My 5 year old son Nathan has been asking me to get him started in martial art classes over the last couple of years.
When he was 3 years old, I had him sit in my Aikido classes and he was fascinated with what he saw. As any young boy would, he loved watching the activity on the mats as I was moving between opponents, diverting them away from me without them getting a chance to touch me.
In the past year or so, the only Aikido studio near our home moved to another location across the city.
Since there wasn’t another Aikido studio near us, I’d been avoiding starting Nathan on another style of martial arts.
But since a lot of his school mates where enrolled in Karate classes, he asked if he could try out a class in a couple of different studios to see if he’d like to start lessons.
I decided that it wasn’t the style of martial arts that mattered, it was about the self-confidence and inner peace that he would gain over the years by being involved with this ancient art form.
So I picked one of the studios in our suburb and took him to try out a class last week.
He was really excited about going and for the last few weeks he’s been trying out his karate kicks on me.
We entered the karate studio for his lesson last Monday night and I met the instructor who seemed to be rather pleasant and friendly.
All was well as Nathan joined the class with the other kids who were wearing different color belts.
Everything seemed to be going fine until the end of the class when the instructor created a circle on the mat, with some rope, and picked two kids to get into the circle.
Something then happened that made me stand up out of my chair that shocked me.
The instructor told the two boys (both about 5 years old) to start pushing each other out of the circle. The first one that pushes the other out of the circle wins.
Both boys start very aggressively pushing and tackling each other to force one or the other out of the circle.
It was like watching a school yard brawl. They were both using as much force as they could, with very loud cheers from the other kids saying: “Push him harder”, “You can win”, “He’s a loser”, etc.
Next thing I know, the parents of the kids in the ring where saying similar things like: “Go son, push him as hard as you can”, “You can do it, you can win”.
I was watching the equivalent of a cock fight for children and their parents were encouraging them to use all force possible to win.
I could see the boy who was being pushed out was very upset, he felt disappointed that his parents saw him lose and was embarrassed in front of his peers.
Nathan, was watching on the side with terror in his eyes. Keep in mind this is Nathan’s first class and he was probably the smallest of all the kids in the class.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
The instructor, who was clearly enjoying this, kept egging the kids on to use all means possible to win the circle contest.
After about a minute or so watching this in total disgust, I walked onto the mat (the other parents wondering what I was doing) and took Nathan’s hand to walk him off the mat.
I helped him put his shoes back on, grabbed my jacket, and we walked out.
We got into the car and Nathan says to me still frightened: “Daddy, I don’t want to go back there anymore. I didn’t like the way the other boys were treating each other”.
Clearly this instructor was a *!*#@ (I won’t mention the word) here.
He was instilling in those children that it’s ALL about winning and losing. Translated for adults, focusing on your goal only, and not the other persons. Or explained in another way, how you treat people is less important that you getting what you want.
Those are messages that our kids should NOT be learning.
Our world has more conflict in it than ever before.
Nation against nation. Seller against buyer and spouse against spouse.
Now is the time when we need to encourage our children to be sensitive to other people. Listen to them, focus on them and create long-lasting relationships so that everyone WINS.
(By the way, I have nothing against Karate, in fact, I’m taking Nathan to his second Karate studio next week to see if he has a better experience this time, which I’m hoping he will).
I believe if we can all be role models to our children and treat others with respect, our next generation will have a better world to live in.
You’re comments are welcome below.
To your success,
Great info Ari! I really like this story and example. People are conditioned to behave in an egotistical and self centered way so they completely miss out on opportunities of the “Win” “Win”. Neither are they looking for it. People pick up on this dis regard for their interest.
Thanks for sharing.
Our principles create the tenor of our relationships. “Enlightenment Incorporated: Creating Business Our Children Would Be Proud to Work For” by Scott Lochridge, shows the same ethos, and Ari, you are so RIGHT that now more than ever, our children need principles in action that will help them navigate a more sustainable future. It begins in our bodies, our center, our actions, our engagements with others. Yay for your wonderful modelling as a father and a businessman! Enjoy Scott’s book!
Thanks for opening up this space to talk about respect…is such a valuable part of relationships!
Respect means asking the question: what do I have to learn from this human being now in my life, even momentarily? if I defeat him, I win…but what have I learned? sometimes win-win is the lesson (how to cooperate?or, other times is learning how to reap the benefits of being defeated….What the experience could teach your son is how to learn from the other kid’s approach to to karate, what was he doing, that he can learn…Of course, I understand that respect for others means being humble about yourself!
