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Karate for Families
Karate attracts all kinds of people who are looking to make positive changes in their lives. One of the great things about karate is that whole families can train together learning valuable skills and life lessons, uniting them in common goals.
At Gold Coast Chito-Ryu Karate we are proud of the fact that our dojo is a positive family friendly environment. A lot of our older students have started (restarted) karate after seeing how much their children where getting out of it. After all the positive lessons all parents want for their children are just as important for kids as they are for adults.
Recently we asked some of our families their thoughts on training in karate and how they work together as a family to achieve their goals.
Q1 – How did your family get started in karate?
Weeks Family – Our son took an interest in starting karate after seeing a demonstration of Gold Coast Chito-Ryu Karate at a school event. I called into the dojo one afternoon and spoke with Sensei Adam and then took my son along for a trial class and he absolutely loved it! A few months later, our daughter, having watched our son at karate and practicing at home, wanted to join too.
We could immediately see the positive influence karate was having on them and on us and we would look forward to taking them to each session at the dojo and helping them practice at home. After another few months, I joined so that I could be part of the journey with my kids (and to improve my fitness and health – I was starting to get bored with my fitness routine at the time).
Not long after, my wife joined too and all four of us now enjoy training together and we particularly like doing the family class together each week. In fact, our 3-year-old daughter also has a keen interest in her older brother’s and sister’s karate activities and already practices at home with us occasionally. It won’t be long until she can start to join in at the dojo too!
We could immediately see the positive influence karate was having on them and on us
Jaffers Family – Devon wanted to try karate and loved it. His sister Merryn watched a couple of classes and decided to try too. After almost a year of watching both our children in karate classes and helping them practice at home we decided it would be fun to join them so we could train and practice together.
Lenton Family – As younger people we had both been very active. John was a world-class sailor and schoolboy rugby player, and I played numerous sports competitively including basketball, tennis, soccer, and indoor soccer. We maintained an active lifestyle before we had children; we did four or five ballroom dancing classes every week, plus I participated in high-level training for open water swimming (but never competed). After having children, our waistlines expanded and we became more sedentary. Realising that we needed to set a better example for our children, as well as manage our own health, I began a workout regime that centred on going to the gym. A friend asked if I wanted to try martial arts. Of course I did! I hated the gym and I had grown up with the Karate Kid movies and always wanted to try karate. This was my chance. So we came along for a free trial lesson and were immediately hooked.
Q2 – What do you enjoy most out of training together as a family?
Lenton Family – Like any family activity, it’s the togetherness that I love. Sharing a mutual interest that we all understand and can talk about is fantastic. It brings us together and we all support each other through the ups and downs. Plus, we’ve gained an extended “karate family” that makes us feel like we’re part of something important.
Jaffers Family – Training together as a family is a great opportunity to spend time with each other and its fantastic that we can actually all do the same karate together. Most sports do not accommodate this. We love the friendly atmosphere at the dojo, welcoming all ages and abilities.
Weeks Family – We love the fact that all of us can be training together in the one spot and can quite genuinely be learning from each other, being active together, and having heaps of fun at the same time. It’s different to other sports where it is difficult for parents and kids to ‘play’ at the same time. Often parents are restricted to the sideline or, for some sports, aren’t allowed to watch at all! It is quite special that we are able to share our kids’ journeys of development in karate and it helps us to understand the many (often hidden) benefits: focus; discipline; respect; sense of personal achievement; confidence; resilience; and the many fitness benefits such as strength, balance, co-ordination, etc.
Training together as a family is a great opportunity to spend time with each other
Q3 – What training do you do each week (home and the dojo), how do you balance home and karate?
Jaffers Family – We generally attend two family classes at the dojo and then the children take part in a junior class and we try to each attend a senior class. We tend to tag team with the senior class, so there is someone at home with the children. We balance karate with other activities we enjoy both individually and as a family on weekends. The advantage of us all taking part is we can help each other practice at home. We find practicing one or two moves little and often (like for 15 minutes before school) works well.
Lenton Family – We all train on different schedules. I train the most, usually making it into the dojo four or five days a week. John trains slightly less because his body needs time to recover and he has a demanding work travel schedule. The children have other commitments including music lessons, soccer, dance, and athletics, so they train less often.
John and I work from home so we often take a break from work to talk about specific techniques we’ve been struggling with or concepts we’re exploring. Then we spend a few minutes working on those things before sitting back down to work (usually quite sweaty).
We balance home and karate by doing karate together as much as we can. On some nights, one of us stays home with the kids while the other person trains. On those nights, the person who stayed home is usually very keen to hear all about what happened in the dojo, what was worked on, and whether there’s anything they need to know. When we’re all at the dojo, the kids treat it like a second home and they love playing with the other kids while they wait for us to finish training.
Weeks Family – I don’t think a day goes by where we don’t practice at least some aspect of karate. We attend as many training sessions as we can at the dojo. This is usually at least two or three sessions per week that we fit in around our work schedules and our kids’ other sports (basketball, dancing and athletics).
