The Popularity and Usefulness of Martial Arts (Part 2)

Last week I gave you a little history of some of the various martial arts. While they’re certainly fighting arts, they can be much more than that. This week I’d like to tell you about some of the other benefits.

Besides the obvious health benefits, there are so many other positive outcomes. I’ve seen extremely shy kids develop tremendous self confidence. And I’ve seen kids learn how to treat others with courtesy and respect, qualities too often missing in today’s culture.

Setting short term and long term goals for things like belt promotions and tournaments is also really important. Like our founder Grandmaster H. U. Lee always said: “Today not possible, tomorrow possible.”

Last week, I had the privilege of continuing my personal martial arts training in Las Vegas. Our parent organization, the American Taekwondo Association (ATA), has a National tournament and training seminar out there every year.

It’s been awhile since I’ve trained at a national event. Just a few years ago, I’d go to Vegas every Spring and Orlando, FL every Fall for tournaments and training. There was also the World Expo in Little Rock, every June, and High Rank camps every July, and Weapons camps in the Spring. We did a lot of traveling.

Ten years ago, back in 2005, I was fortunate to successfully test for my 6th Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo. Then in 2006, I made Master. While I didn’t travel quite as much after that, I still continued the trips and training until my 4 1/2 year old son was born. After that, I put the high rank training and trips on the back burner.

Now that he’s a Taekwondo Tiny Tiger, it’s allowed me to get a little more involved again. The tipping point was when I finally realized something. You can’t ask people to keep pushing toward higher goals if you’re not reaching for one yourself.

So I’ve gotten back on the path myself toward 7th Degree. That’s what brought me to the Fall Nationals in Vegas. It was great to see some old friends that I’d tested and competed with for years. Though I’d been gone for half a decade, we picked up as if I hadn’t been gone at all. Like a friend of mine said, it was kind of like coming home!

The instruction in the clinics was top notch, as always. At this kind of event, it’s like a buffet where you can select the different types of training you want. In my case, I took a Combat Weapons seminar, along with another one that I’ll tell you about in a little bit.

I first saw Combat Weapon competition at a Regional Tournament last month and realized I’d been missing out on something special. Most of our weapons are padded for safety, but these have extra padding since they use them for sparring.

Just like in regular sparring, the students wear all their safety gear (foam headgear, face protection, chest protection, and hand and foot gear). But since they’re using a stick, the action moves much more quickly! It’s more important than ever to move and make sure the other person misses!

In Las Vegas, I had the opportunity to judge several divisions of Black Belt kids and adults. There were traditional forms and sparring, creative forms (where they make up their own), forms to music, and of course, the new weapons sparring.

The focus and confidence that the kids brought to the event would make any parent proud. And everyone treated each other with courtesy and respect. Which brings me to the best part.

The other clinic I participated in was a program called Bully Prevention. This is something sorely needed these days. I know the schools are trying to address it from their end, but kids are having to face it more than ever.

Statistically, every child will be involved in bullying at some point. They might be on either side of it, or just a spectator, or they simply might know someone who’s being bullied.

What we need is a way to teach them how to not be victims, and give them some options if they are. Or if they happen to see bullying going on, they’ll have some strategies they can use to defuse the situation.

That’s what the new ATA Bullying Prevention Program does. It’s a modern, fast paced series of 12 lessons featuring “Agent G”, a contemporary superhero who teaches the kids how they can prevent bullying, get away themselves, or help someone else who needs it.

This program can be presented as either a one hour class, or as (12) separate 5 minute blocks in our regular Karate for Kids classes. I learned how to do it both ways, so we’ll be able to take it outside our martial arts school too.

I’m going to offer the program both ways. Starting this week in our academy, we’re going to be teaching it as part of our regular classes. That way all our students will be sure to get it. Then I’d like to do some seminars for different groups in the community.

I’m convinced that this is the right time for this program, right here in Paris. If you’d like more information about our ATA Bully Prevention program, let me know. I can’t wait to teach it!

The final epiphany I had was about a decision I’d made a few years ago. Our Adult Taekwondo program had kind of dwindled down, and the fitness center was going great guns. So I let the program go.

Now I realize that was a mistake. I assumed people just weren’t interested anymore so I phased it out. But by not offering the program anymore, then I wasn’t even giving them a choice. I was making the decision for them, and that was wrong.

So I’m fixing that. Starting this week, the Adult & Teen program is back too. Now they’ll be able to take the same awesome class that’s done so much for me so much over the years. Exciting times ahead!

(Tom Dolan is a 6th Degree Black Belt and Master Instructor at Tom’s Fitness and Martial Arts. He recently was certified in the national ATA Bully Prevention program, which is endorsed by Olweus, the premier authority of Bully Prevention research. For more information, visit

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