Life Lessons from a Dojo

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.Pretty much anyone who knows me “in real life” knows that I am a karate mom. My older son has taken karate for the past seven plus years, so twice a week or more it is off to the dojo I go. They have become almost like family to us after all this time, having watched the school and its instructors grow and develop in much the same way as they have watched my son.

And as I often say, as a parent I drank the martial arts Kool-Aid many years ago.

In addition to teaching self-defense skills, they aim to teach their students to be confident, kind and respectful people. Studies even show that learning the principles of martial arts in a school setting can help to reduce bullying in schools. As we parents know well, sometimes what we try to teach our children goes in one ear and straight out the other. Yet when they hear the words from someone else, particularly someone they (and we) consider to be a role model, the lesson may just stay put between those ears.

I want my kids to drink that Kool-Aid too. Who would not want their child to be confident, kind and respectful? It is certainly a work in progress, but sometimes I can tell when he has taken another little sip.

Beyond the daily messages they receive about loyalty, respect, and self-control, there are bigger picture life lessons to be learned through martial arts.

5 Life Lessons from the Dojo:

You can achieve your goals, but know you will have to work for them. It took six years for my son to get his junior black belt, more than two thirds of his young life. Now he is working towards his senior black belt. In this day when people want instant gratification, it is a great lesson that patience and persistence still pays off.

As you work towards your long-term goals, appreciate the accomplishments you make along the way.  With each belt there is reason to celebrate. Think of each on as an accomplishments and use them as motivation to keep striving for more.

You have everything you need right now to be successful. Success comes from the inside. That is a lesson I sure wish I would have understood sooner in life, and I am grateful to be able to give that gift to my son. We are all dealt a different hand in life and all have different visions and definitions of success. Yet everyone starts creating a path towards their success the moment they start believing in themselves.

You determine how to live your life. You control the way you look at a situation as well as the way you react to it. As a parent, I hope my children choose positivity, integrity, gratefulness and humility. I also want them to stay focused on reaching their goals, whatever they may be, rather than waiting around for life to happen to them.

There are always more goals you can set for yourself. To be proud of what they accomplish in life is wonderful, just as it is to be excited about the possibilities to keep learning, improving and reaching for more.

As for this Kool-Aid drinking parent, I will continue to encourage those “principles of black belt” even if it seemingly goes in one ear and out the other, because I believe that these are lessons every kid should be taught. Who knows, maybe someday he will grab that pitcher out of my hands and pour a glass for his own kids.



    it’s hard work—but what worth doing is not?

  2. I love this. It reminds me of what I tell my kids, happiness is an attitude. You make your life what you want from hard work and positive outlook.

  3. A great positive attitude! I love teaching kids not to sit back and expect things to happen but to get out there and do it themselves!

  4. These are definitely great points. I need to remember them more often.

  5. These are great, and very encouraging for both kids and adults.

  6. I love this! All 3 of my kids are in Tae Kwon Do. I agree with you – the courage, self-respect, kindness towards others – they are priceless things they learn in martial arts. Great post Jessica :)

  7. Love this. An old boyfriend was in Tae Kwon Do and I became interested in it but we don’t have any gyms in our area.

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