At home, even on the busiest of days, we can usually find at least five or 10 minutes to do some practice. The practice might start out with one person but will often result in other family members joining in. Practicing kata in the hallway or living room is a frequent occurrence!
As working parents of three children, we find that regular karate training helps a lot with managing stress at work and we find everyone in the family is at their happiest when they’re training regularly.
Q4 – How do you support each other with your training?
Lenton Family – We talk about the things we’re struggling with and the things we’re working on. We communicate about how we’re feeling and, when one of us is feeling down, the other usually brings them back up again. When one of us achieves something, we celebrate together. At a recent tournament, Lizzie was front and centre when I did my kata and my kumite, and her support was fantastic. She also made sure to watch Levi’s kumite and tell him he did a great job.
When one of us wants to work on something, we either go to the dojo or pull out the mats at home (if break-falling is required) and we’re happy to just be the other person’s partner.
Weeks Family – We love the challenges karate provides and the fact that it is possible to learn something from those either more or less experienced than yourself. With that, we are always encouraging each other and helping each other improve. Since we joined our kids at karate, we certainly have a much deeper appreciation of their karate journeys, including what they have achieved so far and what lies ahead. Karate helps us come together as a family.
Karate helps us come together as a family.
Jaffers Family – Learning the karate techniques and Japanese words together means we can help each other learn and progress. It’s also really nice that it is often the children teaching us at home or reminding us what a technique is called as they have been learning for longer and are much better at absorbing the Japanese words.
Q5 – What do you like most about doing karate?
Jaffers Family – Kids: We love learning new things, making friends and that there is a family class where we can all train together. We also love doing kumite and doing jumping kicks on the bags.
Adults: We enjoy the challenge of learning new skills as an adult. It’s both a physical and mental challenge and some elements of mind/body awareness and control (or lack of it!) has surprised us. It’s been great meeting new people and training with and learning from different people with varying abilities. We love connecting with Merryn and Devon when we train together and seeing how proud they can be when they help us with a technique.
Lenton Family – I have a job that requires me to sit still and use my brain all day. So getting out of my head and into my body at training relaxes me and refreshes my brain. Otherwise I’d be thinking about work all night.
John likes the physical challenge of karate and also the fact that it gets him out of his head and helps his mental health.
Lizzie likes doing the technical parts of kata and trying to get them right.
Levi loves doing kumite and he especially loves helping the younger kids.
We all love being part of the karate family.
Weeks Family – We really gravitate toward the positive, friendly, and supportive attitude of Sensei Adam and all the members at the dojo. There is a strong sense of camaraderie. Not having experienced karate before our son joined, this was not really what we expected. We actually didn’t really know what to expect; maybe we anticipated more of an aggressive and unforgiving environment. But nothing could be further from the truth. We enjoy the challenge, doing something together as a family, and the positive feeling and mindset that karate facilitates.
From the kids:
“I love doing karate with Mummy and I love doing jumping kicks!” (Abigail, 6)
“You get really strong and have lots of fun doing it!” (Bailey, 8)
Q6 – What would you say to other parents thinking of starting training with their kids?
Weeks Family – Absolutely do it! Only positive things can come from it.
Jaffers Family – It was fantastic watching our children enjoy Karate, it has really helped with their confidence. But it is even better being able to take part and share the experience and challenges with them.
Lenton Family – Don’t hesitate. Training with your kids and seeing them develop alongside you is fantastic. Often when our kids are into something we watch from the sidelines and we celebrate their achievements but we don’t viscerally understand exactly what it took and how it felt to achieve that thing. But when you train with your kids, you can feel how hard it is to get something right, and that leads to a deeper level of connection. And you know when to back off and not push them because you know how hard it is yourself. (Sometimes parents try to encourage their kids by telling them to go harder or to just get in there, but they don’t know what it really feels like to stand across the mats from someone who’s going to try to punch or kick you. Knowing how that feels makes me far less likely to pressure my children in ways that are likely to be counterproductive.)
I would also say that it’s very difficult to coach your own kids (depending on your kid). To keep it as light as possible, I try to stick to telling my kids that I love to see them train and I think they’re getting better at something specific. That works better than telling them what they need to fix and where they need to work harder. It’s easy to turn a fun family activity into one that the kids resent if you’re always telling them how to do it better, so I try not to do that.
Training with your kids and seeing them develop alongside you is fantastic.
Q7 – Anything you would like to add?
Lenton Family – Joining karate has been a lot more than just doing a family activity, or getting active with our kids. It’s been a journey of self-discovery that has been challenging and rewarding with extreme highs and lows. And, most importantly, it’s made us part of a karate family, which gives us a support network, a group of friends, and a social outlet. Our kids feel it too and they love it. That almost outweighs any of the physical benefits we get from karate.
Jaffers Family – We looked hard for a dojo that we felt comfortable with when Devon began karate. Now we all participate we could not be happier with the family-friendly and welcoming atmosphere of the Ashmore dojo.
Gold Coast Chito-Ryu Karate provides a specific family class each week along with classes for individual age groups. Discounts are provided for additional family members.
Phone Adam on 1300 557 578 or register for a free trial lesson for your family.