Our topic for last week's mat chats was the first part of the student creed. Student creed number one is a promise on the part of the student to always take care of their body and mind, living a healthy "Black Belt" lifestyle.
Our students gave many examples of what they felt were important components of a healthy lifestyle, such as proper diet, exercise, and reading. We also heard many great ideas regarding things that might prevent us from achieving our full potential. Students mentioned that things such as television, video games, and junk food, while not necessarily bad, can be harmful if they are not kept in check. The word addiction came up on more than one occasion. Several students offered numbers and limits regarding appropriate amounts of time for TV watching and video game playing. I don't know if there is a precise amount that is OK or too much, but I do think it can be beneficial for parents and children to sit down and discuss certain guidelines when it comes to these activities.
Of course, a certain amount of relaxation and recreation is an important part of the the Black Belt lifestyle. A Black Belt may certainly play video games, but rather than playing for 2 hours and then attempting to get their homework done, they might finish their homework, practice their martial arts techniques, and then enjoy a video game for a while, then read a book before bed.
Oftentimes, all of this is much easier said than done, since our actions are guided more by what we feel like doing than what we think we SHOULD do. Addictions to games and junk food can be extremely hard to break. Most people have probably struggled with some sort of addiction in their lifetime, and some can be extremely serious, so I think that it is extremely important that we teach our younger students how to deal with these situations now. Today it is junk food, tomorrow it might be alcohol.
When thinking of breaking unhealthy addictions, the words of the famous theologian Erasmus come to mind: "A nail is driven out by another nail." In other words, rather than simply trying to break an unhealthy habit in our or our children's lifestyles, we can help to cultivate good habits. We can replace a harmful addiction with a positive "addiction." Perhaps a child who won't stop playing video games would put the controller down if they discovered the joy of playing the piano. Maybe a youngster who watches 4 hours of TV a day now would, if given a taste of the martial arts, choose to practice martial arts each day, and read martial arts books instead of watching so much TV.
I've never heard a parent complain that their child reads too much, or practices the violin too much, or is too passionate about the martial arts. I've heard people preach, "Everything in moderation," but to me, I think that is great advice if a person's goal is to lead a mediocre life.
This same strategy can be used for developing healthy eating habits. I know former chocolate addicts that now crave vegetables. How can we help our children to make these changes? The answer is simple- martial arts.
In this day and age, many people place great importance on their progress or performance in a certain video game. One of the great things about the martial arts are that they help to culitvate a focus on one's progress on an actual important skill ("in real life," so to speak). With our stripe-system, students have a tangible sign of their progress each and every class. This, coupled, with the feeling of progress as their techniques improve, explains why so many students stick with the martial arts, achieving advanced levels such as Brown and Black Belt. Speaking of which I am very excited that right now we have a large number of Red and Dark Brown Belts, that are already showing Black Belt excellence in their techniques and behavior. Many of our up and coming belts have also shown great enthusiasm and progress, and we look forward to watching them achieve their Black Belts one day as well.