I have been involved in the martial arts for over 30 years now. I first started studying the martial arts when I was a 14 year old kid. I was the shy one. Of course, I received my share of bullying, too.
But that was the farthest from my mind when I joined the local Taekwondo school in town. The truth is, my older brother was a star soccer player in high school, and I wanted to be just like him. So I thought if I could control my feet better (i.e. learn karate), then maybe I would be a better soccer player.
My karate school was like all the others: nondescript, underfunded, well-intended, and lots of fun. I loved the martial arts from the get-go, and quickly surrounded myself with all things related to karate. I had martial arts posters on my bedroom wall, martial arts books on my shelves, and martial arts classes on my weekly schedule.
As the years clicked by, I began to change as a person. Yes, I was still that pimply kid, clumsy and awkward. But I walked a bit taller now. I carried myself with more confidence. It was noticeable. I felt better about myself. And the other kids stopped teasing me as much.
I continued my martial arts training through college. After graduating, I worked in Tokyo, Japan and had the unique opportunity to learn a variety of martial arts during the 7 years I was there, including judo, taekwondo, karate and aikido.
When I returned to the United States, I joined a Hapkido school. Hapkido is a Korean martial art. Some people call it Korean Karate. Hapkido is similar to tae kwon do. It has the same kicks and punches as tae kwon do. Hapkido also offers joint locks and circular movement similar to aikido.
I am often asked what is the best martial art for my child? Or what kind of karate school is best for my kid? My answer is this: All karate schools are different. All martial arts are different. To say one school or style is better than another, is to say something like vanilla is better than chocolate.
The bottom line: The best martial art is the one you’re interest in. And the best martial arts school is the one you feel most at home. So when you’re looking for a martial art for your child, don’t get stuck on the martial arts style. And don’t join the first karate school you visit. Instead, take your time. Visit the martial arts schools in your community. Speak with the instructors. Watch the students. Jump in a few martial arts classes. See which school makes you happy. That’s the martial arts school for you.
James Kerr is the chief instructor at Smart Karate. Mr. Kerr is a 4th degree black belt in Hapkido and has a 1st degree black belt in Taekwondo. He can be reached at www.smartkarate.com