Fort Lauderdale, FL
What we set our minds on affects us in one way or another. We have to choose what is of value and adhere to it. What the world offer is always toward self hence the rest do not matter so long as you achieve. Each one of us is important and we should always consider adding value to one another, not to be driven by sheer competition.
Thank you for standing up and doing what is right for you and your son. That spoke volumes about who you are as a person, as a father, and how you were raised by your parents. You will see the same in your son when he raises his own children and that in itself will be the lesson passed on from generation to generation. We NEED many more people to do what you did. I appreciate your sharing this important message about love, respect and guidance. The choices we make will always be in our minds. Doing the right thing is the right thing to do, and you did it!
You bring to the marketplace what the world “needs” i. e. a new view of how we are to “be” in the world. We choose in each moment respect, kindness, humility, and all the other noble traits that make life pleasant and attractive instead of creating more cynicism and resignation about how “people are.” Keep up the good work Ari.
Good on you for taking Nathan out of that class. The other parents should have stopped the teacher and objected to the ‘bullying’ game!
Social media has left us with poor personal communication skills, we tweet or FB. When comes to face 2 face meeting, we need to be genuine. No one likes to be `sold to’ by some pushy sales person. We love to buy!
Keep up the good work, see you on 11 Aug for Sydney event.
Ari, I wanted to stand up and cheer for you as I read about your experience and the actions you took. You taught Nathan several important lessons that will likely stick with him for the rest of his life. Besides the excellent points you made about the values you want to instill in him, you also modeled that it’s OK to leave situations where you don’t feel comfortable. It’s OK not to conform to what everyone else is doing. These values will serve him well when he gets older and is exposed to peer pressure.
I also commend you for continuing to search for a karate studio that’s a good match with your values. Our daughter earned her black belt in Shorin Ryu style karate when she was 15 (she’s now 27) and had an outstanding set of instructors. What she learned there about confidence, responsibility, self-discipline and perseverance have served her well ever since.
Your voice and message are critically needed, and I am thankful you chose to share this episode.
Newport News, VA
This infuriates me, Ari. I would have done the same thing. Martial arts is about respect, discipline, and self-confidence. I pray this “teacher” learns this someday, but sadly, I’ve seen this sick behavior from parents at all kinds of sporting events who are somehow turned into blood-thirsty monsters by their kids competing. I’m all about teaching kids the game, getting them to try and win the game, but when you teach them to win at the mercy of a weaker opponent, and parents actually encourage this, then we’ve failed. This guy will continue to be successful with this studio because he’ll have an endless line of parents with security and ego issues dropping off their kids so they can learn to be the bully, not the bullied.
Sad. Sad. Sad.
Well done Ari, I must admit I probably wouldn’t have done what you did but I commend your actions. It take courage, and an approach that I will now consider, appreciate the advice.
I have been reading your articles for some time now. This one however, for some reason, almost brought me to tears. You see, I also have a five year old boy, called Hillel and I think that you touched on one of the most important things that we need to teach our children and more importantly ourselves! I know that I am sometimes a hypocrite because I believe in the principals you speak about but at times I do not manage to live by my own standards. Thank you for reminding me that life IS about treating people with respect!
Good on you ARI, it is obvious Nathan has picked up your values. It starts in the home and that’s a major problem today that home values are lacking in some families. The example do unto others how you want to be done you. And you can serve.. Wonderful that a 5 year old has already started down that road. Congratulations
Ari, I commend your actions as a parent and a human being. So many are not aware of others feelings in different situations. So many never learn lifes true values.
Awesome story (the end) but a great reflection into some of the conditioning many of us have gone through.
Well done Ari.
We need to decide what is accpetable and what isn’t. I am pleased for Nathan’s sake that you took him out but you also gave him the choice to be able to choose for himself and it seems that even Nathan at the young age he is at was able to discern what is respectful and what isn’t.
It relates so much to selling and if only all sales people and their managers were able to wake up to the fact that a genuine sale only happens when a sales person has the other person’s best interests at heart. It’s such a shame that traditional training programs don’t teach the basic skill of creating trust and working from a ‘respect’ frame as a fundamental idea.
Support going out as always and I hope that Nathan’s next class will be better.
By you acting this way, you showed that you need to believe in what you trying to express and show to people. Respect is not given, it is earned. Its not easy when we see how our fellow man will go to an extent of putting someone down for the gain of themselves. I feel proud that we have someone like you who is prepared to “Make a Difference” in the society we live in.