Most parents want to see more focus from their kids. And they know that martial arts is one of the greatest ways to do that.
How does martial arts training develop focus?
Modern Society and Focus
When tvs became popular in the 1950s, the screen changed every 10 seconds or so. Now it is every 2 seconds or less.
Our modern world does not encourage focus. We are overstimulated, and many children are in front of some kind of a screen hours per day.
One thing that we do at Kaizen BJJ Plymouth (for kids and adults) is breathing techniques and meditation.
We spend the first 30 seconds to minute of each children’s class at doing breathing techniques and meditation.
- They are instructed first to take a few deep breaths.
- Deep breathing, besides being a very healthy exercise, is a great way to clear the mind.
- Next they are told to relax the body: the back, the arms, the neck, the face… They are focusing on one area at a time.
- Lastly they are told to watch their breath without controlling it, or they can listen to the sound of the breath.
Compared to playing a video game, watching your breathing is not exciting. And that is exactly the point. For at least a short time every class, we are counteracting the stimulation addiction. We are focusing on one thing, as opposed to letting our focus jump from one thing to the next.
The act of just sitting in seiza (the kneeling position) and not moving is difficult for some children. They are told not to move at all during the breathing techniques and meditation, so it is an act of dscipline to not move.
The Need to Focus During Practice
The Samurai of Ancient Japan developed intense focus because they were involved in so many life and death battles. Because all it took to lose your life life was a short lapse in concentration, those that were able to be completely in the moment survived.
In Japanese martial arts there is a term- mushin, which means “no mind.” In the context of martial arts, you must be so focused on what is happening in that moment, right in front of you, that you are not thinking. There is no thought of what you did, what you are going to do later, you only focus on your partner or opponent.
Obviously, I don’t recommend life and death activities for childen! But we need to find ways to stimulate their will to focus. During sparring or drills, if a child loses focus, they are susceptible to being hit, taken down, swept, or submitted.
The Importance of Concentration
Concentration is a necessary ingredient to success in anything- school, relationships, jobs and career, and it is not valued. It is not discussed, written about, or debated- focus is off our radar.
The only two places I regularly hear people talk about concentration is martial arts and yoga. I think this needs to change.
As A.D.D. / A.D.H.D. becomes more and more common, I think our society is accepting lack of focus as the norm, which is really dangerous. Compared to when I started teaching (over 20 years ago), I have seen a BIG increase in the amount of unfocused behavior in kids.
I am not a psychiatrist, but I believe if a child or adult has enough motivation, they can focus more than what they are doing now. For example, if someone held a gun to your head and threatened to shoot you unless you kept looking at an object for 60 seconds without looking away, you could do it. You wouldn’t normally be able to do that, because your reason to do it isn’t strong enough.
We are not giving our kids enough reasons to focus. We need to stimulate their wills through a challenge. And we need to make that a habit.
Role Models And Environment
I have found that if I want to improve a certain part of my life, I need to surround myself with people that are successful in that area. For example, if I wanted to be a great musician, I would be hanging around good musicians as much as I could.
In a martial arts environment, teachers are setting the example of good concentration, and they are surrounded by other kids concentrating.