that asked me these questions were considering signing their children up for classes, and they thought of the potential benefits and disadvantages purely in terms of physical combat. Maybe if you are reading this blog, you are also a parent wondering if you should send your child to learn martial arts and have questions of your own. My young teenager has been training in martial arts for over half his life, and as a proud father, I will give you the answers that I gave those other parents. They were surprised to find that all of my responses revolved around the mental, not the physical benefits of training.

Yes, he learns self-defence techniques, how to kick, punch, strike and grapple, and of course there are the other obvious physical benefits of regular and strenuous exercise on a young, growing body. But that is not why I sent him to learn martial arts.


He has become the kind of person that when he does not want to go train, because he is tired, or lazy, or stayed up too late the night before, he still packs his equipment and goes anyway. The kind of person who when he tires out halfway through a tough training session and wants to quit, can reach inside and find the determination to carry on giving his best to the end.

He learns that from however rich or poor a background another student comes, or whatever religion or race they are, that upon entering the class all students are equal. Everyone trains to the best of their ability, helps one another, works hard and leaves with their head held high, knowing that each one is a better person than when they walked in. From beginner to expert, he understands that everyone is on the same journey, started in the same place and faced the same struggles. 

He has learned to deal with disappointment and that defeat is as much a part of life as success. He may not achieve what he wants, but he still goes back week after week to give his best effort, to learn from and correct his mistakes. He is rightfully proud of and cherishes each small victory along the way, and they are made all the sweeter because he knows he has earned them through his own consistent, hard work.

Probably the most important lesson that he learned very early on, one that is incredibly difficult for most children to understand, is that to become good at something… takes time. It takes hours and hours, week after week; and then it still takes months and then years. He learned that there are no shortcuts. But if you do persevere, then you can achieve awe-inspiring feats that would have seemed impossible when you started! For a child to understand this concept early on in life, especially in today’s age of almost instant gratification at our fingertips, is especially important. Because of his own hard-earned experience, he now has an appreciation for long-term perspective. 

He values self-discipline, focus, commitment, integrity, hard work and perseverance.

These attributes are part of his character now, and it is my belief that in the future they will help him to enjoy success and happiness through all the phases of his life. I hope that he applies these values to his studies at school, and then at university. And when he gets a job, into his career. When he gets married, into being a good husband. 

And, one day, when he too has a child, into being a good father.

In the meantime he is a boy who can jump up, spin 360 degrees and break a wooden board with his feet! He thinks that's pretty cool... So do I.

Ivan Howden